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Soup of small prawns, fennel flavoured, viareggio style

(Zuppetta di scampettini, al "finocchietto", tipicamente alla viareggina)

  • 1 kg of small prawns
  • a chopped mixture composed by:
    5 garlic cloves
    a segment of a small white onion
    a small bunch of parsley
    4 hot chili peppers, finely crumbled
    500 grams of red tomatoes
    4 slices of stale Tuscan bread
    2 garlic cloves
    1 glass of white wine
    5 spoons of olive oil
    the chopped leaves of some small branches of parsley and fennel
Take a quite large (baking) tin, put the oil and the chopped mixture together with the hot chili peppers and let brown, for 4-5 minutes, turning very often, over a brisky heat. Bathe with some wine, let evaporate (4-5 minutes), mix the tomatoes and put the obtained purée in the tin together with the chopped mixture. Turn and mix very well this stuff, cook very slowly for 10 minutes, then add the small prawns and, as usually, turn and mix very well in the sauce, then cook for 12 minutes more over a low heat, then switch off.
Toast the slices of bread, put them in the plates, rub them with garlic (but just a little bit), and pour some of the hot prawn sauce in the plates as to wet the slices of bread.
Then fill the plates with the prawns and serve without anything else, but decorating with some leaves of parsley and fennel.
This recipe represents a brilliant manner to use the small prawns, because it is not possible to grill them or to cook them on a spit....which is their best "dead".
It results a multi-use dish (hors d'oeuvre, first course, second course) with appropriate amounts and also sufficiently cheap, because the small prawns, compare to the big ones which are very expensive, have a quite restrained market price and are good at the same time.
Remind to suck the small heads of the prawns, because their most characteristic taste lays in their heads. We have called this recipe "...Viareggio style", because this is a way to cook sea food soups with less intense and spicy tastes, differently from the Livorno style, even if the ingredients are the same.
The use of "finocchietto" (fennel) like a decoration is typical of a certain tendency of the area of Viareggio (as some sensational events have recently revealed) in this sense (nothing to insinuate).

A Giuseppe Alessi recipe
Translated by Gianna Toni

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