Have you ever tried brodetto? If you love the sea and its traditions, follow me to discover the history and myriad nuances of the seafood brodetto recipe!
Do you love seafood, but don’t know what to choose? The solution for you is definitely seafood brodetto, with all its variations. Be careful, however, because once you try it… it could be addictive!
The peculiarity of the Italian coasts, besides their rare beauty, is undoubtedly the great climatic and geological differences present. All this contributes significantly to enriching Italy’s natural heritage and especially its flora and fauna, thus filling our seas with a varied marine population. This large assortment has therefore allowed the local cuisines to take advantage of multiple types of fish, creating dishes uniquely localised in specific geographical areas.
Hence the origin of the main dish of all those regions bordering the Adriatic Sea: seafood brodetto (also called “brodetto di mare”). There are many recipes behind this excellence, with each region (or even province) offering its own version, all however united by that festival of flavours imbued in a single course.
The origins of brodetto
To give it this unique taste, how is the seafood brodetto recipe made? The earliest origins of this dish can be traced back to the boats of fishermen who, in order to feed themselves, cooked all those parts of the not-so-noble catch not intended for sale together with a few small crustaceans, molluscs and pieces of reef (used as natural flavourings).
From popular tradition, fish in brodetto became increasingly sought after on the tables of the most renowned restaurants, so much so that it was included in the menus of the area’s most starred chefs, thus contributing to its promotion also in inland areas.
As already emphasised, there is no single recipe for this dish since the ingredients that make it up are treated and cooked differently depending on the location. Only in a few points, however, do the recipes converge:
- The large quantity of fish (at least 9 or 10 different types), ranging from blue fish (cod, gurnards, St. Pierre, etc.) to many other species of molluscs and crustaceans such as corncobs, cuttlefish, crabs, etc.. Any time of the year is good for eating seafood brodetto, so there are different ingredients depending on the season.
- The recommended cooking method is in a shallow terracotta pot.
- The blending with white wine vinegar, to blend the aromaticity of each ingredient while also preventing the fish flesh from flaking off.
The history behind this dish is deeper than we can imagine, going far beyond the simple cooker. All those seafaring populations who offer it daily on their tables do so not only to delight their palates, but to culturally identify with the great territoriality of the national food and wine heritage. Its symbolic value is coveted among the different cuisines, which compete for the title of “inventor of the recipe” through various demonstrations, events and festivals.
Differences with Italian fish soup
Now that I have illustrated the territoriality of brodetto, be careful not to confuse it with its Tyrrhenian cousin, “zuppa di pesce” (fish soup). In addition to distinguishing themselves by their use on the table, the “zuppa” being a first course while the “brodetto” also serves as a second course, they differ essentially in the ingredients they contain. If for the brodetto the presence of gurnard is fundamental, for the zuppa the scorpion fish is the main protagonist, blended with red wine in the Latium version (Civitavecchia) or accompanied with molluscs and squid in the Neapolitan version.
A separate discourse is made for Livorno’s caciucco, a very ancient dish resulting from the union of all the mixtures of fish brought by people from all over the Mediterranean, rigorously eaten with slices of toasted bread with a garlic-based sauce to best encapsulate all the sweetness of its sauce.
Curious to know all the secrets behind the brodetto recipe with all its variations? Then continue to follow me on this fantastic itinerary! We will begin by briefly analysing all the regional variants, then going into detail on all the Marche variants thanks to the advice of a thoroughbred Marche native (that is, yours truly).
Buckle up… Here we go! 👇
A thousand ways to make the seafood brodetto recipe
As already mentioned, when wandering around the Adriatic regions, you can taste brodetto presented in a variety of ways, each one rich in tradition and goodness. The more the merrier! This is why, in addition to the regional variants, there are even provincial ones: for example, following the Marche region from north to south, we find no less than five versions of the seafood brodetto recipe.
Is your mouth already watering? Here is a list of the most famous versions, each to be discovered and, above all, tasted:
1. TRIESTE-STYLE BRODETTO
Called “brodeto de pesse” or also “minudaia”, it consists mainly of very small fish. Their use in other versions is avoided due to the disintegration of the meat during cooking, but not in the Trieste version due to their prior frying, thus allowing their consistency to be maintained on the palate.
2. ROMAGNA-STYLE BRODETTO
Mentioned even in the famous recipe book “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene” (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well) by Pellegrino Artusi, “brudèt ad pès” was one of the first to use tomatoes (introduced in Europe after the Spanish conquest of Central America).
How to make brodetto alla Romagnola? Fish such as gurnard and scorpion fish are mainly used, which, once coated in flour, are cooked in a casserole dish, accompanied by toasted bread to bring out all the goodness of the brodetto.
3. MARCHE BRODETTO
A land of artists and tradition, Le Marche offers a vast repertoire of food and wine to discover. If for the people of Romagna there is no brodetto without the gallinella, for the Marche people, woe betide the San Pietro, present in all the territorial versions, without forgetting that there is even a version for each coastal city.
Brodetto from Fano
In Fano we joke about many things, but not about brodetto! The city’s great love for this dish, with all the centuries-old tradition behind it, spills over into the countless events where brodetto is the absolute star. Among the many, during the “International Brodetto Festival” in September, all the local restaurants (including land-based ones) propose their own version, allowing the traveller to discover a thousand ways of making brodetto. The distinctiveness of this dish lies in the complete absence of shellfish, garlic and wine, replaced by vinegar and tomato paste.
The presence of the Conero Riviera and its crystal-clear waters allow the Ancona version to draw on a wider range of fish (even more local). The recipe for Ancona brodetto calls for a large number of seafood products (as many as 13, such as the mouths of the Calamo Fountain, one of the symbols of the city), the area speciality “moscioli” (wild Conero mussels sought after and coveted throughout the region) and the use of tomato alone, making the dish even more dense.
Brodetto from Porto Recanati
Mentioned even in the 1931 Touring Gastronomic Guide with the appellation of “Brodetto Bianco a Sud del Conero” (White broth south of the Conero), the Recanati brodetto has all the attributes to be defined as the oldest one. The absence of foods of American origin such as tomato, worthily replaced with the wild saffron that grows on the slopes of Mount Conero called “saffronella”, accompanied by remote testimonies mentioning it, offer all the credentials to hand over the paternity of the recipe to the city.
The Academy of Brodetto, created through the initiative of a number of local restaurateurs, now works to preserve the original recipe for local seafood brodetto conceived in the 19th century by chef Giovanni Velluti. A journey through time, a leap back into past eras, with the kitchen all this is possible, reliving on your skin (and on your mouth) the exact same sensations.
Brodetto from Porto San Giorgio
Among the many, the San Giorgio version has had the honour of being protected and recognised with the De.CO, the Denominazione Comunale d’Origine. The large assortment of fish (more than 13 types), tomatoes (typically the “green” type), chilli peppers, and a few slices of stale bread for the inevitable “scarpetta” (bread dumpling) return.
Brodetto from San Benedetto
A symbol of the famous coastal town, this seafood brodetto with its pleasant acidity (thanks to the substantial addition of vinegar) is greatly promoted during the August patron saint’s festival of the “Madonna della Marina”. On this occasion, it can be tasted thanks to the numerous stalls that populate the entire waterfront.
4. ABRUZZO BRODETTO
Perhaps influenced by their proximity to their cousins from the Marche region, wandering around the provinces of Abruzzo, we find many versions of brodetto:
Brodetto from Vasto
There are many stories about the origin of “vrudàtt vuastarèule”, passing through myths and legends. If Pino Jubatti, a figure of high Vastese character, is credited with issuing the specification for “Brodetto from Vasto”, according to legend the dish was invented at home. In order to feed her husband, who had returned after a hard day’s fishing, a woman from Chieti thought of combining fish with some vegetables, in particular “half-time” tomatoes (known as “costoluti fiorentini” tomatoes), thus creating the first recipe for “brodetto di pesce Vastese”. The juiciness of these tomatoes still characterises it today, giving it a pleasant freshness when consumed in summer.
Near Giulianova, the key to the goodness of its brodetto lies in the way the ingredients are mixed together. By using an earthenware pot, its simple shaking promotes a perfect amalgamation of flavours, which is then repeated in earthenware pots to encapsulate all the warmth and goodness of the dish.
Brodetto from Pescara
The absence of oily fish, the use of dried sweet pepper powder and sea water (to wash the fish) are the unique characteristics of this variant. Very ancient, it was produced and eaten directly on fishing boats where the men of the time, with their stronger stomachs, added red vinegar (a practice that has now disappeared) to invigorate their bodies, worn out by the fatigue of the sea.
5. BRODETTO FROM TERMOLI
Nerve centre of maritime trade in Molise, in the town of Termoli we find a type of brodetto with the right food combinations, being produced by the perfect fusion of sea and land products. How is Termoli brodetto, known as “u’bredette”, made?
In addition to the presence of a large quantity of fish, including parts of oily fish such as cod liver, we find all the colours of traditional country ingredients such as olive oil, tomato, parsley and the ever-present pepper cut very thin. Its goodness is well known and renowned, so much so that it bewitched Lucio Dalla (yes, him) who used to taste it at the famous restaurant “Da Nicolino”.
6. APULIAN BRODETTO
How could Apulia, with its great gastronomic heritage, not be missing? We find the “ciambotto”, so called because of its small size, available in the areas of Bari and Salento where we also find territorial variations. The stewed preparation of the catch and the pairing with the genuine flavours of the region make it a dish to be discovered, appreciated and savoured.
7. FOREIGN BRODETTOS
The authenticity of this dish has not only conquered the hearts of Italians, but it has also managed to export, influencing neighbouring countries. In Croatia we have “brodet”, which is accompanied by grilled polenta, while in Greece, especially in Corfu, we find a similar dish called “bourdeto”.
The sea of the Marche region directly at your doorstep
Having come this far, are you curious about wanting to try brodetto but find yourself in an area quite far from the calm tranquillity of the Adriatic coast? If you are a food lover and are familiar with handling ingredients, here is the solution for you!
I will show you step by step how to make brodetto directly at home. The final choice among the variants fell on the Sambenedettese one, being the simplest (but not the least good!).
_ Preparation time: 20 minutes
_ Cooking time: 50 minutes
_ Difficulty: medium
Ingredients for 4 people
- 1.5/2 kg of fish (including gurnard, redfish, cod, smooth dogfish, scampi, cob)
- 1 large cuttlefish
- 1 kg green tomatoes
- 2 peppers
- 1 glass of vinegar
- 1 glass of olive oil
- 1 onion
- Garlic (cloves in proportion to the kilos of fish used)
- Salt and chilli pepper
Recipe for Sambenedettese-style brodetto
_ The first, fundamental step is to clean the fish. Gut them, remove their scales, fins and head. Then take the cuttlefish, clean it, gut it and cut it into pieces.
_ Next come the preparation of the side ingredients: the onion should be finely chopped, while the tomatoes and peppers should be chopped.
_ Prepare a pan (earthenware if possible) by adding the olive oil, onion, garlic and parsley.
Once the onion has browned for 10 minutes, add the cuttlefish, tomatoes and peppers. Then add water, salt and simmer for 30 minutes.
_ After the necessary time has elapsed, start adding the fish flesh according to its consistency: the firmer the flesh, the sooner that fish is added.
_ Leave to cook with the pan covered and over a high heat (remember to “shake” the pan gently every now and then to mix everything together), then add the vinegar, more salted water and olive oil until the fish is half-cooked. The cooking is finished when the sauce starts to thicken.
_ Serve piping hot because “if it doesn’t burn, it’s not Sambenedettese style” (a school of thought of fishermen of the past), accompany it with toasted oiled bread and enjoy it properly.
If you have exaggerated with the portions, don’t worry! You may have another chance to taste this fantastic dish in the next few days (leave it in the fridge for up to 2 days) or alternatively you can freeze it for longer storage.
The presence of multiple fish implies a lot of preparation work to be cooked and served. Using medium/large-sized fish, the presence of bones implies caution when eating it, so its consumption by children and infants should be avoided.
However, if you are willing to arm yourself with a bit of patience, you can make brodetto accessible to everyone by meticulously cleaning and removing the bones. It will be hard work, but it is definitely worth it!
Now seafood brodetto recipe has no more secrets for you. So what are you waiting for to organise a tour of the Adriatic regions where you can admire its beauty scattered throughout the land, taking the opportunity to taste the many versions of this fantastic dish?
It only remains for me to wish you a pleasant trip… And bon appétit! 😋