Seafood An image of Italian fish stew

Published on May 19th, 2013 | by Gareth


Fish Stew from Liguria, Italy

Continuing with the Italian theme from last week I made a Ligurian fish stew this weekend. My first thought when I was reading about the recipe was that Ligurian sounds like a race of beings in Star Trek “the Ligurians are in alliance with the Klingon empire”. I’m not a Trekkie but I did see  Star Trek Into Darkness last night (really enjoyed it, if you’re wondering), perhaps this subconsciously seeped into my thoughts.

Back to the real Liguria, it’s probably Italy’s smallest region, located on the North West coast between France and Tuscany. Sometimes dubbed the Italian Riviera, it’s a narrow strip of coast made up of small bays, the deep waters of the Ligurian Sea and towns including Genoa and Cinque Terre.

Ligurian fish stew is very similar to bouillabaisse, unsurprising given the close proximity to France. Like bouillabaisse you can use pretty much any fish, I used skate (ray) wings partly out of curiosity partly so I could save some money for the trip. This was fine but I’d also recommend using a couple of varieties of firm fish like ling, haddock and red mullet. Other ingredients common to both fish stews are prawns, mussels, tomatoes, fennel and saffron.

Traditionally it was fisherman’s fare, cooked with whatever the catch yielded so it told a story of their day and what was plentiful beneath the waves. I love the simplicity of dishes like this, especially the regional and seasonal combination of produce from the land and sea.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30minutes


  • 1 ltr good quality fish stock (preferably home made from fish bones, prawn shells, carrot, onion and herbs)
  • 1 red onion – sliced
  • 6 large prawns – deveined
  • 10 mussels – scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 250g ling – filleted and cut into large chunks
  • 300g red mullet or snapper – filleted and cut into chunks with skin left on
  • 200g skate wings – skinned, filleted and cut into chunks
  • 6 fresh roma tomatoes – cut into chunks (tinned toms also work)
  • 4 Desiree potatoes (or any other waxy variety) – peeled and diced into large cubes
  • 1 pinch (tsp.) saffron threads
  • 1 medium bulb of fennel – sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic – crushed and finely chopped
  • ½ bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves – chopped
  • Olive oil


  • Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion and fennel, fry over a low hear until soft (approx. 5 mins). Take care not to brown.
  • Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
  • Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat for 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the wine, add the potatoes, fish stock and the saffron, bring to the boil for 1 minute then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the fish and prawns and simmer for 4 minutes, then add the mussels and cook for a further 2 minutes (or until the mussels have opened – discard any that don’t open after 2 minutes).
  • Serve hot in bowls, garnish with the chopped parsley, a splash of olive oil and some fresh crusty bread.

And if you want to know how to prepare skate wings (they are really good coated in seasoned flour and pan fried)


Preparing skate wings

Step 1 – You need some fresh skate wings a chopping board and a long thing sharp knife (filleting knife is ideal)

Prepping skate wings

Step 2 – insert the knife between the flesh and the skin working the blade away from you

Skinning skate wings

Slide your thumb in the incision you made in step 2, you should be able to pull the skin off. After this slice the fillet on each side away from the cartilage that runs through the middle. Use the same knife motion as you used on the skin.


Fish stew, Liguria, Italy

Rustic and ready

What films have made you think differently about a recipe?


About the Author

Englishman in Sydney loves a whisky, pies and all things savoury. Digital Marketer by day, cook the rest of the time. Amateur writer, photographer & aspiring anthropologists.

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