With somewhat ulterior motives, I began not so long ago, to trace some of our family history. Knowing that predominantly my ancestry winds it’s way back to English and German origins, I was actually secretly hoping to uncover that gem of a find that I had a drop or two of Italian blood coursing through my veins. Not just because so much of the country is jaw-droppingly picturesque and packed full of history and culture, or that the deliciousness of their food and wine leaves me so constantly in awe… but mostly because I would love dearly to have grown up with an Italian Nonna in my life. Complete with her opinionated wisdom on all facets of life and her deep sense of family and love to knit everyone together. Countless stories she would have told of people and places from her past long ago and while she was telling these stories her hands would be busy kneading dough, rolling pasta, or stirring a pot of the most aromatic ragu ever to grace a cucina. The sights and sounds and smells would have seeped into my very being, guiding me and staying with me right the way through life.
Alas, I found nothing surprising except an English convict or two to colour my family tree, so I’ll leave you with something of an aromatic recipe which unfortunately comes not from my Nonna, but with love and essence of Italy all the same. Salute!
Brodetto | Italian Seafood Soup
- 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Small Onion (chopped)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
- 1/3 Cup Flat Leaf Parsley (chopped)
- Pinch of Crushed Dried Red Chillies
- 1 Small Red Capsicum/Sweet Pepper (diced)
- 1 Medium Fresh Fennel Bulb (trimmed and diced)
- 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
- 1-2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- ½ cup Dry White Wine
- 500mls Fish or Vegetable Stock
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper
- 400g Boneless White Fish Fillets (cut into bite-size chunks)
- 12 Raw Prawns (shelled and deveined)
- 1 Calamari/Squid Hood (cleaned, hard quill removed and thinly sliced into rings)
- Zest of 1 Lemon
- Handful of Fresh Basil (or Flat-Leaf Parsley) Leaves (chopped into thin ribbons)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low/medium heat. Add the onions (with a good pinch of salt) and fry gently for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Next, stir in the garlic, parsley, dried chilli, capsicum and fennel, continuing to fry gently for 5 minutes or so. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and tomato paste and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Pour in both the wine and stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to simmer for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper while the soup is simmering. Add the fish pieces and partially cover the saucepan with a lid, simmer for about 4-5 minutes, before adding the prawns for a further 3-4 minutes until cooked. The calamari rings should go in for the final minute or so of cooking.
Top with lemon zest and basil and serve immediately. Absolutely perfect with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread on the side.
Notes on Cooking:
- Feel free to use boiling water instead of the wine and stock, though be sure to check the seasoning, as more salt and pepper will most likely be required to balance the dish.
- This soup is beautiful with all manner of seafood added to it – try adding some cleaned mussels, clams or scallops. Be thoughtful of the required cooking times for each…
- My thanks to a dearly-loved friend in New Zealand who first introduced me to this soup – her recipe has been altered somewhat over the years, yet still makes me think of her each time I cook it… xx