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Here in New England, many people think of New England Clam Chowder as the quintessential summertime soup. But just as often – particularly at restaurants located in communities where the fishing industry has been predominant for generations – you’ll also find an Italian Fish Stew on the menu.
Our Italian Fish Stew is a classic recipe that is hearty and delicious! It’s also easy to make from ingredients that can be found year around – but fresh from the garden (and sea) ingredients are best!
This stew can be made with any firm, white fish such as halibut (our favorite choice for this dish), mahi mahi or catfish. The fish is cooked in a wonderful broth made from vegetable stock, clam juice, vermouth, tomatoes and vegetables including zucchini, corn, leeks, onion and fennel. The stock is also flavored with a generous amount of fresh basil, plus a pinch of red pepper flake for a gentle amount of heat.
This Italian Fish Stew is a taste of the coast in a bowl – and served along with some crusty garlic bread, it’s a perfect summertime meal.
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Italian Fish Stew
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup leeks, white part cleaned of all sand and diced
- 1 cup sweet onion diced, such as Vidalia
- ½ cup fresh fennel bulb, diced (if fennel is not available, add one teaspoon crushed aniseed when sautéing onions and leeks)
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- ¼ cup Vermouth or dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups clam juice (2 8-ounce bottles)
- 1 ½ cups vegetable stock
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (We like Pastene San Marzano)
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley chopped
- 6 tablespoons fresh basil, divided
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- ½ pound fresh zucchini quartered the long way then sliced into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1 pound firm white fish cut into large chunks (halibut, mahi-mahi, catfish, etc.)
- In a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven, melt butter in oil over medium heat and add leeks, onion, fennel and garlic. Sauté for about four minutes or until the onions start to get soft.
- Add vermouth and cook until evaporated.
- Add tomato paste and cook for one minute stirring so it doesn’t stick.
- Add clam juice, stock, tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley, half the basil, red pepper flakes, zucchini and corn and cook until zucchini is tender, about 5-8 minutes.
- Add remaining basil and fish and stir just to incorporate. Heat the stew just to hot then remove from burner. Try not to stir too much so the fish does not break up.
- Serve with some nice crusty Italian bread.
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