Navigate to Food section

Zuppa di pesce / Roman Fish Soup

April 14, 2022
Excerpted from 'Cooking alla Giudia' by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.Excerpted from ‘Cooking alla Giudia’ by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2022. Photographs by Ray Kachatorian.

Zuppa di pesce was once a specialty of only the coastal towns near Rome, but it became common in the capital—where it is still known as a local favorite—through the influence of the Jews. The Jews of the Roman ghetto prepared the dish out of necessity and poverty, using fish scraps from the nearby fish market, and made it into a delicacy. This soup becomes a full meal when pasta is added to the broth or when it’s served with crunchy bread, which can be used to scoop up the last drops of the sauce.

Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you, removing the skin as well, and to reserve the heads, tails, and bones for you, as you will need them to make the fish broth.

Excerpted from Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022.

Featured in: Cooking Under Pressure


  • 6 ½cups (1.5 L) water
  • 1large yellow onion, quartered
  • 1carrot, halved
  • 1celery rib, halved
  • 4 ½pounds (2 kg) assorted fish (red snapper, striped bass, cod, haddock, tuna, and/or fresh sardines), cleaned, scaled, skinned, and filleted if necessary, heads, tails, and bones reserved (see headnote)
  • 5tablespoons (75 ml) olive oil
  • 2garlic cloves, minced
  • 3cups (675 g) tomato puree (passata)
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¾cup (180 ml) dry white wine
  • ¼teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crunchy bread for serving
Yield: Serves 6


Roman fish soup

  • Step 1

    In a stockpot or other large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, plus all the fish heads, tails, and bones you have, and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a minimum of an hour, to make a flavorful, rich broth. Remove from the heat.

  • Step 2

    Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan; discard the solids. Set the broth aside.

  • Step 3

    In a large saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree, add the red pepper flakes, and bring to a simmer, then let simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

  • Step 4

    Add the fish fillets to the pan, raise the heat to high, and pour in the wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for a couple of minutes to evaporate the alcohol, then reduce the heat to medium-low.

  • Step 5

    Cook until the tomato sauce has thickened, at least 15 minutes.

  • Step 6

    Pour the fish broth over the fish in the tomato sauce and mix gently to blend well. Serve the soup hot, with a side of crunchy bread.

  • Step 7

    The soup is best when just made, but leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, for a day or two.