Italian Fish and Seafood Soup with Brandy
Fish soups are very popular throughout most of Italy and every coastal town along the Adriatic has its own “brodetto” which is the local name for fish soup. The exact ingredients vary from town to town but green tomatoes and saffron are popular additions. You can also fortify the fish flavor by adding a little brandy or wine. Mussels and clams are nice in the following Italian soup recipe, as well as the shrimp (or instead of them) and fish.
Use any non-oily fish which still has the bones and, preferable, the head. An assortment of small fish is the best option but use anything you can find except frozen fish fingers or flavorless reconstituted fish. You will not get the depth of flavor if you use filets for making the soup and oily fish (like mackerel or salmon) are too strong.
The following recipe for fish soup also features vegetables. Most of the flavor comes from the fish and brandy, although the vegetables add subtle flavors and the salt and pepper gives you all the seasoning you need. It is nice sometimes to make easy fish recipes which do not have a lot of unnecessary ingredients, so you can experience the pure fish flavor without too many other flavors interfering with it. Serve this delicious hot soup with some crusty bread for soaking up all the amazing juices.
- 1 lb small, whole fish
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1 chopped carrot
- ½ cup brandy
- 3 pints water
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- 1 chopped onion
- 4 plum tomatoes
- Olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Sauté the celery, onion and carrot in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a big pot. You can let them brown a little but not much.
- Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil, then add the whole fish.
- Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, then turn the heat off. Strain the soup and put the liquid back in the pot.
- Pick through the pile of what you have strained out and discard any skin or bones. Return the vegetables to the pot. Use a handheld blender to puree the soup, adding the brandy and tomato puree too.
- Return the cooked fish to the pot and stir in the shrimp. Cook the soup until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, then serve hot.
In the photo, you can see how this Italian fish soup recipe is quite thick. This is because the soup is pureed and then the fish is added back into it. If you prefer, you can use a blender or food processor for a completely smooth soup, but most people enjoy the nice texture than leaving the fish whole adds to the soup. Feel free to use different vegetables in this recipe if you want and use whichever fish you like. If you want to switch the brandy for dry white wine or dry sherry, that is fine as well.
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