Italian Mixed Seafood Soup


Against the Grain

Published by William Morrow

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This recipe, like many stovetop seafood recipes in Italian cuisine, falls somewhere between soup and stew. Seafood dishes in Italy vary regionally, with the local catch oftentimes determining the recipe. The western, Mediterranean side of Italy provides oily fish, such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel, which are usually baked with garlic, rosemary, parsley, and any number of other herbs that Italian cooks hold so dear. Shellfish, especially molluscs and crustaceans, come mostly from the Adriatic side of the Boot. The thousands of miles of coast around Italy provide all sorts of other prized catches, too, from hake and shrimp from the Sicilian channel to the oysters and lobsters that go into making Genoa’s most famous dish, a pyramid of seafood, eggs, and vegetables called cappon megro. This recipe is one of the easiest to make in the stovetop repertory, a filling soup made with a variety of seafood and a touch of hot pepper. It calls for making a soffrito, which is basically an array of sautéed ingredients such as onions, garlic, and parsley, to which wine and sometimes tomato are added, before the fish or seafood go into the pot. It is a preparation found in many of the seafood and fish soups and stews all around Italy.

8 servings

Cooking Methodsauteeing, steaming


Total Timeunder 4 hours

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Textureherby, salty, savory, winey

Type of Dishfish soup, hot soup, soup


  • 2 dozen live clams
  • 2 dozen mussels, preferably live, or 24 shelled frozen mussels, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chopped fresh peeled, seeded plum tomatoes with their juices, or 1½ cups canned plum tomatoes, with their juices
  • 2 pounds cleaned medium squid, cut into ½-inch rings
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 12 large sea scallops


  1. Soak the clams in a large pot of cold water, changing the water several times over the course of 2 to 3 hours. Agitate them every so often to loosen the sand from their shells. Drain into a colander and scrub.

  2. If using whole fresh mussels, scrub their shells well and, using a paring knife, cut away their beards.

  3. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, to soften. Stir in the parsley. Pour in the wine and let it sizzle and boil off the alcohol. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 8 minutes, until slightly thickened.

  4. Add the squid to the pot. Cook over low heat, covered, until tender, about 45 minutes. The squid should exude its own liquid. Check the pot occasionally, adding water, if necessary, to keep the squid covered by 1 inch.

  5. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and the red pepper flakes. Add the clams and mussels. Cover and raise the heat to medium. As soon as they begin to open, add the shrimp and scallops. Simmer, covered, until the shrimp turns bright pink, the scallops are a glossy white, and the clams and mussels have opened fully. Remove any clams or mussels that haven’t opened. Serve immediately.


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