Eel is caught locally in the area where we live and we love smoked eel. Eel is also available fresh to be used for stewing, but I don’t care much for the Dutch/Flemish preparations. My curiosity was piqued though when I saw a post by ChgoJohn on eel stewed in tomato sauce Italian style (or to be more precise, in the style of Le Marche). I did some research and it turned out that this dish is known as Anguilla in Umido in most of Italy, and that it originated in Campania, the region of Naples. Anguilla in Umido is traditionally eaten between Christmas and New Year’s as a symbol to drive out the evil for the New Year. Eel looks like a serpent, and by eating it you conquer it. How simple was life back then.
So why am I preparing this dish in summer? Because fresh eel is available around here between May and October only, that’s why. And this year because of the cold, I only noticed eel at my fishmonger for the first time last week. It was very expensive (because eel is starting to become scarce), but I’m glad I bought it anyway because prepared this way it was absolutely delicious! The eel gives off a very nice flavor to the tomato sauce, the eel is tender and juicy without tasting too greasy, and the flavor of the eel is not at all overpowered by the tomato sauce.
The recipe is very simple as long as you leave the job of cleaning and skinning the eel to your fishmonger. Some Italian recipes I saw insist on cooking the eel with the skin, but it is a hassle to remove and it was great like this. ChgoJohn, thanks for inspiring me to prepare this! Here’s my version.
400 grams (.9 lbs) cleaned and skinned eel, cut into 8 cm (3″) pieces (or more if you can afford it)
1 can (400 grams/14 oz) peeled tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, peeled, when in season
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 sprig basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices (Italian) white bread, lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and toasted
A Greco di Tufo or Fiano di Avellino would be very suitable for this, as they are full-bodied whites from Campania. Other full-bodied whites from Italy will also pair nicely with this dish.