• 8 Servings
  • Advanced

David Prior marries basic Italian cooking principles with typical Californian ingredients in this sensational seafood soup pot.

Featured in
Dinner party recipes, Winter recipes


  • 1kg vongole (see note)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved horizontally
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2L (8 cups) good-quality fish stock
  • 1kg pot-ready mussels (see note)
  • 8 x 100g snapper fillets, pin-boned
  • 1 pinch saffron (optional)
  • 250g fresh cooked crabmeat (see note)
  • Toasted sourdough bread, to serve


  • Step 1
    Place the vongole in a bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 1 hour to remove any grit. Drain.
  • Step 2
    Meanwhile, heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Slice the fennel, reserving the fronds, and add to the pan with fennel seeds, onion, celery, chilli, bay leaf, garlic and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato to the pan and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add stock and bring to a simmer over high heat, skimming any foam from the surface. Add another pinch of salt, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes until reduced. Strain into a pan, discarding the solids. Keep stock warm over low heat.
  • Step 3
    Place 1 cup (250ml) drained stock in a separate pan and bring to the boil over high heat. Add mussels, cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes or until opened. Remove with a slotted spoon. Bring stock back to the boil and repeat with vongole. Set seafood aside. Discard cooking liquid.
  • Step 4
    Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with foil and grease. Sprinkle snapper with saffron, if using, and half the fennel fronds. Season, then place on baking tray and drizzle with a little oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until just cooked through.
  • Step 5
    Spoon the vongole, mussels and crab into warmed bowls. Place a piece of snapper on top and spoon over a little of the warm stock. Top with remaining fennel fronds and serve with sourdough.


Vongole, crabmeat and mussels are available from fishmongers. The legend goes the Ligurian immigrants who cooked for the fishermen at the wharf called for them to “chip in” some of their catch to the soup pot. We’re not sure if that’s true, but it’s now a classic San Francisco dish that varies depending on what can be caught or foraged that day.

  • Author: David Prior
  • Image credit: Brett Stevens
  • Publication: delicious.



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