What I am going to show now it’s one of my favorite fish recipes, and it’s really a dish which is perfect for the feasts: the Cacciucco alla Livornese, the most typical dish of the Tuscan city of Livorno.
It’s not properly a soup, because it is thicker and the liquids are being absorbed by the bread. It might seem apparently easy, but since many different fish are used there is to pay attention to the cooking time of each ingredient, so there is to think when to add what, to have everything cooked correctly.
It’s a dish that was born between fishermen, using the fish they couldn’t sell, so the particularity is that there is not a real recipe, at least for what are the fish to be used, because each day could be different and each season give different fish. But there are some guidelines to follow, so that any ingredient is overwhelming the others. Indicatively there must be some rock fish, some sliced fish, some cephalopods, some crustaceans and some shells, in similar amounts.
So if originally it was supposed to be a cheaper dish, unfortunately nowadays these fish are often no more that cheap 😀
What I wrote are portions for 4 good size portions, but given the high number of different fish the best is if you make it for 8-10 people, because in that case by increasing the amounts it’s easier to make the cacciucco richer of different fish and flavors.
INGREDIENTS (4 people):
- 500 g octopus (4 tentacles, it was an octopus of about 1 kg)
- 500 g cuttlefish (I used 4 pieces), and/or flying squid/musky octopus and similar
- 500 g angler/monkfish (ideally also slices of conger, moray and/or common smooth-hound)
- 500 g red scorpionfish, and/or tub gurnard/red gurnard/rock goby/painted comber/stargazer/weever and similar fish
- 500 g prawns and mantis shrimps (Squilla mantis)
- 1 kg mussels
- 1 glass of red wine
- stale bread, toasted (ideally saltless Tuscan bread)
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- extra virgin olive oil
- 400-500 ml tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon of triple tomato concentrate
- a bunch of fresh parsley
- fresh sage leaves
- freshly ground black pepper
- Take a large pot and start heating a generous amount of good extra virgin olive oil, then add the garlic, the chili and the fresh sage leaves. Meanwhile cut the tentacles from the octopus, you can choose to leave each single tentacle as it is, or you can cut in 2-3 pieces depending on the size.
- When the garlic gets some color, remove it, and add the octopus. Let it cook alone for about 25 minutes (it will release a lot of water).
- After that time add the cuttlefish (you can cut them in half, or not), and cook for another 10 minutes (always covered, also at the next steps).
- After that time add the wine, and let it cook at higher heat until the alcohol is gone, few minutes, then add the triple tomato concentrate and the tomato sauce, and let it cook for other 15 minutes.
- After that time add the angler/monkfish cut into 4 slices, and let it cook for other 2-3 minutes.
- After that time add the red scorpionfish (if it’s bigger cut it in half), and let it cook for other 12-13 minutes (at half of this time turn the red scorpionfish on the other side). During this same time I cook the mussels (previously cleaned) in another pot with some extra virgin olive oil, they will release a lot of salty water and I will add it to the cacciucco (not necessarily all, I will see the texture). Taste the sauce and season with some salt if needed, and add also freshly ground black pepper.
- After this time (or when the eyes of the scorpionfish become white) add the prawns, and switch off the heat. Let it rest covered, and after 10 minutes add also the mantis shrimps (they cook very fast, and cannot be overcooked otherwise nothing will remain of their meat), and let it rest covered for other 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the stale bread, ideally is to toast on the fire, otherwise do it in the oven. When it’s toasted, rub garlic on it and place a couple of slices on the bottom of each dish.
- When the cacciucco is ready, place in each dish equal amounts of each fish (I cut 4 fillets from the red scorpionfish, removing the central bone before serving), then pour some ladles of the sauce, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley.
- Enjoy 🙂 it’s a fish dish, but since it has an intense flavor the typical pairing is with red wine, usually a local Chianti wine.