Thursday, March 8, 2012

Copycat Seafood Brodetto

Soldi, Soldi, Soldi by Sophia Loren
I searched diligently for a song about doing something your own way (My Way by Sinatra - too swan-songish) or being a copycat (The Cranberries - too not-at-all-the-sentiment-I-was-looking-for) or fishing (too, well, American sounding.)  I puzzled a little longer then hit myself up alongside my head.  I have a CD of Italian songs that I listen to all. the. time.  I bought it years ago for a church youth spaghetti feed for background music.  I loved it so much it's been a regular go-to when I'm doing just about anything around the house.  My kids know it well.  When Sophia's song comes on we all chip in on the "cha-cha-cha" part.  Translated, the title means Money, Money, Money.  Nothing about fishing, but it truly sets the mood as I pretend I'm Sophia, sashaying around the kitchen as I whip up a beautiful fish stew from my husband's catch of the day.  No - really! 

A little over a year ago I made a trip to our local Olive Garden restaurant and began my perusal of the menu to find something I could eat that wouldn't break the calorie bank.  They have several options - but I was getting tired of those same options.  Often I'll get an appetizer and make it my meal - love the Sicilian Scampi!  Today, though, I was hoping something new would pop out at me.

And it did!  They had this dish they called "Seafood Brodetto."  As I read the description it passed on all criteria.  Fish and seafood - we know that's good for you - check!  Tomato based broth with no mention of creams - yes!  A quick consult with the nutrition app on my phone informed me that it was a mere 480 calories - yes!  yes!  yes!  I was hoping to be in love in the very, very near future.

And I was!  As the server brought out the dish I noticed this half-lemon perched on the side.  She informed me that I really must squeeze the juices all over the dish to truly appreciate the flavors.  I love testing "authority" so I, of course, took a taste before the lemon squeezing and, then again after the squeeze.  She was right.  The lemon brought the dish to life.  To life, I say!  The presentation was appealing - it came from the kitchen in it's own little round crock-like dish.  It was served with two slices of grilled ciabatta bread.  Being afraid of the aftermath of most "light" fare, though, I was hoping that this fish stew was going to fill me and leave me satisfied.

And it did!  Despite the lack of any apparent abundance of fats or creams, I was full AND satisfied!  With so many flavors to decipher and pinpoint, my tastebuds had all sorts of things to talk about.  There was a slight acidity besides the lemon, a warmth that most likely came from the chile flakes I saw.  The vibrant colors of red from the tomatoes, green from the spinach leaves, orange specks from some carrots and shrimp, and white from the fish and scallops.  The tilapia filet was nestled down in this flavorful hot tub surrounded by shrimp and little scallops.  I was hoping I could figure out how to make this at home.

And, after a few attempts and many trips back, I think I did!  I did some research on brodetto to help fill in some of the blanks and discovered that the other acid I was tasting was most likely red wine vinegar.  I loved the story of how brodettos were made in little Italian fishing villages from the catch of the day, and just about every person had their own version.  A-ha!  The license to do some free-wheeling!  Today I'd like to share the result of my culinary journey with you and hope you'll enjoy it as well!

Seafood Brodetto
Serves 4
Printable Recipe Card
2 shallots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of saffron
pinch of chile flakes (optional)
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1/2 c. white wine
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 qt. seafood stock
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 tilapia filets
8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and cut into bite-size pcs.
1/2 lb. bay scallops
1 c. baby spinach leaves
grated Parmesan cheese
2 lemons, halved and grilled
Thick-cut baguettes slices, grilled

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, hopefully more wide than tall, over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cook until translucent - about 3 minutes.  Add the celery, carrots, saffron, and chile flakes, if using, and sauté for 5 minutes more.  Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute, until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and stir and toast for 2 minutes.  It will probably stick to the bottom of the pan.  This is great,  but adjust the heat so it doesn't burn.

Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add the red wine vinegar, stock, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil then turn heat down to simmer.  Let simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

I was happy to find this new addition to the stocks section at my grocery store.
If your store doesn't carry it I'd try a vegetable stock or a chicken stock.  Or make your own seafood stock using your shrimp shells, some celery, onion, and carrot simmered in a quart of water, then strained.  It takes about half an hour.

Gently add the tilapia filets to the simmering broth, making sure they are submerged in the liquid.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Filets will turn opaque.  Add the scallops and shrimp pieces and gently stir.  Further cook at a simmer for 5 more minutes until the shrimp have turned orange pink and the scallops are opaque.  Taste and season, if necessary.

To serve, use a fish spatula or a long, slotted spoon and place a filet in each person's bowl.  Ladle the rest of the soup over the filet, equally dividing among the bowls.  Top with leaves of fresh spinach and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Add some slices of toasted baguettes in the side of the broth and the grilled lemon halves on the side.  If you MUST, a quick drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil wouldn't be a bad idea.  Squeeze the lemon over the bowl before eating.  Give a stir and enjoy!


  1. Agree that this Olive Garden dish is delish. I've made my own version of this, too, but when I had it at Olive Garden there were mushrooms in it as well so I use them in mine. I also add Absinthe at the end. I've not used vinegar in it but it sounds like a nice addition (maybe balsamic would work, too).

  2. I too have had the Seafood Brodetto at Olive Garden and really loved it! So I am grateful for your finding the recipe and posting it for us! Can't wait to try it...I have some extra time to cook this winter and feel like experimenting, and this is one of my FAVORITE dishes. By the Way, are you related to the REAL Sophia Loren?