Every coastal region of Italy has a seafood stew. Tuscany— or more specifically the port town of Livorno—has cacciucco (ka-CHOO-ko). While the word is fun to pronounce, the dish is even more pleasurable to eat.
I yearn for cacciucco in the spring. It was in primavera that I first tasted cacciucco at Trattoria Benvenuto in Florence and I haven’t been the same since.
Some say the dish must have at least five types of seafood to correspond to the five Cs in the word. The more fish and shellfish, the better the flavor. And select good quality red wine and artisanal quality bread with good texture to soak up the amazing broth.
Choose the freshest fish available. Use one type or as many as three or four, to comprise 2 pounds. Sea bass, monkfish, cod, halibut, swordfish, shark, tilapia, turbot, catfish, or red snapper are all good choices.
As for the shellfish, in this recipe, I’m using littleneck clams and shrimp but baby calamari, octopus, mussels, or scallops may be substituted.
Serves 6 to 8
3/4 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed red-pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 ounces) crushed plum tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
24 littleneck clams
24 medium or large unpeeled shrimp
2 to 2 1/2 pounds mild white-fleshed fish fillets, cut in 2-inch chunks
3 cups cold water
6 to 8 thick slices Rustic Bread, toasted
Heat the oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until soft. Add the wine. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cook at a brisk simmer for 5 minutes or until the wine no longer smells of alcohol. Add the tomatoes, all but 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat until sauce simmers gently. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, for the flavors to blend.
Add the clams and shrimp; stir. Add the fish and stir gently. Increase the heat to high. Cook for 2 minutes or until liquid starts to bubble. Add the water. Cover and reduce the heat so the mixture simmers but does not boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the clams open and the other seafood is opaque in the center. Discard any clams that will not open. Spoon over bread set in pasta plates or large shallow bowls. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.