Italian Seafood Stew

Italian Seafood Stew

Italian Seafood Stew

I mostly picked this recipe because it uses a crazy amount of fennel, and a pile of seafood. How often do I get to use fennel in a dish on purpose?

I guess it’s a good thing J likes the flavour of anisette… that licorice flavour that you either love, or hate. I love it. I’m the one that gets my friends’ black licorice jelly beans. I’m the one who came home from Turkey with a big bottle of Raki, and the glasses to go with it. I’m the one for whom Anise would be the signature spice.

This dish takes a LOT of fennel bulb, and cooks it down to a mellow and friendly backdrop for plenty of seafood. Even people who don’t tend to love licorice will like this. They’ll be so distracted by the seafood that they won’t even notice the humble fennel.

Italian Seafood Stew
So much seafood! We went all out for this one...

This dish is quite a bit like a dish that we had – and loved – at an Italian restaurant that disappeared a couple of years ago. We were so disappointed at the time, but now I can make this seafood stew whenever we’re cravnig something a little on the high-end of things. I didn’t cheap out on this dish – we used some king crab that was calling from my freezer.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive dish. Most of the time, I think we’ll stick to a combo of fish, squid and shrimp, and forego the pricier crab meat. It was fantastic, to be sure, but it really didn’t need it to be good. I think it would also be great as a veggie dish, with some chick peas and additional vegetables.

The Verdict

The flavour was so great – the broth was full of flavour, but nicely supported the delicate seafood and, as I mentioned before, the fennel cooked down to something much quieter and subtle. So delicious!

This dish was nearly as simple to make as chili, and actually requires less cooking time. I’m going to try this on a work day sometime. As long as you have some broth ready, it’s easy. We also cheated and had the guy at the seafood counter chop the fish and squid for us. It didn’t cost extra, and saved me some time and a bit of a mess!

Italian Seafood Stew
Table view

Italian Seafood Stew

inspired by this recipe on

8 servings


  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 cup seafood stock
  • 1 pound skinless fillets haddock or U.S. Pacific cod, cut into 1″ pieces
  • meat from 1 pound frozen king crab legs, thawed and shelled
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, bodies cut into 1/2″ rings, tentacles left whole
  • Country-style bread


  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and fennel are soft, about 12 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, grind the fennel seeds using a mortar and pestle until they are finer.
  4. Stir in fennel seeds, tomatoes with juices, wine, seafood stock, and 1 cup water. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, until flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in fish and shrimp and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Add squid, cover, and cook until seafood is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve with bread.