We are a people of Saints, Poets, Navigators… and Fishermen I would add.
Italy has almost 7,500 kilometers of coastline, which is why one of the most popular dishes in our culinary tradition is the Fish Soup, in all its variations, which, given the length of the coasts, are many.
In common the fish soups have various ingredients and above all the need of the fishermen to feed themselves and to use the fish that for various reasons could not be sold.
Any variation of this dish happens due to the types of fish used and then to the cooking fashions of the various places where it is prepared. Wanting to take a coastal tour of Italy, we could make stops in the places where the most famous fish soups are prepared.
We could start from Liguria, where we find one of the classic preparations of the west coast: The Ciupin. This soup was originally prepared by fishermen during their fishing trips, using fish that could not be preserved and therefore sold.
Its birth is indicated in the Gulf of Tigullio. The fish used are mostly rock fish.
Descending the Tyrrhenian, we find Il Caciucco alla Livornese. The birth of this preparation, according to legend, is due to a guardian of the port lighthouse, who, unable to fry the fish due to a Florentine edict that forbade the use of oil because it was used to power the lighthouse, began to cook the fish in a different way.
There is another legend according to which it was prepared for the first time with fish that fishermen had donated to the family of a colleague who died during a fishing trip.
The fish used to prepare the caciucco are the classic poor fish, the characteristic is the addition of tomato sauce and toasted bread.
According to tradition, the Livorno people have it with red wine.
The etymology of the name has several hypotheses, according to some it derives from the Spanish cachugo which is the name of a fish similar to the snapper, according to others it derives from the Turkish kucuk which means small.
A little further south of Livorno we find the Civitavecchia Fish Soup. This soup has ancient roots.
The port of Civitavecchia was founded by the emperor Trajan, the city therefore became the gateway to the Roman Empire on the sea.
The fish most used to make this soup are molluscs and crustaceans as well as the usual soup fish, tomato paste and smells. It is used to serve it accompanied by bruschetta bread with garlic.
Continuing the exploration of our beautiful coasts we find different fish soups that are prepared in Sardinia, among these are the fish soup from Alghero, the fish soup alla Gallura, the fish soup campidanese and then the most famous “Cassola de pisci a la casteddaia”.
There are traces of this recipe written since the Middle Ages. A very similar recipe is also found in a 1500 writing by Ruperto da Nola, a Spanish cook at the court of Ferdinando I.
The origin of the name is Spanish, the characteristic is that you must never use less than seven types of fish, among the which must necessarily be cuttlefish and scorpion fish.
It is served accompanied by pieces of “Carta da Musica” or carasau bread. In other areas of Sardinia it is customary to cook the fregula in the fish soup, which is then served before the fish cooked in the soup.
In Sicily, the most famous fish soup is undoubtedly the “Cusucusu” which is prepared in the Trapani area.
This soup, as can be deduced from the name, was created by Sicilian fishermen who had borrowed it from their Moroccan and Tunisian colleagues in the 18th century.
The main feature of this soup is that it is basically a dry fish soup. The broth of the soup is used to cook the semolina and the fish is served as an accompaniment.
Starting to go up the boot, from the Adriatic, the first fish soup we find is “Ciambotto” which is prepared in Puglia.
Like other fish soups, it stems from the fishermen’s need to feed themselves and not to waste anything.
A peculiarity in the preparation is the presence of green pepper. A little further north, in the Marche region, we find “il Brodetto”.
The most famous, but not the oldest, is that of Fano. This fish soup has many versions even at a distance of a few kilometers. Its popularity is so high that a brodetto festival takes place every year.
The peculiarity of the soup lies in the fact that the fish are added to the sauté after being floured, another peculiarity consists in the addition of liquids. Hot water and white wine are added equally.
The last soup we find is “la Ciosota” the fish soup that is prepared in Chioggia in Veneto. The birth of this preparation dates back to the Middle Ages.
At the beginning it was prepared with only one type of fish, over the centuries several have been added.
One of the characteristics is that the broth in this soup is thick. It is used to serve it accompanied with slices of grilled polenta.
In addition to the soups described, there are many others, perhaps less known but equally delicious.
Among these we should mention the Buridda, the Quatàra and the myriad versions of the brodetto.
The French Bouillabaisse and Bisque go beyond the national borders.
The fish soup represents the highest expression of poor dishes, born out of necessity but nowadays a dish for (almost) rich people.
Giorgio Ruggiu Chef