Caciucco (Fish Stew)

Written By Lucy Pinder on Friday, September 11, 2009 | 8:57 PM


  • 300 g (11 oz) Red Gurnard (one whole fish)*
  • 300 g (11 oz) Sea Bream (one whole fish)*
  • 250 g (9 oz) John Dory (one whole fish)*
  • 200 g (7 oz) Monkfish (one tail piece)*
  • 400 g (12 oz) Huss (one fillet)*
  • 300 g (11 oz) Turbot (one fillet)*
  • 400 g (14 oz) Squids (possibly small size)*
  • 12 Langoustines
  • 500 g (1.1 lb) Clams (a good alternative could be mussels)*
  • 200 g (7 oz) King Scallops*
  • 12 Headless Black Tiger Prawns (to save time, buy them already peeled and cleaned)

*Approx. weight


The above fish varieties are what was available at the fishmonger (West coast of Scotland - early August 2006).

The original recipe would require 1 red mullet, but not being available I used a sea bream instead. Anyway, in this recipe the gurnard, the sea bream and the John dory are used only for stock enhancing.

Baby octopus or small cuttlefish is what I would have used if I was in Italy, but being difficult to find here in Scotland, I used small squids instead (including their heads which actually look like a small octopus).

Finally, the original recipe would require also some "cannocchie" (mantis shrimps). In Italy we have plenty and we use one or two mantis shrimps per person. Them not being available, I used langoustines, which are perfect for the job.

Other Ingredients:

80 ml (3 fl oz) Extra virgin olive oil
2 Shallots (finely chopped) - alternatively one onion
2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 Celery stalk (finely chopped)
1 Carrot (finely chopped)
1 Whole dried chilli (mild)
400 g (14 oz) Chopped tomatoes
A handful of flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
200 ml (7 fl oz) A full glass of red wine
2 Fish stock cubes for 2 litres of boiled water (preparation of the light stock)
Salt for seasoning
Slices of Italian country bread , grilled and brushed with garlic

Note: I usually keep about 2 litres of fish stock handy (this does not mean that we have to use it all). The stock should be hot and not too concentraded otherwise it would be too salty and it would be too difficult to adjust the seasoning. I suggest using only 1 stock cube for each litre of boiled water. Anyway, in the recipe I will refer to this stock as "light stock" as opposed to the enhanced stock; see the recipe and you will understand!


Before starting to cook, we need to prepare the fish, so have a look at the following link:

Fish preparation

Chop shallots, carrot, celery and garlic. Put them together into a bowl.

Now, you need two large soup pans (I will refer to these as FIRST SOUP PAN and SECOND SOUP PAN) and one smaller pan that will be used to simmer about two litres of light stock.

Put the olive oil into the first soup pan and heat it on medium heat.

Add the chopped vegetables into the pan.

Stir and sweat them off until the shallot becomes golden in colour.

Add the squids.

Stir and then cook for 2 minutes.

Then, add the red wine and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir occasionally.

After 10 minutes, remove the squids from the pan.

Put them into a small bowl and set aside for a later stage.

Taking away the squids, you should have a kind of gravy... which we are going to add the chopped tomatoes.

Stir for 1 minute.

Add the whole fish, starting with whatever you can grab first ( I started with the gurnard).

Immediately after the gurnard, add the sea bream...

...then, the John dory.

As you can see, we need extra light stock to cover.

As suggested at earlier stage, you should also have a pan with some light stock simmering besides. Add enough ladlefuls to cover.

Now, keep cooking on medium heat for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, position the food mill (a.k.a. Mouli) over the second soup pan, which so far has been kept empty.

Process all the content of the first soup pan through the food mill. This way you will have made a proper enhanced fish stock without any bone and flavoured with some of the best whole fish. From now on, you will continue cooking only using the second soup pan.

The fish meat and bones (from the whole fish), that remain into the food mill, can now be discarded.

Here, we have the enhanced fish stock. Bring the heat to low and add a couple of ladlefuls of the light stock you have set aside (this is because we will soon add other fish and the fish has to be completely covered).

Taste and season with salt.

Add the chilli and remember to use mild chilli because the stew must not be too hot; you should taste the chilli only in the background. Now simmer for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, we add the various fish fillets and...

...the squids you previously set aside.


Check the level because after having added the fillets and the squids, you may need another ladleful of light stock.

Also, straightaway after the fillets and squids, add the langoustines heads and...

...the langoustines tails. Now, simmer for 10 minutes. From now on, I suggest not stirring as you risk breaking up the pieces of fish. If you want to be sure that the fish does not stick to the bottom of the pan, try to gently shake or twist the pan.

After 10 minuets, add the prawns...

...add the king scallops and...

...add the clams you previously set aside.

Now, continue to simmer for the final 5 minutes.

For the final simmering stage you can also cover with the lid.

After final 5 minutes, sprinkle with parsley. Now, if you want really the best from it, leave the stew alone, for two or three hours; just cover the pan with the lid and do something else! At the time of serving, re-warm the stew and...

...serve it with few slices of country bread. Tuscan style country bread is probably the best (prepare 2-3 slices per person). The end result should look like in the picture and the broth should be a kind of earthy pink colour.

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