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Zuppa di Pesci con Fritto Misto e Cozze

This recipe comes from longtime subscriber Joan L, whose neighbors (Americans who came from Bari, Italy) introduced it to her.

Olive oil

Garlic, peeled and sliced, 1 clove per person

Flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Salt and pepper

Whole tomatoes, peeled and seeded, about ½ cup per person

Lemons, ½ per person

Italian bread

Monkfish, cut in 4 x 2-inch pieces and rinsed

Skate (stingray), cut in 4 x 2-inch pieces and rinsed; skate “bones” are edible

Mussels (cozze)

Whole scampi, 1 per person

Shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed



Small pasta (farfalle; or thin spaghetti broken into 1” pieces)

Corn oil


Remove and discard the beards from the mussels. Scrub the mussels with a dull knife to remove hairs and grit from the outer shells. Rinse. Save the large mussels for Zuppa di Pesci. Small mussels can then be opened with a knife—squeeze first so that you can get the knifepoint between the top and bottom shells to pry the mussels open.  Discard top shells. Serve raw small mussels in their bottom shells with salt, pepper, and lemon juice with a glass of wine and a slice of bread. Old-timers say you should drink wine with any live food to usher it into your stomach. 


Scrub scampi with a toothbrush to remove any sand from between the legs and shell. Some grayish eggs might come out too. Russians eat them, but you can discard.


Cook pasta as package directs.


In a large pot cook garlic, parsley, and tomatoes in olive oil until tomatoes are soft; add salt and pepper. Add the monkfish and stir. Cover and cook until monkfish turns white.  Add skate and scampi and cook for a minute or two. Add large mussels and water to barely cover. Cover pot loosely and cook slowly for 10 minutes after it comes to a boil. Scale whiting ans rinse out the cavity. Put in a zip-lock plastic bag with salt and pepper; shake to coat evenly.


Though octopus may be eaten raw and whole, with only its teeth removed, you may prefer to remove and discard the skin from the head and cut out and discard the eyes and mouth. Then cut what remains into pieces containing 2 or 3 legs each.


Put octopus pieces and shrimp together into a zip-lock plastic bag with salt and pepper. Shake to coat evenly. 


Heat ½ inch of corn oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Cook shrimp and octopus together in the hot oil for 2 or 3 minutes or until done. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 200˚ oven until ready to eat. Then cook whiting in the same oil, turning once. If you get whole whiting, it’s done when the eyes turn white. Serve shrimp, octopus, and whiting with wedges of lemon.


To serve zuppa di pesce:


Place pasta in soup bowls. Add broth from fish. For the second course, serve all the seafood that was cooked in the broth. Serve with Italian bread and lemon wedges on the side. 

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