This San Francisco Cioppino recipe is a unique Italian-American specialty that’ll leave you wanting more! Also known as Fisherman’s Stew, the soup is filled with clams, mussels, shrimp, and cod. It’s a hearty and nutritious stew recipe perfect for chilly winter evenings.
They say no trip to San Francisco is complete without an authentic bowl of cioppino, the unforgettable town’s delicious and distinctive seafood stew. But did you know that it’s actually really easy and quick to whip up a homemade version? Next time you see a beautiful basket of fresh seafood with mussels, white fish, or a tray of shrimp on the ice at your local grocery store, take advantage of them and try this easy recipe.
What is Cioppino?
This Italian seafood stew originated in the late 1800s in San Francisco with Italian immigrant fishermen who fished off Meiggs Wharf. They often depended upon their catch of the day to feed their families, so if they came home empty-handed, they would walk around the pier with a pot, asking other fishermen if they could chip in whatever they could for an evening meal. Bits and pieces of various kinds of seafood would be added to the pot; hence, the name of this soup – the word “cioppino” means “chopped” or “torn to pieces.”
Ingredients You’ll Need
Get ready for a robust and nourishing concoction featuring a bounty from the sea. This classic Cioppino recipe combines a vibrant mix of clams and mussels, succulent shrimp, and tender cod, all swimming in a rich and aromatic tomato broth.
- Oil: Use avocado or olive oil for sautéing.
- Fennel: Adds a sweet, anise-like flavor to the broth. If you’re not a fan of fennel, celery is a good substitute.
- Shallots: Contributes a unique flavor to the broth.
- Garlic: Use four cloves of fresh, minced garlic.
- Salt & Black Pepper: Enhances the overall flavor of the dish. Adjust according to taste.
- Tomato Paste: In a bind, ketchup or a bit of canned tomato sauce could be used as a substitute.
- Tomatoes: Use canned for tangy, intense flavor.
- Stock: Use seafood stock for authenticity, or you can go with fish stock or chicken broth for convenience.
- Wine: Include a cup of dry white wine, which adds acidity and depth. For a non-alcoholic version, use more broth or white grape juice.
- Bay Leaf: Key for enhancing flavor in seafood soups.
- Clams and Mussels: Half a pound of each, cleaned and debearded.
- Shrimp: Use fresh, raw shrimp that’s peeled and deveined.
- Cod: A pound of firm cod fillet prevents breakage in the soup. Halibut or tilapia can serve as substitutes.
- Fresh Parsley: Chop a quarter of a cup.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Optional for a spicy kick.
How to Make Cioppino
This heartwarming stew is not just a meal; it’s an experience, bringing the essence of San Francisco’s culinary heritage right to your table. This dish comes together very quickly once you get to the cooking stage, so it’s good to prepare and set out your ingredients before you start.
- Sauté the Aromatics. Place a large pot or large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil, allowing it to heat; then add the fennel and shallots and cook them for about six minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, along with the salt and pepper, and cook for a couple of minutes longer.
- Add the Broth Ingredients. To your sautéed vegetables, add the tomato paste and stir well, followed by the diced tomatoes, seafood stock, and wine. Toss in the bay leaf, and simmer all of these ingredients, covered, for about ten minutes.
- Add the Shellfish. Uncover the pot and add the clams and mussels; cover again, and cook for about 4 minutes, until the clams and mussels begin to open up.
- Add the Shrimp and Cod. To the simmering soup, add the diced cod; simmer for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Stir occasionally.
- Finish the Dish. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust accordingly. Remove and discard the bay leaf and any clams or mussels that didn’t open. Ladle the stew into bowls, add lemon juice, and garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes if desired.
Recipe Tips And Variations
- Seafood Varieties: Feel free to switch up the types of seafood based on what’s fresh and available. Clams, crab meat, lobster tails, squid, or different types of fish can all work well.
- Clam Juice: Seafood stock will keep the taste of the soup at its best! But, for a seafood flavor without stock, mix equal parts bottled clam juice and water.
- Broth Flavor: Taste your broth as you cook and adjust the seasonings as necessary. If it tastes a bit flat, a little extra salt might be all you need.
- Adding Diced Bell Pepper: For an extra layer of sweetness and color, consider sautéing a cup of diced bell pepper along with the fennel and shallots.
- Seafood Forks and Napkins: Eating cioppino, or any shellfish dish, can get messy. Prepare for a hands-on meal, use seafood forks for shell removal, and ensure lots of napkins are available.
- Serve Immediately: Have all serving dishes, drinks, sides, and seating ready. Cioppino is best enjoyed hot, right after cooking.
Savoring cioppino is the perfect dish for special occasions. Each spoonful of this fish stew is a testament to the day’s catch, brimming with the freshest ingredients. Whether it’s a cozy family gathering or a festive dinner party, serving a thick slice of garlic bread, sourdough bread or this No Knead Olive Oil Bread would be fabulous! But consider a piece of lavash bread, too. Maybe this is a little different, but try it with my Easy Grilled Pizza and see for yourself. Also, I like to serve a nice glass of wine like Pinot Grigio, or this Easy White Wine Sangria would be an amazing choice!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Store leftover cioppino in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking in an airtight container, where it’ll keep for 3 to 4 days. Also, remove shellfish from their shells and discard the shells before refrigerating the stew. Reheat the seafood stew over medium heat. Be careful not to overcook it. Seafood is delicate and will easily dry out.
More Seafood Recipes to Try
- Grilled Mahi Mahi with Balsamic Tomato Salad
- Baked Sockeye Salmon with Asparagus
- Garlic Butter Scallops
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 14 ounces canned tomatoes, undrained
- 5 cups low sodium seafood broth, or chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ pound clams, scrubbed
- ½ pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded (you can buy them cleaned and debearded, but still check for the beard before cooking them)
- ½ pound cod fillet, skin removed, cut into 2-inch dice
- ½ pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- crushed red pepper flakes, for garnish, optional
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Heat oil in a 6-quart Dutch oven or stockpot set over medium heat.
- Add the sliced fennel and shallots; cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in garlic, salt, and black pepper; cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add tomato paste; stir to combine.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, seafood or chicken stock, and wine.
- Add bay leaf; cover and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove cover and add the clams and mussels; cover and cook for 4 minutes, or until clams and mussels begin to open.
- Add the cod; cover and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add in the shrimp and cook uncovered for 2 to 3 more minutes, or until cooked through. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from heat. Taste soup for salt and pepper; adjust accordingly.
- Discard any clams and mussels that didn’t open.
- Remove bay leaf.
- Garnish with parsley and red pepper flakes.
- Serve with lemons.
- Frozen Seafood: If you can’t find fresh fish and shellfish, use frozen. I have made this stew with frozen seafood, and it’s really good! I don’t even thaw it out; just add everything to the hot broth, and it will cook through in minutes.
- Broth Flavor: Taste your broth as you cook and adjust the seasonings as necessary. If it’s bland, add a little more salt.
- Serving: Serve the Cioppino hot and with crusty bread on the side for dipping into the flavorful broth.
- Wine Pairing: Pair the stew with a light, crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to complement the rich flavors of the dish.
- Seafood Varieties: Feel free to switch up the types of seafood based on what’s fresh and available. Clams, crab, squid, or different types of fish can all work well.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.