Summer is on its way... Honest. Rustle up these simple seafood feasts from Italy's sunny shores to bring a bit of warmth back to your kitchen
The spectacular cassuola is named after the copper casserole pan it is usually served in. It is a mixture of what fish is available at the market, including langoustines, squid, mussels and clams. Often it is made with only crustaceans but it works just as well with fish too.
1kg mixed fish and shellfish, such as clams, mussels, crayfish, squid, cuttlefish, gurnard and stone bass
1 shallot or 1⁄2 white onion
2 large garlic cloves
6 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp capers, drained
Handful of parsley
1⁄2 red chilli, depending on strength
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato purée
100g canned or fresh roughly chopped tomatoes, depending on season and flavour
300ml hot water or hot fish stock
4 slices of white crusty bread, toasted
1. First, pick over the shellfish, discarding any open or broken shells. Drop the clams into a bowl from a 15cm height so that any that are open and dead or full of sand will split open and can be discarded. Clean any barnacles off the mussels and pull off the beards. Discard any that don’t close. Cut any fish into 4cm cubes and the squid or cuttlefish into 1cm rings or pieces. Set aside.
2. Using a large knife, finely chop the shallot or onion, one garlic clove, the anchovies, capers, parsley and chilli together. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole dish and fry the mixture slowly with a good pinch of salt and black pepper for ten minutes. Add the tomato purée, then stir in the tomatoes.
3. Season the squid and cuttlefish with salt and add to the pan. Pour in the hot water or fish stock and cook for about 15 minutes and add the fish. After 15 minutes, add the shellfish.
4. Cook for a further 5–10 minutes until all the shells have opened, discarding any that haven’t. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
5. Rub the toasted bread lightly with the remaining garlic and lay one slice in each serving bowl. Pour the soup over the top and serve immediately.
It is said that the ladies of the night would make this quick sauce for extra energy using their store-cupboard ingredients. However, our friend Michelina showed us this version made with fresh cherry tomatoes rather than the canned variety. I absolutely love the punchy, spicy flavours and cook it regularly for quick lunches.
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, lightly crushed
1⁄2–1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp black olives, pitted and halved
1 heaped tbsp capers, drained and rinsed if salted
6 anchovy fillets
Large handful of parsley, finely chopped
350g cherry tomatoes, quartered
Salt, if necessary
350g spaghetti, to serve
1. Make sure you have all the ingredients to hand and then cook the pasta in a large pan of well-salted boiling water.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli, followed by the olives, capers and anchovies. Stir frequently to break up the anchovies. Add the parsley and stir through.
3. After two minutes, add the tomatoes. Taste the sauce and season if necessary. Cook for another couple of minutes.
4. When the pasta is ready, use tongs to lift it from the saucepan directly into the frying pan, along with a tablespoon of cooking water to lengthen the sauce. Serve immediately.
Use canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and instead of the anchovies, gently stir through good-quality canned tuna at the last minute.
This dish is all about the fish! I can’t emphasise this enough. It’s about getting a really fresh fish, cooking it simply and quickly, and enjoying its flavour. The water is turned ‘crazy’ with the addition of tomatoes, chilli and salt. A friend of ours told us that when eating out, she’ll ask if wine is used in the sauce, and if so, she will simply eat elsewhere! In her opinion even the addition of chilli is a step too far; she feels that acqua pazza should contain only garlic, salt and black pepper, olive oil, parsley and of course the ripest, most flavourful tomatoes you can lay your hands on.
Now, bearing in mind that the lucky Amalfitani live next door to their very own 24/7 fresh fish counter and the flavours of the tomatoes grown around Vesuvio are really strong, I think it’s fair to make some allowances. I live inland and as far from any sea as you can get in the UK, so if I want to eat a dish like this I would recommend adding a good splash of homemade shellfish stock in place of the water.
Ingredients:4 garlic cloves
1. Put one whole clove of garlic inside the cavity of each fish and finely slice the other cloves for the sauce. Season and flour the fish and tap off the excess flour. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the fish for about five minutes on each side, remove the fish, then discard the oil from the pan.
2. Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the sliced garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes for two minutes, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the hot water or fish stock and bring to the boil. Allow it to boil viciously until the liquor reduces.
3. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.
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