Nonna Annunziata was a wonderful cook, governed by the message of ‘cucina povera’, food of the poor. She used only the food she had on the day, usually vegetables, pasta and bread. She used only cheap cuts of meat and fish and wasted nothing…not even a crust.

Do try this soup. It is so simple to prepare and tastes divine.


A selection of fresh fish, enough for about 4-5 pieces per person: coley, hake, catfish

24 plump mussels

8 langoustines or prawns (if available)

Extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1-2 pieces dried red chilli, pepperoncino

Large bunch flat leaf parsley, very finely chopped

125ml dry white wine

4-5 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and chopped roughly

Sea salt

Wash the fish and cut into good bite-size pieces.

Wash the mussels in changes of cold water to remove any grit. Remember to discard any that don’t open when tapped.

Clean the prawns by twisting the tail and gently pulling out the black vein that runs down the back.

Warm the olive oil in a deep sauté pan.

Add the garlic and sauté until it starts to colour, careful not to let it burn.

Add the chilli and cook a little longer.

Add 2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, then the white wine.

Raise the heat and boil the wine until all the alcohol evaporates. Check by sniffing the vapours. When they don’t catch the back of your throat the alcohol will have evaporated.

Any alcohol left in cooking will leave a sharp acidic taste.

Turn the heat down, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes or so. (I remember Nonna used to take 3 or four very ripe tomatoes from a plant on her balcony and simply squeeze them with her hands into the sauce. She didn’t have time to de-seed and chop!)

Add a couple of tablespoons of water, lay the pieces of the white fish on the sauce and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Lower the heat, put a lid on the pan and sauté the fish for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the prawns and mussels and cook for a further 5 minutes until the shells are open and the prawns have changed colour.

The liquid from the mussels will add stock to the soup. You can add a little more water if needed.

Check the seasoning and add a final handful of chopped flat leaf parsley.

Nonna always served this with crunchy pieces of old dry bread she had rubbed with olive oil and garlic and toasted on the griddle.