This cioppino is a seafood stew made with fish, crab, shrimp, clams and mussels, all simmered together in a tomato based broth. A fabulous dinner option that’s easy enough to make on a busy weeknight, but elegant enough to serve to company.
We are a family of seafood lovers, which means I often prepare seafood pasta, seafood paella, my classic bouillabaisse recipe, and this amazingly delicious authentic cioppino. Serve your cioppino with garlic bread and a green salad, and watch the rave reviews roll in!
I live near San Francisco, which means I’ve definitely had my fair share of a regional classic, cioppino. This stew is brimming with fresh seafood flavor, and actually happens to be quite simple to put together.
What does cioppino mean?
Cioppino refers to an Italian-American seafood stew that is popular in the San Francisco area. This dish features local Dungeness crab, chunks of fish, and shellfish, all simmered together in a tomato based broth. The finished stew is typically served with bread, most often sourdough bread which is also native to the region.
What is in cioppino?
Seafood stew consists of a tomato based broth, along with an assortment of fish and shellfish.
- Crab: Dungeness crab is the traditional choice, as this is the variety that is fished in the San Francisco Bay. This type of crab cannot always be found nationwide, so feel free to use king crab, snow crab or blue crab if needed.
- Clams: Fresh is best! Use a medium size live clam, and be sure to discard any clams that do not open during the cooking process.
- Mussels: Go for fresh, live mussels. Be sure to remove the beards if needed, and remove any mussels that do not open when cooked.
- Fish: Choose a firm firm such as cod, halibut, snapper or salmon. Cut the fish into large chunks and be sure not to overcook it.
- Scallops: The best choice is the large sea scallop variety. The small bay scallops will also work, but you have to be very careful to watch the cooking time as they are prone to getting tough.
- Shrimp: You can use shelled shrimp, or shrimp with the shells intact. I typically choose a medium to large size shrimp that already has the shells removed.
How do you make cioppino?
Start by preparing your base of onions, fennel, garlic, tomatoes, white wine and seafood broth. Let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes, so the flavors have time to develop. Add the crab, clams and mussels to the pot and cook for a few minutes. Next, add the fish, scallops and shrimp. The stew will simmer until the shellfish have opened. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, then serve immediately.
Tips for the perfect dish
- This recipe calls for seafood stock, which is typically sold at the seafood counter, or in the prepared foods aisle. If you can’t find seafood stock, you can use equal parts of clam juice and chicken broth.
- I recommend using San Marzano canned tomatoes for the best flavor and texture. They are sold in large cans next to the rest of the canned tomato products.
- Cioppino is really best when it’s served immediately. Any leftovers will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- The best way to serve this stew is with a side of bread, preferably grilled or buttered sourdough bread!
While this dish is fantastic as-is, you can use other ingredients to make the flavors your own.
- Seafood: You can add other types of seafood to the stew, such as small lobster tails or calamari.
- Veggies: Feel free to add more vegetables to the mix, such as diced carrot, celery, or bell peppers.
- Flavorings: Stir in a tablespoon of anise flavored liqueur during the last few minutes of the cooking time for a more pronounced fennel flavor. You can also swap out the parsley for other fresh herbs such as basil, thyme or green onions.
In my opinion, cioppino is one of the absolute best ways to enjoy seafood. It’s full of flavor, fun to make and is super impressive!
More seafood recipes you’ll enjoy
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup yellow onion finely diced
- 3/4 cup fennel bulb diced
- 2 tablespoons shallot minced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano brand
- 4 cups seafood stock
- 1 1/2 cups white wine
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 pounds crab legs and bodies preferably Dungeness crab
- 1 pound mussels scrubbed and debearded
- 1 pound clams scrubbed
- 1 pound firm fish such as halibut or cod, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 pound shrimp medium to large size
- 1/2 pound sea scallops
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
- parsley sprigs and lemon wedges for serving optional
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook for 4-5 minutes or until softened.
- Add the shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, white wine, seafood stock, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the pot, then bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the crab, mussels and clams to the pot and cook for 4 minutes.
- Add the fish, shrimp and scallops and cook for another 4 minutes or until seafood is opaque and cooked through, and mussels and clams have opened.
- Discard any mussels and clams that do not open during the cooking process.
- Add the butter to the pot and stir until melted. Sprinkle with parsley, then serve. Garnish with parsley and lemon if desired.