Cioppino from Castagna restaurant in Portland

Cioppino from Castagna restaurant in Portland (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Dear SOS: I am a huge fan of cioppino and have tried many versions in restaurants far and wide. But the best Italian fish stew I have ever tasted (which I don't think would qualify as cioppino, as it didn't have a tomato-based sauce) was served by a wonderful restaurant in Portland, Ore., by the name of Castagna. The broth was ambrosia. I would be eternally grateful if you could discover and share their recipe.

John Gleason

Portland, Ore.

Dear John: This striking dish is perfect for summer entertaining, and half of the recipe can be made in advance. The rich fish broth is delicately flavored with leek and fennel, complemented with bright notes from lemon and Pernod, and rounded out with just a hint of chile and tomato for added depth. Serve each bowl with a generous helping of steamed and sautéed fish and shellfish, crostini and creamy anchovy aioli or rouille.

Zuppa di pesce Castagna

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Servings: 8

Note: Adapted from chef Elias Cairo of Castagna. Fish stock or broth is available at most fish markets and cooking supply stores, and can be found at many well-stocked fish counters at major markets. The restaurant serves the soup with crostini and anchovy aioli or rouille.

Soup base

4 leeks, white parts only, coarsely chopped and washed

1 bulb fennel, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 dried chile de arbol, seeded

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons Arborio rice

2 quarts fish stock or broth, or vegetable broth, plus more as needed



Juice of one lemon, or to taste