Abruzzi Fish Stew

When I first met my former father-in-law, whose parents were from Abruzzi, Italy, all he could talk about was the fish stew. So when we went to Abruzzi to visit my former husband’s relatives while on our honeymoon, of course we had to have the fish stew.

It was incredible.

Unfortunately, what I now know, many years later, is that I will never be able to replicate the taste — those fish were fresh from the Adriatic, and the olive oil… the olive oil was fresh pressed, and I’ve never again tasted anything like it!

But the overall dish is easy and flexible to whatever fish you have, so it’s worth making anyway.

It’s perfect to cook up in a large vat in the summer for a big family get-together or in small batches when you just want to a good hot, fresh fish stew. (It only takes 20 to 30 minutes to make!)

This recipe comes to me from a distant cousin in Italy, and she writes:

It is a traditional and typical meal from Vasto. Many years ago, it was the meal of humble people, mainly fishermen (most of the inhabitants of Vasto were fishermen), but now it’s the meal of the rich people, and you can find it only in very fashionable restaurants because fish is very expensive here.

Abruzzi Fish Stew is traditionally served with pasta and bread, but you can just eat it plain if you’re avoiding gluten. Or you can use gluten-free pasta.

Abruzzi Fish Stew


  • 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped into pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt to taste
  • Assorted fish and shellfish (snapper, mullet, clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, lobster, cod, you name it)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, parsley, and salt in an ovenproof dish. Traditionally, Italians used an earthenware (glazed terra cotta) casserole dish.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  4. Mix the fish into the tomato/oil mixture and bake until all the seafood is done. (To make sure it’s all done at the same time, you can either add things in bigger to smaller size order or make sure everything is about the same size.)
  5. If you are going to serve with spaghetti, make sure you time it so the noodles and the stew are done cooking at the same time.

A note about Italian seafood and cheese: Apparently, there is a hot, never-ending debate about whether or not you are allowed to put cheese (such as Romano or Parmesan) on seafood dishes in Italy. After being married to an Italian for 20 years, I realized for the Italians the debate is the fun part. As a born-and-bred American mutt, I say BREAK THE RULES and do whatever you want. I like cheese. Romano cheese.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com