As we are in the first week of January and the days are growing colder, we find ourselves yearning for something warm and hearty to bring heat back into our bones. The snow is falling and the holiday music is fading and we are getting ready to jump back into the daily grind. I have been itching to make fish soup or chowder now that it’s so cold out and began searching for a Northern Italian fish soup to try! There are several fish soups like Zuppa Di Pesce, Brodetto, and Cacciucco. We decided to make Zuppa Di Pesce, found in “Make it Italian, the taste and technique of Italian Home Cooking” since the recipe had fish we knew of and could be bought at our local fish market. The recipe below is also a half recipe since it is just my husband and I. Hope you enjoy the pictures and recipe!


  • 1.5 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or crunch with a garlic press
  • Salt
  • ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 2 TBS finely chopped parsley plus more for topping
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1.5 cups of clam juice mixed with 1/2 cup of water OR 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1.5 Pounds of shellfish and fish ( we used shrimp, mussels, skinless fish filet)
  • 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp white-wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound of fresh plum tomatoes or 1 cups of canned of chopped San Marzano tomatoes or 1 cups of marinara sauce
  • 5-6 slices of Italian White Bread or hearty white bread of your choice (we used sour dough)

The broth

The initial simmering allows the soup to develop a deep, rich flavor, since the broth will not cook long once the fish is added.

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven with the onion, garlic, and seasonings (Parsley and red pepper flakes), and cook slowly until the aromatics are soft and golden. Stir in the tomatoes, and season with salt. Turn heat to medium high so the tomatoes start to bubble a little bit and cook them for 5 minutes.

Pour in wine and let it boil vigorously for 2 minutes. Add clam juice water mixture (and fish head if you have it), and once it boils, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let the base simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Remove fish head if you have used it. Take off heat and cover until ready to cook the rest of dinner.

We made the broth about 3 hours beforehand and left it on the back burner to rest until we were ready for dinner. If you make the broth several hours ahead a time, let fully cool and then put it into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.

Ready to cook – finalizing soup

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Scrub the mussels or clams, and peel the shrimp. Wash and dry the shrimp and fish fillets and put into shallow tupperwear or pot. Season them with olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper and put into the refrigerator.

Put the base onto medium high-heat and bring to a boil.

While base is heating up, cut firm-textured Italian bread into ½ inch-thick slices, one for each soup bowl plus a few extra per person.  Put slices directly onto heated racks for 5-7 minutes or until lightly brown. Take out of oven. If you want to add garlic and parmesan cheese, put a half clove of garlic on one side plus grated parmesan cheese and olive oil. Return to oven until cheese has melted. Set aside.

Put the well-scrubbed clams and mussels into the boiling base, cover pot, and boil until they begin to open (check them at about 3 minutes). Then gently coax the fillets into the pan under the clams. Return the broth to a boil, and immediately reduce heat so the broth barely simmers. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the fish, until it is almost done.

Push the tip of a pearing knife gently into the center of the fillet, and pull it apart to see what it looks like. There should be just the barest amount of translucency left. Then add the shrimp into the broth, cover and cook 2-3 more minutes, until all the fish is cooked. At this point the fish should allow a willingness to break into larger pieces and shrimp should be pink and slightly curled.

If any clams or mussels haven’t opened at this point, take them out and sauté them in a small pan with some broth and continue to steam until they do.

Slip a slice of garlic toast in the bottom of each diner’s soup bowl, and sprinkle with parsley. Break the fish into serving size pieces (as large or small as desired) and ladle seafood and broth on top of bread. Serve with remaining garlic toast.

We hope you enjoyed our lasted blog post. Please leave comments and likes! We would love to hear if you tried any of the recipes and anything you learned along the away.

3 thoughts on “Northern Italy Fish Soup

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s