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Prep Time:

60 Minutes

Cook Time:

60 Minutes


4-6 Servings



About the Recipe


Preparing cioppino requires a medley of fresh seafood and a rich, flavorful base distinguished by herbs, spices, tomatoes, and wine. Selecting quality ingredients is crucial for creating this classic seafood stew.


  • Shrimp: Medium to large, peeled and deveined

  • Mussels: Cleaned

  • Clams: Littleneck clams are preferred for their tender texture

  • Crab: Dungeness crab sections or legs, pre-cracked for convenience

  • Scallops: Choose plump and moist sea scallops

  • White Fish: Firm white fish like halibut or cod fillets cut into chunks

  • Squid: Optional, cleaned and sliced into rings or tentacles

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices infuse the cioppino with its distinct Mediterranean flavors:

  • Garlic: Minced; acts as a foundational aromatic

  • Parsley: Finely chopped for a fresh, herbaceous note

  • Oregano: Dried or fresh to enhance the stew's heartiness

  • Thyme: Adds a subtle earthiness, either fresh sprigs or dried

  • Red Pepper Flakes: Crushed red pepper flakes for a gentle heat

  • Bay Leaves: Integral for their complex, woody flavor

  • Saffron: A pinch for an exotic aroma and golden color (optional)

  • Basil: Fresh leaves, torn or sliced thinly for garnish

The Base: Tomatoes and Wine

Your cioppino's base combines the acidity of tomatoes with the depth of wine:

  • Tomatoes: Canned crushed tomatoes form a rich, textured backdrop

  • Wine: Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio adds brightness and balances the tomatoes

  • Olive Oil: Extra-virgin olive oil for sautéing aromatics

  • Tomato Paste: Contributes depth and a concentrated tomato flavor

  • Fish Stock or Clam Juice: Provides the liquid foundation and enhances the seafood flavor

  • Fennel Bulb and Celery: Diced, these vegetables add a subtle anise-like flavor and freshness

  • Shallots: Finely chopped to introduce sweet, aromatic complexity


Preparing the Seafood

When crafting a delectable cioppino, selecting the freshest seafood and handling it with care are pivotal steps. Your ability to clean and cook each type of seafood properly will ensure a flavorful stew that honors this classic dish's rich traditions.

Cleaning and Handling

Before you begin cooking, make sure your seafood is impeccably clean. Shrimp should be deveined and shelled, while mussels and littleneck clams require scrubbing to remove any sand and debris. After that, soak the mussels and clams in cold water so they expel any grit.

For crabmeat, ensure it's free of shell fragments. When handling halibut, scallop, white fish, or sea bass, check for bones with a careful run of your fingers and remove them using tweezers. It is essential to keep all seafood refrigerated until it's time to cook to maintain its freshness.

  • Shrimp: Shell and devein.

  • Mussels/Clams: Scrub and soak.

  • Crab: Check for shells.

  • Fish (Halibut, Cod, etc.): Debone.

Cooking Techniques for Seafood

Your cioppino will only be as good as your ability to cook each variety of seafood to perfection. Begin with a base of aromatic garlic and onions; this will lay the foundation for flavor. Gently cook your mussels and clams first, simmering them in the stew until they just open. Shrimp and scallops need a brief cook time to stay tender, so add these next.

Finally, fold in the larger pieces of fish, like halibut or cod, as well as any pre-cooked crabmeat. This staggered approach to adding seafood ensures everything is perfectly cooked without being overdone. For a heartier meal, serve with slices of crusty baguette, toasted garlic bread, or sourdough, all of which make excellent partners to soak up the hearty broth, akin to the French bouillabaisse.

  • Clams/Mussels: Simmer until opened.

  • Shrimp/Scallops: Add later, brief cook time.

  • Fish/Crab: Add last, gently fold in.

  • Serve with: Crusty baguette, sourdough, or garlic bread.

Assembling the Cioppino

Creating a delectable cioppino requires attentiveness to layering a rich base of flavors, then gently incorporating a medley of seafood, and allowing it to simmer to perfection.

Layering Flavors

  • Start by building a robust foundation for your cioppino with a base of aromatic vegetables and herbs.

  • In a large pot, heat some olive oil and cook the onions, fennel bulb, and celery until they are softened.

  • Add garlic along with spices like oregano, thyme, and a bay leaf to infuse the oil with their essences.

  • Pour in a good amount of dry white wine, such as the type recommended by Ina Garten, and let the alcohol reduce to concentrate the flavors.

Integrating the Seafood

Once the base flavors have married together, it's time to introduce the seafood into the rich tomato-based broth.

  • Add cleaned and prepared seafood—this can range from shellfish like mussels and clams to bite-sized pieces of firm fish.

  • Pour in fish stock or seafood stock, which deepens the maritime flavor profile of the cioppino. To maintain the seafood's delicate texture, ensure it's gently submerged into the broth without stirring vigorously.

Final Simmer

  • After adding the seafood, reduce your heat to a gentle simmer. This final cooking stage allows the seafood to cook through thoroughly without becoming tough.

  • Spoon in crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce for a pleasant acidity.

  • Add a touch of sugar to balance the tartness, and possibly more parsley for freshness.

  • Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of lemon juice.

  • Let the cioppino simmer until everything is perfectly cooked, and the flavors have come together harmoniously.

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