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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« yogurt and pistachio cheesecake with cardamom oranges takes new york to the mediterranean | Main | orange ricotta cheesecake: where orange marmalade goes to heaven »

brodetto: classic, romagna fish stew provides a welcomed distraction 


Legend has it that there are as many mouthwatering versions of Brodetto as there are fisherman along the Romagna portion of the Adriatic coast in Italy. While the number of variations is uncertain, three ingredients have always remained the same: tomatoes, olive oil, and wine.

Lynne Rossetto Kasper writes in “The Splendid Table” that, when the stew came into popularity years ago, Romagna fishermen would hop on small, sail-powered boats and go to sea for seven or eight days straight. A quart of olive oil, a small barrel of wine, and maybe some tomatoes had to last a week. Now, making a proper Brodetto is “almost a religious rite, with no two cooks ever entirely agreeing on method and ingredients.”

Kasper’s recipe includes onions braised in vinegar and stewed with tomatoes and seafood. While I was making it, I scooped up some broth in a spoon, lowered it on my tongue, and swished. The tart vinegar flavor was so pronounced that I wondered if there was a mistake in the recipe. I added a squirt of honey and tasted it again. The broth of tomatoes, vinegar, and white wine mellowed slightly. I ladled some into our bowls, still wondering if I had wasted three good pounds of fish.

Paul set the bowls on the coffee table, poured steep glasses of Austrian Gruner Veltliner, and clicked on Mario Batali’s Spain… on the Road Again. We were planning a trip to Barcelona and I wanted to learn about Spanish food by watching the popular PBS series. I couldn’t find a Spanish seafood stew recipe that I wanted to make for the occasion, so I settled on the Italian Brodetto. (How different could it be?).

As Mario, and his companion, Gwyneth Paltrow, sped off in their sleek, convertible Mercedes on a culinary tour across Spain, my own culinary tour began –in my bowl. At first, I slurped the broth slowly. It seemed all right; not too vinegary. Then, in between dips of bread and sips of wine, I picked up speed. As I filled my mouth with spoonful after spoonful of sweet, tangy, seafood stew, my worries vanished. The stew’s bright notes of vinegar and white wine highlighted the fish flavors beautifully.

My fantasies of Spain faded into sunny visions of the Italian coast. The luscious Brodetto had transported me to the heart of Romagna, where the fish stew was born.

Now I need you're help:  Help me stay focused on Spain! Got a favorite Spanish video? Favorite Spanish chef? I want to know. Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy an Italian Brodetto.


3/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 large onions
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 three-inch strips of lemon peel
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans chopped tomatoes
4 cups white wine
1 pound bluefish, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound flounder, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 pound shrimp
1 pound squid, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons honey

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, bring the vinegar to a lively bubble over high heat. Add the onions, turn the heat to low, and partially cover the pot. Cook about 15 minutes until the onions are soft and almost transparent. Stir occasionally. If the liquid starts to evaporate, add a little water.

Once the onions are soft, uncover the pot and let the vinegar bubble gently, stirring, until it evaporates. Add the oil, a little salt, and a generous sprinkling of pepper. Saute over medium heat uncovered about 10 minutes more until golden. Stir in the lemon zest and garlic, and cook about 1 minute.


Add the tomatoes; raise the heat, and boil, uncovered until thick. Pour in the wine and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil over high heat for five minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning. Add the squid and cook it at a gentle bubble for 20 minutes.


Add the remaining seafood. Bring the liquid to a slow bubble. Cover, and cook 5 to 10 minutes, or until the thickest pieces are firm and opaque to their centers.


Ladle the Brodetto into yours bowls and garnish with the remainder of parsley.

Note: Kasper recommends a crisp white like a Sauvignon from Colli Bolognesi, a Trebbiano di Romagna, or a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. We enjoyed it with a crisp, white Austrian Gruner Veltliner.



Reader Comments (14)

What a great post! I don't know as much about Spanish food as I should, since it rocks! You're so lucky you're going to Barcelona. One of my advisors at school is an expert on the art of that city, so if you want any inside info, I can try to get the scoop for you!

March 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I know this is going to set off major nerd alert bells, but the Met had a fantastic show on Barcelona last year (or was it the year before?) and one of my professors wrote a couple of the essays in the catalogue, which is a gorgeous book. I also know you're looking for foodie recs, but if you want to get a little inspired about one of the greatest cities for art in the world, you might want to check it out. The catalogue is called Barcelona and Modernity, and it's on amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Barcelona-Modernity-Picasso-Gaudi-Miro/dp/0300121067/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1237692273&sr=8-1

I'm so jealous of you!

March 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Thanks, Andrea! I'm definitely interested in checking out the art and architecture in Barcelona. The pictures I've seen look amazing and totally inspiring. The book that your professor co-authored looks terrific. Please do send along any other tips you have!

March 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

Thank you for your comment on my site. I love how you described your experience with this recipe. I've never tried brodetto, but I'm sure I could test it out one night with the man. Any chances you would post a rendition of a Spanish seafood stew? I found a recipe at: http://www.spain-recipes.com/suquet.html that I might give a try one of these days.

March 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I love seafood so this dish is tops with me :)

March 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermaryann

Thanks for the link, Jessica! That Suquet Catalan seafood stew looks incredible. I love the addition of almonds. I will definitely have to try this; thanks!

March 23, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

OMG Angela, this is must try recipe. LOVE IT!

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

ok, angela. you've got me on this one. jonny and i are OBSESSED with spain. i believe i was spanish in another life -honestly. personally, i hate, hate, hate the mario batali show. hate it. it's so self-absorbed and if i have to watch two beautiful women run around w/ two ugly, fat men just to stroke their egos on a show,i'll find something else to watch. plus, that claudia chick IS spanish and doesn't seem to know much about her own country. i'm just sayin'...

there are so many other great ways to learn about spain. i HIGHLY recommend buying the jose andres 'made in spain'PBS series. there's been two seasons now and it's excellent. go to PBS.com to buy the dvd.

You're going to have an awesome and wonderful time. barcelona is one of our favorite cities in the world:you can check some of our old post on spain as well to learn about some of the culture. here's a few recipes/posts - ok i went a bit crazy, but i told you... WE LOVE SPAIN!:













March 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwe are never full

also, pop on over to our blog... you won!

email us your address when you get a sec.

March 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwe are never full

Thanks, guys! It looks like an awesome book. Just sent my address through e-mail. Cheers!

March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

P.S. Your posts on Spanish recipes are AWESOME. Thanks for sending!

March 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

Mmm.. Mmmm... MMMMMMMMMMMMM!! That looks SO good! Thanks for sharing (and getting my mouth to water) LOL!

April 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarrin

I can't believe this recipe.. I love love loved it. My husband ate it for leftovers for three days, which is pretty impressive and says a lot for the dish.

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDigital Kitchen Scale

Sylvia: That's great news; thanks so much for the feedback! Glad you guys liked the recipe. Cheers!

June 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

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