In Italy, as in many parts of the Mediterranean basin, fish is often combined with tomatoes and other local ingredients to make delicious and quick one-pot-wonders like today’s Sicilian-style fish stew.
I’ll just come right out and say this now. This fish stew is best eaten with family and close friends, because if you eat it the right way–with crusty Italian bread to sop up the lovely sauce–it can get pretty messy. Finger-liking-good kinda messy!
This fish stew recipe is quite simple, but the balance of flavors is truly incredible. From lovely and familiar aromatics like onions and garlic–providing the glorious start to this recipe–to a hint of sweetness from golden raisins balanced with tart capers. All the while, a white wine and tomato-based broth marries everything together.
Sea bass fillet was my choice for this fish stew recipe, but you can use any firm white-fleshed fillets here.
I adapted this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen’s new book, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook. Here’s a great tip I picked up: To prevent the fish from overcooking and drying out, it’s best to add the fish towards the end, when the stew is nearly done. Let it simmer until it’s partially cooked, then turn the stove off and cover the pot to let the fish finish cooking by residual heat.
Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Pinch red pepper flakes
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 28-oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, juice separated and reserved
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 lb skinless sea bass fillet, about 1 1/2-inch thick, cut into large cubes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, stems removed
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts, optional
Crusty Italian bread for serving
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in 5-quart Dutch oven (like this one) over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and a little salt and pepper (about 1/2 tsp each). Cook, stirring regularly, until softened (about 4 minutes). Add thyme, red pepper flakes and garlic and cook briefly until fragrant (about 30 more seconds).
Now, stir in the white wine and reserved tomato juice from can. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about 1/2. Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, raisins, and capers. Cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat until flavors combine.
Pat the fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Insert the fish pieces into the cooking liquid, and give everything a gentle stir so that the fish pieces are nicely covered in the cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and cover. Let sit off heat for another 4-5 minutes so that the fish will finish cooking. Fish should be flaky when gently pulled apart with a paring knife. Finally, stir in the chopped parsley.
Ladle the hot fish stew into serving bowls, top each with a few toasted pine nuts, if you like. Serve with your favorite crusty bread! Enjoy!