Fish Soup Catania Style

(“Zuppa di Pesce Catanese” – “Suppa ri Pisci”)


This soup requires some preparation because a broth has to be prepared before the fish soup is made and some of the fish has to be cooked separately to make it easy to complete this dish.
Cooking the zuppa is not a hard chore, it is easy, the only recommendation is do not spoil the fish by overcooking it.
As usual, there are no set rules in the preparation of the broth, let your taste, your fantasy and mainly what is available in your refrigerator or your pantry dictate the type of vegetables to be used. Parsley, bay leaves and onions or scallions should be utilized to give this dish its characteristic aroma. Add any vegetables you choose like celery, carrots or chopped fennel fronds or any of your preferred herbs like basil, mint, sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, oregano or choose any spice like cloves, pepper, saffron, or allspice.
In Catania, the fish used are from the Mediterranean Sea, which are different from our local fish. There whole fish are cooked, some with the head attached. The variations in this recipe are made to adapt to the local products and today’s preferences.
Fish steaks or fillets are favored in this preparation, and the lean type of fish, like black sea bass, grouper, halibut, ocean perch, red snapper, shark, scrod, tile fish, monkfish or whiting should be used.
Buy from a reliable fishmonger and make sure that the fish have a fresh smell and firm flesh.


Seafood Soup in Catania 


Serves 8 



For the Broth

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium sliced onion
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of marjoram or oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 2cups of vegetables washed and diced. Use celery, sliced carrots, or any other greens
  • 4 qts. of water
  • Salt
  • Pinch of hot red pepper flakes (Optional)
  • 4 fish assorted fresh heads of fish, preferable grouper, halibut, red snapper, or 1 ½ lb. of clean whiting with heads on

For the Fish

  • 1 lb. of squid cleaned – slice the tubes into ¾ inch rings, cut the tentacles in 3 parts
  • 1 doz. littleneck clams, scrubbed and rinsed
  • ½ lb. mussels, scrubbed, debearded and rinsed
  • 12 shrimps rinsed, with shell on, deveined (cut in the back to devein them)
  • 4 lb. assorted fish cut into steaks or in chucks, if boneless

For the Soup

  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium chopped onions
  • 1 can imported Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, without the juice
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper




The Broth
In an 8 quart stockpot combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil, onion, bay leaves, parsley, vegetables, fish’s heads and 4 quarts of water.  Add ½ teaspoon of salt, some red pepper (optional) and cook over medium heat until water reduces in half. When broth is ready, filter through a sieve, set aside broth and discard that which is left.

The Squid
In a small saucepan bring to a boil 2 quarts of water and 2 teaspoons of salt.
Add the squid rings and boil for 30 minutes or until tender.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the squid and set aside with a few spoons of the cooking water.
In the same water, add the tentacles, boil for 15 minutes and using a slotted spoon, remove the tentacles and set aside with a few spoons of the cooking water.

The Clams and Mussels
In a small skillet combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 whole cloves of garlic and sauté over a medium heat until the garlic is a light golden color. Add clams and sauté until they are open. Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams from pan and set aside in a bowl.
In the same skillet, place the mussels and cook over a medium heat until they are open. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels and place in the bowl with the clams.
Filter the juice left in skillet using a sieve lined with cheese cloth or paper towelsand pour it  in the bowl with the clams and the mussels.

The Soup
 In a 6 quart sauce pot with a lid, place 3 tablespoons of oil, 4 whole cloves of garlic, the chopped onions and sauté over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the tomato and cook for an additional 15 minutes, adding some of the broth if it gets too dry, stir occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the fish starting with the squid without their cooking water, and last the most delicate fish. Add enough broth to be 2 inches above the fish.
Cover and continue cooking over a low heat, after it simmers 5 minutes add the wine, the shrimps and the saffron previously dissolved in a few tablespoons of broth. 
Cook covered for an additional 2 minutes, add the clams and the mussels with their juice and the parsley; simmer for additional 3 minutes and check if additional salt is needed.
Remove from heat and transfer the fish to a serving dish, being very careful not to break them, spoon some of the juice on top. On the side serve remaining sauce in a soup tureen and some plain bruschette made with crusty Italian bread drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, hot from the oven.