Brodetto Vastese has to be Abruzzo’s most famous fish soup, there are other great pretenders along its Adriatic coast but it has an intrinsic simplicity and flexibility: it doesn’t require stock, and fish type is according to what’s available, ensuring that its crown remains sitting ever so snugly. Set in stone however are the shellfish, the dish’s crown jewels, which impart layers of sweetness.
If you have ever visited Vasto, you’ll see the orto, the small family plots of land that wind up from Sirenetta (the Little Mermaid) to the city centre; it is here in the vegetable gardens of the nineteenth century that Brodetto Vastese began, as the fishermen bartered and exchanged their catch of the day with the orto owners. Off they went home with their smaller 6 or 7 smaller-sized rather bony fish, some shellfish, garlic, peppers, herbs and depending on the season some cherry tomatoes. After washing their catch, they would wind them into a flat terracotta dish called a “tijelle” according to its cooking time. To break a family’s “tijelle” meant to lose a heritage of flavour so they’re always highly prized as they are passed down generation after generation. When cooking think “James Bond” shake the dish don’t stir! Once cooked and the fish eaten my favourite part mop up “lu vrudatte” with some crusty bread.
Brodetto Vastese Recipe
a la Trabocco Punta Tufano
4 Scorpion Fish (or Rock Fish) , 4 Skate Wings, 4 cod fillets, 4 Red mullet, 4 squilla mantis shrimp, 4 King Prawns, 1/2 squid, 8 mussels, 250 g of Clams, 2 chopped cloves of Garlic, chopped Parsley, 200ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 Red Pepper, 250 g Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Chilli according to taste
Soak the mussels and clams in salty water and then wash and drain to ensure they are sand free.
Wash clean and trim the fish leaving the heads intact.
Wash and clean the squid and crustaceans and chop and trim.
Add olive oil to your pan and sauté your finely chopped garlic and chopped parsley.
First lay the squid that you have cut into small pieces and cook at least 15 min.
Add the prawns and skate and cook for another 10-15 min.
Add the fish and cook for another 15 minutes
Add the mussels, clams and tomatoes cover and and cook for 10-15 min.
Add a sprinkling of chopped parsley to give more colour to the dish on serving.
This Abruzzo cooking class was arranged for us by the Vasto Tour Operator Italia Sweet Italia as part of a 1-day course learning how to prepare and cook fish on a trabocco. LifeinAbruzzo readers are offered a 10% booking discount by using the code 1026.
Photography by Lucciola.me