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Published October 29, 2019. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This classic cioppino recipe is loaded with fresh seafood and cooked in a delicious tomato and vegetable broth and served up with sourdough bread! If you’re a big-time seafood lover like me then please check out my Grilled Sea Scallops and my Salmon BLT sliders!
If you’re a seafood fan, then this Cioppino Recipe may be your new favorite recipe. I called my buddy to come to destroy this with me because he’s obsessed with seafood, but his wife is allergic. He tweeted me a gif that said this was the best day of his life haha. After you try this recipe, you might agree with that.
First and foremost let’s get this out of the way, cioppino is pronounced as “sha-p-no,” nothing more, nothing less.
What Is Cioppino, Is It Italian or Portuguese
Cioppino is an Italian seafood stew, not Portuguese, that was founded in San Francisco California. Italian immigrants that migrated to the northern California region created the dish based on the “catch of the day.”
Whatever came in off the boat that day was what got thrown into it. Aside from the seafood in the cioppino, the main ingredients
- Yellow Onions
- Bell Peppers
- Fish Stock.
Much like most of the recipes during this time period like this Homemade Spaghetti Aglio E Olio Recipe or this Veal Osso Bucco Recipe with Gremolata, they were simple. Few ingredients were readily available since the world was not rich when most of these traditional recipes were created so whatever they had is what they used.
Don’t confuse simple with bland because this recipe is anything but.
What Seafood to Use
While the methodology of using what was around would be correct, I found that the most authentic and classic versions of cioppino mainly used shellfish and squid.
This could change from day to day depending on what came off of the boat, but from what I gathered anything past Dungeness crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, and squid would be considered a bonus.
The only part of this that I could not capture was the crab part. Dungeness crab is traditionally used but boy oh boy is it hard to find. I do not want to stop you from using fish in your cioppino recipe because it will still be amazing, and maybe even better, so feel free to use what is available to you.
What Is the Difference Between Cioppino and Bouillabaisse
While both cioppino and bouillabaisse are seafood stews and absolutely delicious, there are several differences between both of them.
Cioppino – A rich Italian seafood stew using the catch of the day with a tomato broth as the base for this stew.
Bouillabaisse – While also a rich shellfish and fish stew, bouillabaisse is traditionally French using a white fish broth as the base with some chopped tomatoes placed in it along with the addition of saffron.
How to Make It
The easiest way I know how to make cioppino is to make the stew first and par-boil the seafood separately, and then add everything together which would be the classical way to make this.
In fact, doing it this way is most likely what they did back in the day but it can be overwhelming when trying to do it at home and the ingredients are hanging out all over the place.
1. Simply roast the onions, garlic, celery, and bell peppers in some olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until browned.
2. Next, add in the stock and tomatoes and simmer over low heat. Season well with sea salt and pepper. It’s important that the stew be well seasoned because this is what will season up the seafood.
3. While the cioppino stew is simmering you can boil or steam all of the seafood and then pour into the stew and mix it. If you have a huge pot, then you can absolutely make the stew and slow braise all of the seafood until it’s cooked.
4. To finish it off, garnish it up with some fresh chopped parsley, some optional red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Cioppino is super thick because of the shellfish so don’t feel like you have to add it all to the stew.
What to Serve It With
Since cioppino originated in San Francisco, there is no better food to serve it up with than a few loaves of sourdough bread. It’s incredibly classic to eat it like this and personally I think it’s the best and only way to eat it.
In addition, since there is so much shellfish like clams, crab, etc. I recommend serving it with a large bowl for all of the seafood shells to be placed in.
Is Cioppino Served Cold
Traditionally cioppino is served hot as a stew, but I suppose you could eat it cold although I would not recommend that as the flavors and textures of the seafood will be dramatically changed.
It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes and fantastic to serve up to a big group of friends and family.
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
How to Reheat: To reheat the cioppino recipe simply add your desired portion to a small saucepot and heat over low heat until hot. You can also simply add your desired portion to a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 2:30 stirring after 1:15.
How to Store: This will hold well in the refrigerator covered up for up to 4 days, it is advised that if you want to make this ahead of time, cook and cool the broth and then reheat and add in fresh seafood. It will also freeze well covered for up to 2 months. Simply pull it out as you need it and reheat following the directions above.
More Seafood Recipes
For the Stew:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 peeled and small diced yellow onion
- 4 finely minced cloves of garlic
- 3 small diced stalks of celery
- 1 seeded and small diced green bell pepper
- 1 seeded and small diced red bell pepper
- 2 cups of fish stock
- 2 28- ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with hands
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- chopped parsley and crushed red pepper flakes for garnish
For the Seafood:
- 1 pound of manilla clams
- 1 pound of mussels
- 8 ounces of large U-15 peeled, deveined tail-on shrimp
- 1 pound of crab legs, broken down
- 8 ounces of squid, tubes sliced
- In a large pot over medium heat, add in the olive oil.
- Next, add in the onions, garlic, celery, and peppers and saute for 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Pour in the stock and tomatoes and stew over low heat for 20 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, batch-cook the seafood from whatever takes the longest amount of time to cook to the shortest.
- Add in the clams and cook for 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the mussels and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. All of the shells should be open.
- Transfer the shellfish to the cioppino stew and mix in.
- Next, add the shrimp and the crab legs and cook for 2 to 3 minutes and then add in the squid and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes or until done.
- Also, add this to the stew and stir.
- Serve the cioppino with chopped parsley and optional crushed red pepper flakes and sliced sourdough bread.
- I do not want to stop you from using fish into your cioppino recipe because it will still be amazing, and maybe even better, so feel free to use what is available to you.
- It’s important that the stew be well seasoned because this is what will season up the seafood.
- If you have a huge pot, then you can absolutely make the stew and slow braise all of the seafood in it until it’s cooked.
- Cioppino is super thick because of the shellfish so don’t feel like you have to add it all to the stew.
- How to Reheat: To reheat the cioppino recipe simply add your desired portion to a small sauce pot and heat over low heat until hot. You can also simply add your desired portion to microwave safe bowl and heat for 2:30 stirring after 1:15.
- How to Store: The cioppino will hold well in the refrigerator covered up for up to 4 days, it is advised that if you want to make this ahead of time, cook and cool the broth and then reheat and add in fresh seafood. It will also freeze well covered for up to 2 months. Simply pull it out as you need it and reheat following the directions above.