Ocala Cooks | Mary Ellen Saladino

Author and columnist Mary Ellen Saladino celebrates her Sicilian heritage by preparing this fish and seafood stew. “It can be enjoyed anytime but often is part of the Italian-American cuisine Christmas Eve celebration, The Feast of the Seven Fishes. All types of seafood can be incorporated. In addition to the stew, side dishes might include oysters or seafood salad, for example, to reach the seven fishes. I found this recipe online but I switch it up, such as swapping cod for monkfish.”

Zuppa di Pesce


1⅓ pounds monkfish loin, cut in four filets

8 jumbo sea scallops

8 jumbo shrimp, cleaned (*see note)

1½ pounds fresh clams

½ large yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced, a few fronds reserved

2 cloves garlic, minced (or more to taste)

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 cup dry white wine 

2 14.5 oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, crushed

3 cups broth (*see note) or water

Extra virgin olive oil

Rustic Italian bread or baguette, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and toasted

Pat fish and scallops dry and season with salt. Coat a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the fish on all sides. Remove from pan and place on a rimmed plate or shallow bowl to reserve the juices. Add more oil if needed and sear the scallops on both sides. Reserve with the fish.

Add olive oil to the pot and sauté the onions and fennel until tender but not browned. Season with salt. Clear a small spot and add garlic and red pepper flakes (add oil as needed) and sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with white wine and let most of it evaporate then add the crushed tomatoes and broth or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add the fish and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and clams and simmer until the shrimp have almost cooked and the clams are almost open. Add the scallops, along with any juices, and simmer another 2 minutes or so. Taste the broth and season as needed.

Divide seafood between bowls and ladle broth, fennel and onions over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fennel fronds. Serve with toasted, garlic-rubbed bread.

Note: You can use shrimp shells and fennel stalks to make broth. Quarter an onion, chop two carrots, chop fennel stalks and sauté. Cover with water, add shrimp shells, fennel fronds, a bay leaf, a few sprigs of parsley and a couple of peppercorns and simmer for 30 minutes. Or, just use water but leave the shrimp in their shells.

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