Fish Soup: Brodo di Pisci


This is my mother Maria’s signature dish.  I couldn’t post this recipe without mentioning her.  My kids loved this soup and couldn’t wait for her to visit so that she could make it.

My dad was an avid saltwater fisherman and at times she would make this dish using Sea Robins (Gunard), considered a trash fish here but prized in Europe for its firm flesh and delicate flavor.  It is excellent for making fish soup.  If by chance you come across some, just remove the wing-like fins before cooking.

This is a simple yet delicate fish soup – bursting with flavor.  Three ingredients flavor the soup – tomatoes, garlic, and parsley.  Traditionally, the fish is served separately as the main course and the soup is served as a first course.  But you can easily make this dish a one-course meal.

(Brodo di Pisci/Brodo di Pesci)

Difficulty rating: Easy
Makes 4- 6 servings.

1 pound ripe tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley, + 4 whole Italian parsley sprigs
2 to 2 1/2 pounds whole Red Snapper (either 1 large or 2 smaller fish), cleaned, scaled, fins removed, and head intact
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound acini de pepe or orzo pasta (about 1 1/4 cups)
Grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese

Minced flat leaf parsley
Lemon wedges

1. PREPARE THE TOMATOES:  Fill a large sauce pan with water and bring to boil over high heat.  Have ready a large bowl of cold water.  Carefully place the tomatoes into the boiling water.  Cook for approximately 3 minutes, until the skins start to split.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes into the bowl of water.  When cool enough to handle, use a small paring knife to peel off the skins and remove the cores.  Chop the tomatoes and place in a small bowl with all the juices.

2. MAKE THE FISH SOUP:  In a 12-inch covered deep skillet or large covered stock pot, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the garlic and cook slowly until light golden brown.  Add the chopped parsley and cook 1 minute longer.  Add the tomatoes and raise heat to medium.  Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the juices evaporate and the tomatoes become paste-like, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Add the fish, parsley sprigs, and enough water to just cover the fish, about 5 to 6 cups.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover with lid, reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for 40 minutes, basting the fish occasionally with the broth.

3. COOK THE PASTA:  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain in a colander and place back into the pot.

4. ASSEMBLE THE SOUP:  Remove the parsley sprigs from the broth and discard.  Carefully remove the fish using two spatulas and transfer onto a platter.  Add the broth to the pasta and keep warm.  At this point you can either serve the fish separately or on top of the soup.  If serving separately, garnish the fish with chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

If you are serving the fish with the soup.  Remove the flesh of the fish, being careful to remove all bones and skin.  Ladle the broth into individual serving bowls.  Divide the fish in equal port and place on top of the broth.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Serve with cheese and fresh ground pepper.

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