Serves a Crowd

Couscous alla Trapanese

August 29, 2018
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Hailling from Sicily, but with historical roots that go all the way back to North Africa, this Trapani specialty is topped with fish and other seafood, and served with an intensely rich fish stock that’s seasoned with cinnamon, bay leaves, and almonds. Although Sicilian locals insist on using handmade couscous (a process that takes a few hours and requires special equipment, but can be done!), you can achieve a similar result with the plain old boxed variety. —Kristy Mucci

What You'll Need
  • 17 ounces boxed couscous
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed (plus 2, unpeeled)
  • 2 onions, chopped (plus 1, halved)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley, left whole, with a small amount reserved and chopped for garnish
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 pound large head-on shrimp, heads and bodies separated
  • 2 pounds mixed fish and shellfish, such as red snapper, sea bass, calamari, and mussels
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lemon, for garnish, if desired
  1. Cook the couscous along with the bay leaves, cinnamon, 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic, and 1 halved onion, according to package instructions. Once cooked, remove the bay leaves, cinnamon, garlic, and onion, and set aside.
  2. While the couscous is steaming, make the fish stock: In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and smashed garlic cloves, cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced almonds and peeled tomatoes, cook until the tomato starts to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add water, red pepper, salt, pepper, and the shrimp heads and bodies, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes completely break down, about an hour. Add the remaining fish and shellfish, and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the fish and shellfish to a separate dish. Strain the fish stock. Pour 3 tablespoons of fish stock over the couscous and let sit, covered, for one hour before serving.
  6. Serve the couscous topped with the cooked fish, garnished with chopped parsley and lemon, and with the strained fish stock on the side (for pouring over the entire dish, as desired).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sean Furey
    Sean Furey
  • Daria Riegler
    Daria Riegler
  • sgg
  • Nellie

5 Reviews

sgg February 28, 2023
Either you misunderstood the recipe, that lady was messing with you, or you’re messing with us. So many things wrong here! What happened to the celery? Why cook the couscous two hours before serving? The only thing you’re going to get out of this recipe is some decent fish stock, cold, dry couscous, and overcooked shrimp. It’s like if an AI tried to generate a trapanese recipe.
Sean F. October 20, 2018
This recipe makes absolutely no sense at all. You make the fish stock using all the fish...pour three Tbsp over the couscous, and let it sit for an hour. What do you do with the cooked seafood? Just let it ​sit around for an hour too?
Nellie September 22, 2018
In step 3 it says to add the shrimp heads and bodies bring to boil and cook for an hour. It seems like a long time to cook shrimp.
Bunny September 22, 2018
I’m curious why in the article that links to this recipe and in this recipe itself cinnamon nor bay leaves are listed in the ingredients. Contemplating if this recipe is worth making.
Daria R. September 22, 2018
Also, since it is served an hour after the stock is added to the couscous, is it served at room temp, or reheated?