Catalan Cod Stew with Pimentón, Peppers, and Tomatoes

Catalan Cod Stew with Pimentón, Peppers, and Tomatoes

This Catalan Cod Stew sums up everything that is so good about the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean cooking is best when kept simple. Fresh produce, olive oil, and good vinegar are often all you need. This stew has all of those and it’s certainly delicious. For me, it’s the very definition of healthy eating.

Catalan Cod Stew 

I went with a red theme in the recipe you see here: tomatoes and red bell peppers. The crimson hue of the Catalan pimentón powder (a crucial ingredient, see below) was just too inspiring. But this dish can be ad-libbed with any of the rich colors of Spanish produce: peppers, aubergines, artichokes, leeks, onions, olives, and garlic. Just reading a list of Mediterranean staples makes me feel instantly hungry. Oh yeah, and in this case, fish is a must. Fresh cod cooked just right is pretty hard to beat. 

In Spain, one of those staples is pimentón powder. Pimentón is gorgeous stuff – a classic Spanish spice made by grinding dried red peppers into a fine powder. You could say that it’s the same thing as paprika, which is an easy substitute in this recipe, but pimentón is technically different. It is always smoked and it is always from Spain. The defining characteristic of pimentón is its distinctive oaky smokiness. It’s often labeled: picante (hot), agrodulce (bittersweet), or dulce (sweet). There’s a whole heaping teaspoon of smoky pimentón in this stew so I think dulce is the best choice next to the delicate flavor of cod.

Some Cooking Notes

I also think there’s a little trick to getting this stew just right. And that is to keep your veggies chunky. That means thoroughly cooking them before you add the fish to the pot. Be very gentle with them as they simmer. They’ll reward your patience by keeping their shape and still releasing their flavors into the broth.

You don’t need to serve anything else with this stew, except good crusty bread for sopping up the uniquely flavored broth. You could make this Catalan Cod Stew a tad more authentic if you used Spanish chorizo or Serrano ham instead of pancetta. It would probably take a bit less cooking at the start. I chose raw chunks of pancetta browned in olive oil because I was keeping to the spirit of the recipe by using what I had on hand. GREG

Pimentón Cod Stew

Pimentón Cod Stew 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Raquel CarenaPublished

Pimentón Cod Stew gets its unique flavor from Spanish pimentón powder. Smoked paprika may be substituted if you like.

Pimentón Cod Stew


  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounce diced pancetta
  • 2 red bell peppers (cored and quartered lengthwise)
  • 1 yellow onion (trimmed at stem end only, peeled and quartered lengthwise)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (quartered lengthwise)
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (lightly toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon ground pimentón (see notes)
  • 1 cup water
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 teaspoon sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
  • 4 (6‑oz) center cut cod filets
  • 4 fresh fennel fronds (as garnish, optional)


Over medium heat, warm a medium-sized Dutch oven or other stew pot with a lid. Add the oil and pancetta and cook, stirring often, until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. 

Lower the heat to medium-low and add the peppers, onions, tomatoes, fennel seeds, pimentón, and 1 cup water. Gently stir to coat and then season lightly with salt and pepper.

Let vegetables simmer with the lid closed for about one hour, gently swirling the pot occasionally, until the vegetables become very soft but stay intact. Add the vinegar. Gently stir to incorporate. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning with more vinegar, salt, and pepper if needed. 

Carefully lay the fish filets on top of the vegetables. Try to keep the fish from touching each other. Ladle each filet with a few spoonfuls of broth. Cover and cook again for ten minutes or until the fish is no longer translucent.

Carefully place each piece of fish into each of four shallow serving bowls. Add some tomato, red bell pepper, onion, and pancetta pieces. Spoon some broth on top of each piece of fish. Garnish with optional fennel fronds. Serve immediately.