Cacciucco alla Viareggina, Cacciucco Viareggio Style

Cacciucco alla Livornese, by the Ristorante Alcide in Poggibonsi

Cacciucco alla Livornese, by the Ristorante Alcide in Poggibonsi

Cacciucco is a fish stew made from whatever the fishmonger has left over (or fails to sell), and consequently requires a number of kinds of fish to succeed. It’s also a classic frugal dish, the maritime equivalent of true peasant food, and like many of the peasant dishes made inland (ribollita comes to mind), it’s so good that now everyone enjoys it regardless of social status. The best known cacciucco is cacciucco alla livornese, made in Livorno, which has a healthy jolt of red pepper. Cacciucco alla Viareggina is a bit blander but just as tasty; the recipe is drawn from Mariù Salvatori Zuliani’s excellent book, La Cucina di Versilia e Garfagnana.

“It’s a spicy stew,” she writes, “that’s served at all hours in the trattorie of Viareggio’s port. A little less heavy on red pepper than what’s made in Livorno, but equally good.”

Begin by finely slicing an onion and mincing a clove of garlic and small amounts of carrot and celery (1/4 cup or so of each).

Sauté the mixture in olive oil, and as soon as the onion turns golden stir in some tomato sauce (not too much; you’re not making soup), pepper, a little shredded red pepper, and a pinch of salt, then add the fish, which should be washed, cleaned, scaled and boned — add them either whole or chopped depending upon their size. The fish that work best are: reef mullet, totani (little squid), moscardini (baby octopus), a few pieces of dogfish or other larger sliced fish, monkfish, small grey mullet or a slice of a larger fish, and mussels or the shellfish of choice.

Heat through, then add a glass of dry white wine, and simmer until the fish is cooked. Remove the pieces that have remained whole, and put everything else through a strainer to filter out bones, scales and whatnot.

While the fish is cooking, rub slices of bread with garlic, toast them, and use them to line soup bowls. Then reheat the pieces of fish in their strained sauce, stir in a handful of minced parsley, ladle the cacciucco over the bread in the bowls, and serve.

Cacciucco alla Livornese, which gains a healthy jolt from hot pepper

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Categories: Fish Soups & Stews, Fish Stews and Other Mixed Fish Dishes, Tuscan Fish Recipes

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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