Cioppino is a delicious tomato-based stew with clams, mussels, crab, shrimp, squid, fish, and scallops. Full of flavor, this San Francisco seafood delight a real treat for Sunday dinner or a gathering with friends. Enjoy it with some crusty bread on the side.
Whenever I return from the hot and humid Japanese summer and adjust to the windy, cool fall days of San Francisco, I immediately crave a steamy bowl of seafood stew. My favorite is the local San Francisco dish called Cioppino.
Cioppino – Flavorful Seafood Stew
Cioppino is an Italian-American dish that originated in San Francisco. It is traditionally made from the catch of the day, including Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, scallops, and fish (read more here). My family and friends enjoy seafood stew as well, so for dinner on cold days, it’s Cioppino or Bouillabaisse (one of my favorites!)
There are many Cioppino recipes, but I used one from the famous fish market in Moss Landing – Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery. While I was researching, I found this video – Throwdown with Bobby Flay at Phil’s Fish Market. You guessed it; they competed to see who can make the best Cioppino!
I slightly adapted their Cioppino recipe by reducing the serving size and changing some ingredients. I was afraid of including the whole Dungeness crab (I became allergic to crab in my early 20s…so sad!), so I only included a bit of crab meat.
Please don’t get intimidated by the long list of ingredients! The process is pretty simple and worth it in the end. I know you will enjoy this yummy Cioppino seafood stew. I need a big bowl right now… it’s so cold!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
For the Cioppino
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic (chopped)
- ¼ cup white wine (4 Tbsp)
- ½ lb little neck clams
- ¼ lb mussels
- 8 cups Cioppino Sauce (2 QT; recipe follows)
- ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ lb dungeness crab (cooked, cleaned and cracked; to save time, you can use ¼ lb (113 g) cooked crab meat instead)
- ¼ lb shrimp (shell-on if possible for more flavor)
- ¼ lb squid tubes (cut into rings)
- ½ lb firm-fleshed white fish fillets (I used Pacific cod cut in 2-inch (5-cm) cubes)
- 2 oz bay scallops
For the Cioppino Sauce
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½–1 onion (halved and thinly sliced)
- 1 fennel bulb (halved, core removed, and thinly sliced)
- 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 Tbsp parsley (chopped)
- 2 Tbsp basil (chopped)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 can tomatoes (14.5 oz, 411 g; peeled, crushed by hand)
- 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz, 425 g)
- 2 cups clam juice (2 bottles; 8 oz, 237 ml each)
- ⅛ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ Tbsp brown sugar
- freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- crushed red pepper (red pepper flakes) (to taste)
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt (to taste)
- Gather all the ingredients. If you use clams and mussels, make sure to check if the shells are cracked or opened. Those that are just slightly open may still be fresh. To check, squeeze the shell shut. If they don’t stay closed, discard them. Follow my tutorial to learn how to degrit clams. I used a 1½-lb seafood medley from Costco that contains mussels, clams, shrimp, and bay scallops.
To Make the Cioppino Sauce
- Heat 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add ½–1 onion (chopped) and 1 fennel bulb (thinly sliced). Sauté until translucent.
- Add 4 cloves garlic (chopped), 2 bay leaves, 4 Tbsp parsley (chopped), 2 Tbsp basil (chopped), and 2 sprigs fresh thyme. Cook, stirring, just to warm the garlic. Do not let it brown.
- Stir in 1 can tomatoes (crushed), 1 can tomato sauce, 2 cups clam juice, ⅛ tsp Worcestershire sauce, and ½ Tbsp brown sugar. Add freshly ground black pepper, crushed red pepper (red pepper flakes), and Diamond Crystal kosher salt to taste.
- Bring to a boil and skim off the fat, scum, and foam. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for about 45–60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.
To Cook the Cioppino
- Put 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, and 1 clove garlic (chopped) in a large pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.
- Add ¼ cup white wine and ½ lb little neck clams, and cover. Turn the heat up to medium high and steam until the clams start to open, about 3–5 minutes. Add ¼ lb mussels, cover, and steam until they just start to open, about 2 minutes.
- Now, stir in some of the Cioppino Sauce and ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer.
- Add 1½ lb dungeness crab (if using) and ¼ lb shrimp. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add ½ lb firm-fleshed white fish fillets, ¼ lb squid tubes, 2 oz bay scallops, and the cooked crab meat (if using).
- Gently stir in the rest of the Cioppino Sauce (for a total of 8 cups Cioppino Sauce) and simmer until the seafood is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook.
- Serve in large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with crusty French baguette. Enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1–2 days.