Brodetto and prawns alla diavola, perfect Italian Easter food

Brodetto and prawns alla diavola, perfect Italian Easter food
Forti’s brodetto di pesce, left, and his father Giovanni’s prawns alla diavola. (Photos: Fortunato Mazzone)

In this series, I explore Italy’s cucina povera, the food of the country’s poor people, which is very much in vogue. In this edition, I share two recipes traditionally eaten at Easter in Italy.

Brodetto di pesce is an authentic Italian seafood soup made with tomatoes and is the Easter dish of Naples and the Amalfi coast, where the best brodetto is served. Prawns alla diavola, the recipe for which is also shared below, is another popular Easter dish in Italy.

It is a Catholic tradition to eat fish on Good Friday, and this week, as Easter has approached, fishmongers in Italy have been doing a roaring trade, with prices doubled and queues outside the fishmongers.

Regarding the prawns alla diavola, traditionally we eat prawns for the main course. This was my father’s recipe for prawns baked in the pizza oven, with chilli making it the “diavola” option.

The prawns are often the red prawns of the Mediterranean, pan fried whole. but we have much nicer, bigger prawns here in SA. The prawns are tiny in Italy because the Mediterranean has been overfished. They are tasty and sweet but tiny. So here we butterfly and devein.

The cucina povera, or poor people’s food, is absolutely in vogue in Italy and around the world at the moment. Even Michelin-starred chefs have seized upon these centuries-old traditional foods served on the tables of the common people in rural Italy and turned them into fashionable food served in restaurants. 

These dishes are not only delicious and wholesome but often very cheap to make. Perfect for contemporary South Africa.

Brodetto di Pesce (chunky fish soup)

(Serves 2 generously)

Handful of cleaned calamari sliced into chunks or rings

6 nice peeled queen prawns

6 nice mussels deshelled

Small fillet of white fish (eg hake) cut into strips

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of black pepper

1 celery stalk finely diced

1 small onion finely diced

1 small carrot finely diced

one bay leaf 

Handful fresh chopped parsley

200 ml puree tomatoes (make this from Italian canned peeled tomatoes)

200 ml basic vegetable stock

25 ml lemon juice

50 ml dry white wine


In a large frying pan, fry the onions, celery and carrots in a generous slug of oil over a moderate heat until glossy (we call this a classic sofrito). 

Add all the fish together and stir-fry for two minutes. 

Add the white wine, lemon juice and the bay leaf and fry for another minute until the alcohol has evaporated. 

Add the tomato puree and the vegetable stock and simmer at a lower heat for 10 minutes. 

Season to taste. Add a handful of parsley at the last second and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Prawns alla diavola

(Serves 1 as a main course or two as a starter)


6 deveined tiger prawns 

100g of my father Giovanni’s formerly secret garlic butter (butter with a drop of Worcester sauce, chopped garlic, dollop of tomato ketchup, handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley and black pepper mashed together… yes, I know what you are thinking, but try it. It tastes superb and will save many a dull dish) 

A cupful of pulped tomato

A glass of good dry white wine

Half a lemon

Chopped garlic steeped in olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 diced green chillies in olive oil



Butterfly the prawns and lay out soldier style on a steel oval tray. Add little dabs of garlic butter over the prawns. 

Drizzle the prawns with the wine and lemon juice and sprinkle over the garlic and chilli in olive oil quite generously. 

Season the prawns with Maldon salt. Fleck the prawns with the pulped tomatoes and cook in a very hot oven until the prawns turn pink and the shells have a nice crispy edge. 

Serve with cooked rice tossed in fresh cream and Parmesan for a superb cholesterol bomb. DM


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