Cioppino is a deliciously rustic and rich seafood stew, originating in San Fransisco, prepared using a variety of freshly-caught fish and shellfish. My cozy and comforting cioppino recipe is brimming with clams, mussels, halibut and shrimp, all simmered in a slightly spicy tomato broth infused with white wine, garlic and aromatic vegetables—exquisite to dip warm sourdough bread into!
Cioppino, a Rich and Delicious Seafood Stew
Friends, I have a little confession to make: I've never been the biggest fan of seafood. Weird, I know, especially for a foodie/recipe developer, but I thought I'd come clean.
Now, it's not all seafood, as I've always loved shrimp and calamari, raw tuna for sushi, and have even enjoyed white fish with a milder flavor, on occasion. But shellfish such as clams and mussels, crab, lobster...those are things that I was never introduced to as a kid and therefor never had the opportunity to become familiar with and fall in love with.
And the reason I tell you all of this is because I surprised myself recently when I was flipping through the pages of one of my favorite food magazines and stopped at a picture of a mouthwatering, spicy seafood stew prepared with a tomato base and kissed with wine.
For some reason, it looked so good to me. And it got me thinking: maybe I'm ready to venture out into seafood territory, by way of a stew, and see what all the fuss is about.
So, I did a little research on various types of seafood stews and turned my attention to cioppino, a San Fransisco specialty that originated there in the late 1800's...
Prepared by Italian immigrant fishermen using odds and ends from their catch of the day, such as scallops, crabs, fish, clams, mussels, and shrimp, these ingredients would be lightly cooked in a flavorful tomato broth and served with local sourdough bread.
I'd heard of cioppino before, of course, seen it offered on menus, but since I never had a strong desire to order up a stew consisting specifically of seafood, I always passed.
But when I started reading up on the flavor profile of cioppino, and the simple ingredients used, my mouth genuinely began to water, and I knew I had to make a big pot to enjoy at home. Time to play! 🙂
The thing about a cioppino recipe is that there are so many variations to it, and no two recipes are the same. But there are always basic ingredients and it's up to the one preparing the cioppino stew to add what sounds best, or even what they have on hand.
It's meant to be rustic, rich and warming, tomatoey, winey, and garlicky, and that's exactly what I love about it.
So, friends, I must say that I'm super excited to share with you my latest favorite stew (probably of all time, believe it or not!) in this delicious cioppino recipe brimming with clams, mussels, halibut and shrimp, simmered in a mildly spicy tomato-white wine broth.
When I prepared this the first time, my husband and I enjoyed it on a very cold and cloudy day, and let me tell you, it was so very soothing and warming...especially when served with warm, toasted (and garlic-rubbed!) sourdough bread to sop up the fragrant broth!
Cioppino is even a wonderful offering as a fish course for Christmas dinner with its rich, comforting and hearty flavors.
I'm very happy to say I am now officially a fan of seafood, all sorts of seafood. Give me all the clams, mussels, fish, shrimp...even the crab and lobster. My taste for it is definitely growing, and that makes this foodie/recipe developer a very happy gal. 😉
How to Make Cioppino
What I appreciate about cioppino is how simple it is to make, yet how deeply flavorful, rustic, warming and cozy it is to ladle up.
I happen to love rustic dishes with rustic presentations, and this is a big part of what's appealing to me about this wonderful recipe.
Just a handful of aromatic ingredients are simmered in a tomato, white wine and seafood stock base before the seafood is layered in and allowed to cook through for about 10 minutes.
Then, all that's left is to ladle this flavorful cioppino into shallow bowls, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh parsley, and dig in with a side of warm, toasted sourdough bread for dipping.
Here's a sneak peek at my cioppino recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To begin, I prepare my shellfish (clams and mussels) and keep it cold in the fridge, in separate bowls.
- Next, I prepare the rich broth, allowing it to simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
- Once the broth has simmered, I add my seafood in to the pot, then cover and allow the seafood to cook for 10 minutes.
- To serve, I ladle the cioppino stew into bowls along with generous amounts of each of the seafood components, drizzle with good olive oil, and garnish with parsley. I serve with toasted sourdough bread on the side.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 508 calories per serving
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 medium fennel bulb, fronds removed, cored and finely diced
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (or more if desired)
- 1 large bay leaf
- 8 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 2 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups white wine (pinot grigio is good)
- 2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, juices reserved and chopped/crushed into small pieces (or sub crushed tomatoes)
- 3 cups seafood stock
- 1 ½ pounds halibut (or cod), cut into 1 ½ – 2 inch chunks
- 1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound black mussels, de-bearded and scrubbed
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Sliced and toasted sourdough bread, for serving on the side
- Lemon wedges (optional, served on the side)
- Place a large soup pot over medium heat, and drizzle in about ¼ cup of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the diced onion and fennel, along with a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper, plus the red chili pepper flakes and the bay leaf, and stir to combine.
- Saute together for about 5-7 minutes, until the veggies begin to soften and become aromatic; then, add in the garlic and stir to incorporate, and once it becomes aromatic (about 30 seconds), add in the tomato paste and stir to combine and cook for a moment or so.
- Next, add in the white wine, the chopped/crushed whole tomatoes along with their juices (or canned crushed tomatoes, if using those instead), and the seafood stock, and stir to combine. Taste the cioppino broth and add a couple of very generous pinches of salt to taste (as it may need quite a bit), and a pinch or two of black pepper as well.
- Bring the broth to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow the tomato broth to gently simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
- After 40 minutes, remove the bay leaf, and taste the broth to see if more red pepper flakes and/or salt and pepper is needed; then, with the broth vigorously simmering, begin adding your seafood to the pot starting with the halibut (or cod) pieces first, next the clams, then the shrimp, followed by the mussels. Using a wooden spoon, just barely nudge them into the broth a little bit to partly submerge them.
- Cover the pot with a lid and allow the seafood to cook for 10 minutes at a vigorous simmer, or until the clams and the mussels are opened up (take care to not over-cook to avoid rubbery seafood).
- Before serving, check to see if any clams or mussels remained closed, and if so, remove those as they are not good to eat. Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the cioppino and garnish with parsley, then ladle into shallow bowls and serve with toasted sourdough, as well as some lemon wedges, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Cioppino:
- You choose your seafood: I'm using a total of about 4 ½ pounds of various types seafood for this recipe, which works well. I love the combo of clams, mussels, halibut and shrimp, but if you'd like to add scallops or crab meat, then just substitute a portion of some of the seafood, if you'd like.
- Cleaning the clams and mussels: Mussels will typically have little stringy “beards” on the sides of their shells, so just pull those off to remove them. And if the they seem a bit sandy, give them a scrub under cold, running water with a vegetable brush to clean them. Soaking clams and mussels (separately) in cold, fresh water will also help them to spit out any residual sand from their shells. Then, drain them and keep them cold in the fridge until ready to use.
- Halibut or cod: Because this cioppino is a real treat, I love to use halibut because it is meaty in texture and mild. It is quite pricey, however, so if you'd prefer to spend a little less, then opt for cod. It is also a terrific white fish to use in cioppino, with a mild flavor, and a lot less pricey.
- Make it spicy, or not so much: A spicy, garlicky tomato broth is something that I really enjoy, so I tend to add quite a bit of red pepper flakes to my pot of cioppino. I kept the amount called for in the recipe to a medium/mild level, but you can add more or less, depending on your preference.
- How to reheat cioppino: I've found that it's easy to reheat cioppino the next day (or even the day after) by ladling out an individual portion into a small sauce pan or pot, and very gently heating until nice and hot. Do not vigorously simmer the stew when reheating, as this will further cook your seafood, making it rubbery, rather than just warming it through.