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Tuscan Memories - Cacciucco

A few years ago, my sisters and I took a trip to Tuscany. An amazing and gorgeous trip with just one bad memory. I had rented a car and studied all the traffic signs in Italian, like “No Parking,” but I didn’t speak much Italian and didn’t recognize “Street Festival Tonight - don’t park here” signs. My rental car was towed and it took us most of the day in ridiculous heat to handle the legal and tow yard nonsense. They’re still sending me nasty reminders, years later, of a bill I already paid.

But at the end of the day, before we got back to our little villa, we stopped for some amazing food, including Cacciucco, and we forgot all about how much our feet and wallets were hurting,

Cacciuco Livorno is a traditional fish stew that is served over pasta or over toasted garlic bread. I like both.

Traditionally made with seafood stock, and filled mostly with “trash fish,” I changed it up a tad and used some of my favorite things.


A couple pounds of pork bones (or beef or chicken bones if that’s what you have on hand)

1-2 garlic bulbs, halved

1 onion, peeled and halved

4 stalks celery, cut, with leaves

4-5 carrots. cut in chunks


Honestly? Simply cover all ingredients with water and simmer for 3-4 hours. Add enough water as you go, to have about 6 cups as it cooks down.

Strain and discard all solids.


1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small white onion or 2-3 shallots, diced

6 cloves of garlic, diced

½ tbsp whole coriander seeds, crushed

2 16oz Cans of whole San Marzano Tomatoes

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp Italian chili paste or simply red pepper flakes

~6 cups stock

1 cup dry, Sicilian Grillo White Wine 1 pinch of saffron

A few Parmesan rinds, optional

1 thick filet of white fish

1-2 pounds octopus

1/2 pound (or as much as you can afford) lobster meat

1 box of your favorite pasta OR toasted garlic bread, sliced thick


In a large non-stick pot or Dutch oven, saute the diced onions/shallots on medium heat until they begin to cook down and become translucent. Add the garlic and coriander seeds in and cook lightly until fragrant but not browned.

Add the cans of tomatoes (including all liquid) the seafood stock, Sicilian dry wine, saffron, and tomato paste. Add salt and pepper and chili paste as desired. Simmer on low for 2-4 hours, partially covered [do not completely cover]. Check on it every so often and taste for your desired saltiness and spiciness.

About 30 minutes to an hour before serving, add the frozen uncooked seafood. If you are adding fresh seafood, this can probably be done about 15 minutes prior to serving. Check a piece of shrimp to see if it has cooked through.

If you’re using pasta, cook it now according to the package directions.

Serve the stew in a large serving dish with high sides to keep in the liquid. Add the drained pasta to the stew if using. If not, placed crusty, toasted bread in bowls and top with stew. Ensure that all guests have bread for dipping and a glass of wine!

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