Zuppa di Pesce (Italian Fish & Seafood Stew)

Zuppa di Pesce- Italian Fish & Seafood StewRemember, way back in September, when I first introduced myself?  I showed you a picture where I’m digging into an obscenely large bowl of zuppa di pesce and told you how much I like to eat.

Sarah Digging in to Zuppa di Pesce

If you’ve been around long enough to remember that, maybe you’ve also noticed that some woman named Pam comments on darned near every recipe I post.  Who is this woman?  Why is she StrawberryPlum #1 fan?  Is this Sarah character really popular enough to have some crazy stalker?

No, she’s my mother, of course, and a very special lady whose birthday happened to be this last weekend.

There’s something else you should know about my mom.  She looks at least as giddy as I looked in that picture when faced with a giant bowl of cioppino, bouillabaisse, fish stew, or zuppa di pesce.  Whatever you call it, if it involves some combination of shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, and fish she is totally into it.  In other words, deciding what to make for her birthday dinner is kind of a no-brainer.

So what goes into my zuppa di pesce?  It’s open to interpretation but I like the combination I came up with for this version: monkfish, shrimp, sea scallops, and Manila clams.

Monkfish, Scallops, Clams, Shrimp

Other than the seafood?  Honestly, not much.  Onion, fennel, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, pepper flakes.

Fennel, Onion, Tomatoes, Red Pepper FlakesSear the monkfish and scallops, remove and start building flavors.  Olive oil, onion, sliced fennel.  Garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes.  White wine.  Crushed tomatoes.  Broth or water.  Simmer, let flavors meld.

Seraing MonkfisOnions, Fennel, Garlic

The fish goes back in the pot to finish cooking.  Shrimp and clams join the party.  And the scallops.  Yes, yes, not a bad looking pot.

Zuppa di Pesce

Ladle it up, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and drizzle with olive oil.  Happy eating for a happy birthday.

Zuppa di Pesce


5.0 from 3 reviews
Zuppa di Pesce (Italian Fish & Seafood Stew)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Feel free to improvise with whatever fish and shellfish looks good and fresh. I like to use a firmer white fish such as monkfish or halibut, along with shrimp, scallops, and clams. I doubt you'd hear any complaints if you tossed in a few mussels or swapped out the shrimp for lobster. Serve Zuppa di Pesce with garlic-rubbed crostini.
Recipe type: Seafood, Stew, Soup, Dinner, Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 generous entrees or 8 first courses
  • 1⅓# Monkfish Loin, cut in 4 fillets
  • 8 U15 Sea Scallops
  • 8 Jumbo Brown Shrimp, cleaned, tail left on, shells reserved(*see notes)
  • 1½# Manila Clams
  • ½ large Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium bulb Fennel, thinly sliced, a few fennel fronds reserved
  • 2 cloves (or more!) Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 c. Dry White Wine
  • 2 14.5 oz cans San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed
  • 3 c. Broth(*see notes) or water
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Rustic Italian Bread or Baguette, toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil
  1. Pat the monkfish and scallops dry and season with salt. Coat a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the monkfish on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Remove from pan and place on a rimmed plate or shallow bowl (so the juices don't escape!). Add more oil if needed and sear the scallops on both sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and reserve, along with the monkfish.
  2. Add a little more olive oil to the same pot and sauté the onions and fennel until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to a clear spot (add oil if the pan seems too dry) and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with about a cup of white wine, scrapping up all of the bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let most of the wine evaporate then add the crushed tomatoes and broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until flavors have united.
  3. After 15-20 minutes of simmering, add the monkfish, nestling it into the tomato-y broth, along with any accumulated juices. Continue to simmer.
  4. After about 10 minutes, add the shrimp and clams and continue to simmer until the shrimp have almost cooked and the clams and almost opened, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size. At this point, add the scallops, along with any juices, and simmer for another 2 minutes or so until the clams have all opened, the shrimp are cooked and the scallops are heated. Taste broth, add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as needed
  5. Divide seafood between bowls and ladle broth, fennel, and onions over the top. Drizzle with olive oil (the good stuff!) and sprinkle with the reserved fennel fronds. Serve with toasted, garlic-rubbed bread.
Use the shrimp shells and the fennel stalks to make a quick, light shellfish broth. Quarter an onion, chop 2 carrots, chop fennel stalks and sauté for a minute or 2. Cover with water, add shrimp shells, some fennel fronds, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of parsley, and a couple peppercorns and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and you have a light, delicate broth to use in your zuppa. An alternative is to simply use water, but leave the shrimp in their shells. This will yield a similar result but is a little more of a mess for your guests.



  1. Pam says

    I am drooling all over again!!!! SO much fun watching you cook, then enjoying my lovely birthday dinner! It was amazing~ can’t wait for our next invitation!!!

    Love, Mom/Pam/your biggest fan!

    oh, and I made the quinoa muffins this week – so yummy! Your sister just ate two!

    • says

      I buy most of my fish at Coastal Seafood in Minneapolis. They have the best selection, I trust that their product is fresh, and the staff is great if you have any questions! I like using monkfish for this recipe because it’s a fairly dense fish and holds together well, plus I like its sweet, mild flavor (it is called “poor man’s lobster, after all!). Good luck and hope you like the zuppa!

  2. says

    Having been originally from New York I loved going to Italian restaurants and having either linguini with white clam sauce or zuppa di pesce. I’m now living in the Midwest and I miss New York’s access to fresh seafood. In my quest to find different culinary options to offer my clients, since I’m a personal chef, I research the recipes I find and cook them at home before putting them on my menu. Your zuppa di pesce is simply delightful. The addition of fennels adds a new dimension which I haven’t experienced before in zuppa di pesce and I enjoy the hint of anise in the flavor profile. I can’t wait to discover what other amazing recipes you have to offer.

  3. Ellen says

    This looks delicious. I’m off to the market. PS: love your silverware–my grandmother’s pattern brings back happy memories of many wonderful family dinners.

    • says

      Thanks and hope you like(d) it! My silverware belonged to my great aunt (whose name was also Ellen:)). Even though we didn’t get to share a great many meals, I always think of her when I pull it out.

  4. Thania HARVEY says

    I really love this recipe. the touch of the fennel is an amazing idea and give to the dish a lot of flavors. Super easy to make and very elegant.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: