2 ratings

Tomato and Saffron Fish Soup

A recipe inspired by the sunny fish markets of Nice
Tomato and Saffron Fish Soup recipe - The Daily Meal
Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune; Mark Graham/food styling

When winter feels gray and cold, I recall the sunny beaches of Nice, France and the quaint fish market just outside our rented apartment window. Soupe de poisson nicoisea hearty tomato, garlic and saffron-flavored fish soup is on nearly every restaurant menu. No wonder. It’s restorative and redolent with the aromas of the sea. Crusty bread and a small crock of rouillea garlicky red-pepper condiment, accompany the bowl.

This recipe is by JeanMarie Brownson and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.

Ready in
1 h and 10 m
30 m
(prepare time)
40 m
(cook time)
Calories Per Serving


  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 small fennel bulb, about 4 ounces, ends trimmed, diced
  • 1 small leek, halved, rinsed, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, about 6 ounces, diced
  • 8 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
  • 1 quart (32 ounces) seafood stock (or light chicken broth)
  • 2 Tablespoons vermouth or dry white wine, optional
  • Generous pinch ground saffron (or 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon crushed espelette pepper (or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne)
  • Rouille (recipe follows)
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Pounds line-caught wild cod fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the rouille:

  • 3 or 4 slices 1/2-inch thick French baguette (or 2 thick slices ciabatta bread)
  • 1/3 Cup olive oil
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red bell peppers, drained, rinsed
  • 1/4 Teaspoon ground espelette pepper (or 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed, halved, seeded)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • Pinch ground saffron, optional


Step 1: In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add 1 small diced fennel bulb, 1 small chopped leek and 1 large diced white onion. Cook and stir on medium-low until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 8 small chopped garlic cloves and cook a couple minutes. Do not brown the vegetables.

Step 2: Add 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree, 1 quart (32 ounces) seafood stock, 2 tablespoons vermouth, 1/4 cup water, a generous pinch ground saffron and 1/2 teaspoon crushed espelette pepper.

Step 3: Heat to a boil; reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Puree smooth with an immersion blender or in a blender, working carefully in small batches. (The base can be made several days in advance; refrigerate covered.)

Step 4: Reheat the base, and adjust with up to 1 cup water if the soup is thicker than heavy cream. Stir in 1/2 cup of the rouille (recipe follows). Season with salt (about 1 teaspoon) and a generous 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Step 5: Add 2 pounds line-caught wild cod fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces. Simmer until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. Use a fork to break up the fish. Season again with more salt and pepper as needed.

Step 6: Serve with remaining rouille and toasted bread.

For the rouille:

Step 1: In a bowl, soak 3 or 4 slices 1/2-inch-thick French baguette (or 2 thick slices ciabatta bread) in 2 tablespoons very hot water and 1/3 cup olive oil, until softened.

Step 2: Transfer to a blender. Add 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted red bell peppers, 1/4 teaspoon ground espelette pepper (or 1 small serrano pepper, stemmed, halved, seeded), 3 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground saffron (optional). Process until the mixture is a smooth puree.