San Fransisco Style Cioppino Recipe

What is needed in this cioppino recipe? A long table filled with good friends and family, lots and lots of napkins, a couple of bibs, crab crackers and a big bowl of fresh baked sourdough for soppin'!

A little dry white wine helps too! :D

Don't worry though, this seafood stew is a standalone hit, no frills necessary.

cioppino recipe

To really unlock the true party potential of this dish, first we must delve into the history of the seemingly sophisticated cioppino recipe!

"It was developed in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco. Originally it was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco.

The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa,meaning "to chop" or "chopped" which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the days catch.

At least one restaurant in San Francisco, the eponymous Cioppino's, describes an apocryphal story in which the name derived from the heavily Italian-accented cry of the wharf cooks for the fishermen to "chip in" some of their catch to the collective soup pot." (Wikipedia)

Are you beginning to see the direction this is taking?

If you thought of going and getting your hands on some authentic tattered, old, fish stankin' rain slickers, a seafaring vessel, and some 100 lb. test . . . well . . . you're close, but so far away.

The truth is, seafood can be a bit expensive, unless you're an avid seaman (rethinking those slickers?) or professional fishmonger. Here's a great opportunity to differ some of the cost by making this cioppino recipe a pot-luck-cook-along. What you do is invite a bunch of your friends over, have them each "chip in" by bringing a few pounds of fresh seafood;

  • crustacean (shrimp, crab, lobster...)
  • mollusk (clams, mussels, scallops, oysters, abalone...)
  • cephalopods (squid or "calamari", octopus...)
  • white fin fish (halibut, cod, snapper, sole, sturgeon...)

All you need to do is provide a delicious tomato based sauce, which I'll walk you through, and some of the components mentioned at the very top of this page, and VOILA!! You're crackin', laughin' and lovin' the great company and great food!

Cioppino Recipe

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups stock, preferrably fish but chicken is ok.
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons each of fresh minced thyme, basil, and oregano
  • 1/2 cup italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • 6 whole bay leaves
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 2 pounds halibut, cut into one-inch cubes
  • 2 pounds swordfish, cut into one-inch cubes
  • 32 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 32 large scallops, abductor muscle removed
  • 6 dungeness crabs, cleaned, cracked and halved
  • 1 pound bay shrimp
  • 32 cherrystone clams, scrubbed
  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large 16 quart pot till it shimmers. Add chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. This first process is called "sweating" the vegetables. They should become slightly translucent and very aromatic.

  2. When the vegetables are just starting to take a little color, add the tomato paste and toast it in the pan for a couple minutes with the veg, then add your white wine. Simmer over high heat after mixing well for about 5 minutes. This time alone with the veg will give the wine a chance to cook off the alcohol and just leave it's delicious, slightly sweet flavor.

  3. Now add the dried spices, fresh herbs, tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring infrequently. This time simmering will give all the ingredients a chance to release their flavors and mingle together. This is a good time to have your guests start arriving so you can do a little mingling of your own!

  4. Here is the trickiest part of this whole cioppino recipe, adding the seafood in the proper order as to not over/under cook anything. I like to start with the clams and mussels, add them 15 minutes before serving. 10 minutes before serving, add crab, white fish chunks, and scallops. Simmer 5 minutes more. Lastly, just 5 minutes before serving, add shrimp, octopus and chopped calamari. These need the least amount of time to cook, if you added them any earlier, they'd be just like rubbery pieces of tire.

  5. Simmer 5 minutes more, and ladle generous portions of seafood and broth into big bowls. You can garnish this dish simply with some fresh parsley sprigs or the wispy fronds from the fennel you cut up earlier, and just like that, your very own custom cioppino recipe is complete!


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