Cioppino, an Italian Seafood Soup, is an experience to savor and enjoy with loved ones. It is festive, and an amazing, fine-dining meal for special occasions. My recipe for Cioppino includes seven types of seafood as a perfect showcase dish for an Italian Christmas Eve tradition called Feast of the Seven Fishes. This recipe has lobster, crab, clams, mussels, halibut, scallops and shrimp! It is all cooked in one pot, and easy to make once all the ingredients are prepped. Click here to learn about my take on a seven-course Feast of the Seven Fishes Christmas Eve meal and all the recipes!
Cioppino is a tomato-based seafood soup that originated in San Francisco. The catch-of-the-day is simmered in wine, tomatoes and aromatics. The first time I had Cioppino was with my Dad at Fisherman's Wharf. I was hooked and we made it a tradition to have Cioppino anytime we were in a restaurant with good seafood. It has special memories of my Dad for me to this day.
Making Cioppino at home is easy. Here are my tips for an authentic Italian Cioppino.
1) Get the freshest fish you can find. If it smells fishy, don't buy it.
2) For the best flavor, make homemade shellfish stock with the shrimp and lobster shells. You can get my recipe here. It takes about 1 ½ hours. If you don't have the time, store-bought seafood stock will work too.
3) Use red wine instead of white wine for the best flavor.
Here is the step-by-step guide for making Cioppino:
Prepare all your ingredients ahead of time and have ready to add to the pot as needed.
Sautee the garlic (lots of it!), fennel and aromatics in olive oil in large Dutch oven.
Deglaze the pan with red wine and simmer for 5 minutes. This helps build flavor.
Add the tomatoes and saffron. Starting adding the fish according to cook time; cover and simmer. Clams and mussels first, followed by crab, lobster meat, halibut and scallops. Add the shrimp last.
Add more red pepper flakes and seasoning if needed at the end. Toss in minced parsley and basil.
To plate, gently place the fish pieces in the bottom of a shallow soup bowl. Ladle the broth on top. Serve with grilled ciabatta bread or The Best Garlic Bread. (I was so excited to try it, I forgot to grill the ciabatta bread for this picture!)
Cioppino: A Special Occasion Italian Seafood Soup
- 2 (4 oz) lobster tails, meat removed and cut in bite-size pieces, reserve shells for stock
- 1.5 pounds large shrimp 16 to 20, meat removed, reserve shells for stock
- 8 Littlenecks clams scrubbed
- 1 pound mussels scrubbed
- 1 pound skinless sea bass or halibut fillets cut into bite-size pieces
- 6 sea scallops cut in half or quarters depending on size
- 1 large king crab leg cut in 2 or 3 pieces
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large fennel bulb thinly sliced
- 2 stalks thinly sliced celery
- 1 carrot peeled and finely diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 ½ cups dry red wine Chianti works well for this
- 2 28 ounces cans San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes, finely chopped with juice
- 1 medium pinch saffron threads
- 3 cups seafood stock see recipe for homemade shellfish stock or use store-bought
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Handful fresh basil finely chopped for garnish
- Add olive oil to a large Dutch Oven pot over medium high heat on the stovetop and heat until shimmering. Add garlic and onions and cook until garlic just starts to brown. Add butter to stop the garlic from burning.
- Add fennel. celery, carrots, bay leaf, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, salt and black pepper stirring, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add wine and boil until reduced about 3 - 4 minutes. Add shellfish stock, tomatoes with their juice and saffron. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add crab, clams, mussels to the pot, cover and simmer until clams just open, about 5-10 minutes. Discard any clams or mussels that do not open after 7 - 10 minutes.
- Add the lobster, scallops and halibut pieces on top. Simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 - 10 minutes.
- Add the shrimp last. Simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 3- 5 minutes.
- Test for seasoning. Add more black pepper, salt and red pepper flakes if desired. Gently stir in parsley and basil. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
- To serve Cioppino, place fish pieces in bottom of shallow soup bowl or pasta plate. Ladle the broth on top. Serve immediately with grilled ciabatta bread on the side