Spicy Italian Sausage and Seafood Stew

I made this last week when my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were visiting. We had a bit of gloomy weather and I wanted to make some comfort food. This dish is very similar to a cioppino (Italian Seafood Stew), but a little simpler to make. It does take a while to cook…it needs some time on the stove for the flavors to develop and the wine to mellow, but you can do almost all of it ahead of time so it is a great dish for company. I used a seafood blend that I found a local seafood shop that had a mix of calamari rings, shrimp, and bay scallops. They also sell a mix like this at Trader Joe’s. The addition of spicy Italian sausage to this gives it great flavor. Don’t leave out the fennel…it really adds something to this dish! If you haven’t cooked with fennel before…here is a good video I found that shows you how you trim and prep a fennel bulb:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Woq5xV7G_N0

Also, I’m sure it would be a punishable crime to serve it without some really good crusty bread 🙂

Chopped onion and shallot

Fennel Bulbs

Chopped fennel

"Cento" brand imported Italian tomatoes

Serve this with a good Pinot Grigio

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb (also called Anise), trimmed and chopped
  • One medium sweet onion (like maui or walla walla), chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound spicy Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 cups white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4-5 small yukon gold potatoes, diced into cubes
  • one 35 oz can of imported italian tomatoes blended into a puree in a food processor or blender
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 p0unds of  a mix of shrimp, scallops, and calamari
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

In a large heavy soup pot (like a dutch oven), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onion, and shallots,  and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Add the sausage and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook until brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine to the pot and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the canned tomatoes that have been pureed, the chicken broth, tomato paste, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper (remember that the sausage and chicken stock will add some salt so taste as you go). Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about an hour keeping in at a constant simmer and stirring occasionally. After an hour of cooking, check to make sure the potatoes are tender. At this point, you can let the stew cook a little longer which just helps the flavors to develop more if you have the time. If you are ready to serve, add all of the seafood and cook for a few minutes until it is cooked through. The seafood cooks really quickly and you don’t want to overcook it. It really only needs 3 -5 minutes of simmering. Turn off the heat and add the chopped basil and parsley (save a little to garnish) and re-season with salt and pepper if it needs it. Ladle into soup bowls and top with additional parsley and basil. Serve with good crusty bread and some good olive oil for dipping.

If you want to make this a day in advance (which would probably make it taste even better), cook it all the way up to just before adding the seafood and let it cool and put it in the fridge. The next day you just need to bring it to a simmer and add the seafood.

Serves 8

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