I have really fond memories of Risotto alla Pescatora as it was my go-to dish to order in restaurants on summer holidays when I was little.
The name “Alla pescatora” literally means “fisherman’s style“. Seafood is really popular in Italy and we have to differentiate all the seafood dishes we have with cute names. For example seafood spaghetti are “allo scoglio” (sea rock’s style). Both have the same seafood condiment although spaghetti can be either with or without tomato sauce while the risotto is always with tomato sauce.
Have I confused you yet?
Let’s get back to the story. Whenever we were going to a seaside location for holiday or for a day trip, I always ordered this risotto. I remember one specific restaurant (probably now it won’t even exist anymore) in Punta Ala, a seaside village in Tuscany, one of the closest beaches to Siena where I grew up, so often we went there for a day trip or camping.
This restaurant made the best Risotto alla Pescatora I’ve ever had. And that’s what I ordered every time.
This risotto is not the easiest dish to cook. Especially in a restaurant where risotto can overcook very easily if you lose attention for a minute. Or the fish may be not be cleaned very well and the clams may have sand inside or the sauce may be too bland. So many things can go wrong and today I’m more afraid of getting a bad risotto in a restaurant so I don’t take the risk unless it’s a very good restaurant.
As most of Italian recipes, the ingredients are very basic: fresh seafood, garlic, tomato sauce, white wine and parsley.
In Italy you can easily find in most supermarkets frozen seafood mix which is great to cook this dish when fresh seafood is not available. Or in bigger supermarkets with a fish stall, they can make you the seafood mix so you don’t have to buy all the separate ingredients (which is very expensive).
In the Netherlands there is nothing of that sort.
You can buy frozen seafood mix but it’s mostly surimi which is not even seafood, and pre-cooked shrimps which are tough. Also, fresh fish is available only once a week at the city market. What a bummer.
So I had to improvise. I bought 1 kilo of mussels and with the ones I didn’t use for the risotto I made “impepata di cozze” (mussels with black pepper) another one of my big favourites. I then bought fresh shrimps and squids but unfortunately I couldn’t find fresh clams (I guess they don’t grow in the North sea).
The result is not italian-restaurant quality since the fish here is not as flavourful as in Italy but it was still delicious and a good walk down flavour memory lane.
- 200g (7 oz) whole Mussels
- 200g (7 oz) Shrimps
- 200g (7 oz) Squids
- 160g (1 cup) Carnaroli Rice
- 2 Garlic cloves
- 2 Shallots
- 1/2 glass White Wine
- Fish Stock (or Vegetable Stock)
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- Chili Pepper flakes
- Black Pepper
- In a large pot drizzle some olive oil and add the 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved. Add all the cleaned mussels and clams, making sure to throw away the cracked ones as they may have sand inside.
- Turn on the heat to medium and cover the pot with the lid to steam the mussels and clams. Stir a couple of times and once they are all open, turn off the heat and set aside.
- In another large pan, drizzle some more olive oil, add the 2 finely chopped shallots and the rinsed rice. Turn on the heat to medium and toast the rice for a couple of minutes, until traslucent (be careful not to burn the shallot).
- Pour the white wine and let it evaporate completely, then add the fish stock a couple of ladles at a time until completely absorbed.
- Halfway through the cooking time of the rice, add the mussels' water instead of the stock (if it's becoming too salty, add plain water). Add the cleaned and deveined shrimps and the cleaned squids, cut in rings.
- Add the tomato paste, mixing well the rice with the remaining stock until cooked.
- Finally, add the mussels and clams, the finely chopped parsley and the chili pepper flakes before serving.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you with comments or questions! Have you tried this risotto before? Let me know your thoughts!