Combining simple ingredients to create a comforting Sicilian style fish stew. This stew has layers of flavors from the tender pasta to the tomato-based broth to the garlic herb oil and is best served with crusty bread on the side.
Sicilian Style Fish Stew
Sicilian style fish stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 celery ribs chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 cups fish stock
- ½ cup kalamata olives sliced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 cups cooked orzo
- 2 lb white fish fillets, cut into 2 inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 garlic cloves smashed
- ¼ cup parsley finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons basil finely chopped
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- crusty bread for serving
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and celery and saute until the vegetables are softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add minced garlic and red chili flakes and saute for 1 minute. Add tomato paste, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute or until the tomato paste is caramelized.
- Add canned tomatoes, white wine, fish stock, olives, capers, bay leaf, and thyme to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, make the garlic herb oil. Place the chopped parsley and basil in a heat safe bowl. Heat ¼ cup oil in a small pot with the smashed garlic over low heat. Continue to simmer the oil until the garlic is golden brown and softened. Remove from heat and pour the hot oil over the herbs. Let cool completely.
- Add the cooked orzo and fish to the stew and increase heat to medium. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Season the stew with salt and pepper.
- Portion the Sicilian style fish stew into bowl and drizzle the garlic herb oil on top. Sprinkle grated parmesan and serve with crusty bread if desired.
Watch how to make this:
It may be 70 degrees outside but in my house, it's only 60 degrees. On the bright side, that means I can enjoy comforting soups and pretend that it's still winter. In an effort to stay warm, I'm cooking up a Sicilian style fish stew with orzo, olives, and capers. Drizzle the soup with roasted garlic herb oil and serve with crusty bread on the side for the perfect cozy meal. Heck, I would even lower my thermostat just so I have an excuse to make this delicious stew!
When I was writing the recipe for this Sicilian style fish stew, I was inspired by the Italian-American seafood soup, cioppino. Cioppino is a tomato based soup loaded with all kinds of seafood. It's actually a very simple soup that relies heavily on good-quality seafood.
Unfortunately, I've had many cioppinos that lack flavor or end up tasting like canned tomatoes. I wanted to stay clear of any possibility of that happening. And so, I decided to incorporate more ingredients, simplify the seafood, and add a finishing oil for this Sicilian style fish stew.
- Tomato paste: A concentrated tomato product that adds a deep, rich tomato flavor to the stew.
- Canned crushed tomatoes: These tomatoes have been crushed and are often canned with their juices. You can also use diced canned tomatoes if you want a chunky stew.
- Red chili flakes: The dried crushed red chili peppers add heat to the soup but can be omitted if desired.
- White wine: Use a dry white wine rather than a sweet one. The white wine adds acidity and complexity to the stew but you can substitute it with fish stock if you prefer.
- Kalamata olives: The dark purple olives have a distinctive almond shape and rich flavor that help flavor the broth. If you can't find kalamata olives, use black olives or another brine-cured olive.
- Capers: The small flower buds preserved in brine add a tangy and salty flavor to the broth.
- Orzo: A type of pasta that's shaped like rice grains. You can also use another small pasta such as couscous or small macaroni.
- Firm white fish: Use a mild-flavored fish that can absorb the flavors of the stew such as cod, haddock, halibut, sea bass, or grouper.
How to Make Sicilian Style Fish Stew
Step 1: Cook the broth
Let's start by making the broth. Heat oil in a large pot and saute the onion and celery until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and red chili flakes and saute for another minute. You can omit the red chili flakes but I personally like the little kick.
Add the tomato paste and stir the ingredients so that everything is coated in the paste. Continue to cook until the paste becomes caramelized, intensifying the tomato flavor.
Then, add the remaining ingredients for the Sicilian style fish stew excluding the fish and cooked orzo. Season the broth and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. The sauce will reduce and the flavors will marry, creating one delicious broth.
Step 2: Add fish
Finish the stew by adding the cooked orzo and fish and simmer for about 5 more minutes or until the soup is done. I used cod for my stew but you can use any other firm white fish such as haddock, bass, or halibut. You could also cook raw orzo in the soup but I prefer to cook it beforehand. When you cook raw orzo directly in the soup, it soaks up a lot of the broth and I like my stew with a lot of broth.
Step 3: Make roasted garlic herb oil
While the soup is simmering, make the roasted garlic herb oil. Although the soup is tasty without the oil, the finishing oil adds an extra level of flavor.
Heat olive oil with a couple of smashed garlic cloves over low heat. Continue to simmer the oil, slowly browning the garlic. Once the garlic is golden brown, remove the oil from the heat. Pour the hot oil over the fresh chopped herbs and let the mixture cool. You can prepare the herb oil up to 5 days in advance.
Portion the soup into bowls and drizzle the garlic herb oil on top. Sprinkle grated parmesan to finish and serve the stew with crusty bread on the side.
This Sicilian style fish stew was exactly what I was looking for. It has complex flavors all thanks to the briny olives and capers, roasted garlic herb oil, cod, and white wine. Soak up all that goodness with crusty bread and get ready for seconds!
Can I replace the fish with another type of protein?
Absolutely, you can use almost any other seafood such as shrimp, clams, or mussels.
Do I have to make the garlic herb oil for the stew to be tasty?
The garlic herb oil is not required, the dish will still be delicious without it. However, the herbs and garlic oil do add another layer of flavor that helps round out the meal.
How long will this Sicilian fish stew stay good?
Since this soup has seafood, it's best to consume it within 2-3 days. However, you can keep the broth separate and add the fish just before serving to prolong the shelf life.
For more seafood soup inspiration check out this Korean spicy seafood noodle soup!