Fisherman’s acquacotta

Fisherman’s acquacotta

Acquacotta del pescatore

Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

Acquacotta is a true peasant dish. Fishermen of another time may have added a piece of long-lasting baccalà (dried salted cod) or some cheap but tasty fish brought in with the catch – the sort of fish that maybe never makes it to the market. But this is a modern version, using a popular mixture of clams, mussels and prawns – the same mix that you would find in a spaghetti allo scoglio – but you could add anything you like.


Quantity Ingredient
500g clams and mussels
4 large mazzancolle prawns, (or tiger prawns)
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, finely sliced
1 celery stalk, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
1 small red chilli, chopped, (optional)
700g tomato passata
4 thick slices stale tuscan bread, (or crusty white loaf)
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped


  1. See how and when to purge clams. Weed out any with crushed shells (a tiny chip or crack is usually fine) or that are open and don’t move when touched or squeezed. (Rule of thumb: if they are open before cooking, they’re dead. If they don’t open after cooking, they’re dead. Throw them away). Purge the clams, if necessary, for at least 1 hour. And regardless of whether or not you’re purging, do not skimp on step 5.
  2. Scrub the mussels and pull out the beards. I like the prawns whole if they are smaller, but they can be a bit messy to eat, so you can chop them in half lengthways, right down the body, to make it easier to access the meat without getting fingers too messy.
  3. Pour the olive oil in a large casserole pot and warm over gentle heat. Cook the onion and celery, along with a pinch of salt, in the oil until very soft, about 15–20 minutes. The slower the better – do not let the onions colour, so stir them often, keep the heat low and add a splash of water if necessary. Add one of the garlic cloves and the chilli, cook for 1 minute, then add the tomato and 500 ml of water. Season with salt and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for about 40 minutes, topping up with water if it begins to look too thick.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the bread – stale bread is best as it soaks up the liquid without becoming soggy. If it is not stale, you can dry it out in a low oven until crisp. Rub the bread once with the remaining garlic clove.
  5. Add the prawns, mussels and clams to the simmering liquid. Cover and let them cook for about 2 minutes, or until the shells have opened and the prawns are just cooked.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir through the parsley. Place the stale bread in the bottom of the serving bowls and scoop the acquacotta over the top of them, distributing the seafood evenly.


  • In a seafood cookbook called La Cucina Toscana di Mare, by prolific Italian food writer Laura Rangoni, there are two enticing seafood acquacotta recipes. One features fresh and salted anchovies and silverbeet (Swiss chard) together with the tomato-based soup. Instead of poaching the eggs in the soup, Rangoni beats the eggs with a handful of grated pecorino cheese and pours this over the top. The other is an acquacotta with chickpeas and wedge clams, which are first cooked so the clam meat can be plucked out, then added to the soup without their shells. She sprinkles grated pecorino cheese on the bread first, then pours the acquacotta on top.
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