This upscale but easy cioppino recipe is a delicious Italian seafood stew and one of my all-time favourite seafood recipes. This is the perfect recipe for a special occasion dinner party or a cozy night in. It has bold flavors of fennel, orange and tomato with tender bites of crab, clams or mussels and cod. This recipe is easily done in 45 minutes and requires just one pot! (GF, DF)
Fresh Dungeness crab, cod, clams, mussels or any other fresh seafood from the fish market are steamed and poached in the bright soup adding even more flavor. Serve it up with an easy saffron garlic aioli and crusty bread or grilled garlic bread for the ultimate luxurious comfort food.
Feast Of The 7 Fishes
This is a great recipe to make for an Italian Christmas Eve. Choose 7 types of seafood for the Italian feast of the seven fishes. Typically you would use a combination of shellfish, squid, anchovy, eels, conch, clams and salt cod. Reduce added salt if using the salt cod and the anchovies are delicious added to the garlic and saffron aioli. Easy seafood pasta Alfredo or traditional oyster stew are other great Feast of 7 fishes recipes.
Is Cioppino Italian?
This American Italian fish stew was first made in San Francisco by Italian immigrants who settled in there in the late 19th century. The dish was inspired by traditional Italian fish stews, but adapted to include local ingredients found in California, like Dungeness crab and littleneck clams.
The Italian-Americans used their knowledge of Italian cooking techniques combined with the abundance of fresh seafood available in the area. The resulting cioppino fish soup is a hearty and flavorful tomato and fennel flavoured seafood stew that has become popular around the world.
Friday Night Fancy, Monday Night Nutritious
Another reason I love cioppino is because it's a delicious healthy choice. It's loaded with vitamins and minerals from the variety of seafood and veggies used. Additionally, if you omit the aioli, it is a very low-fat recipe. This dish offers a nutritious option if you want to enjoy a fancy meal without compromising on your health.
- Italian Sausage - Italian sausage adds a richness and extra depth of flavor with it's flavours of fennel and red pepper. A small amount goes a long way. You can buy loose sausage meat or squeeze out the meat from 2 links of Italian sausage.
- Fennel - Fresh fennel adds a subtle flavor and a lovely texture to this easy seafood cioppino. Adding aniseseed spices up the licorice flavor to make it quite distinct and aromatic.
- Seafood - Dungeness crab is the star of this Italian seafood stew. Followed by clams or mussels and white fish like cod, choose what is fresh at the fish monger that day.
- Broth or Stock - If you have homemade seafood stock or a jar of clam juice, this is the place to use it. Otherwise vegetable broth or chicken broth will work just fine because this recipe had a lot of aromatic flavours to round it out.
- Saffron - In addition to the saffron in the soup, I like to make a little saffron aioli to serve alongside the seafood soup. I was inspired by the French rouille. This is punchy, earthy and a great addition to the side of crusty bread or to dip your seafood into. If you like, you can add saffron to the cioppino too. This makes the soup close to a bouillabaisse, the classic French seafood soup.
- Mayonnaise - If you are making the quick saffron aioli, I love the bright flavor and richness of Japanese mayonnaise. Regular, real mayonnaise will work well too, though.
Substitutions + Variations
When making substitutions and variations for a pot of cioppino, there are a few easy swaps you can make if needed.
- Wine - If you prefer not to use the white wine, you can substitute an equal amount of clam broth, seafood stock or chicken stock plus one teaspoon of lemon juice. This provides the necessary liquid and flavor to the dish, without the use of alcohol. Cooking wine from the grocery store works too, just be sure to reduce the salt accordingly as cooking wine is notoriously salty.
- Seafood - Traditional cioppino usually includes shellfish such as crabs, clams and mussels and white fish like various types of cod or halibut. Shrimp and large or bay scallops are great additions or substitutions for any of the shellfish. Other fresh fish like tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi and even salmon make good swaps for the fish. If you choose more delicate fish like Arctic char or tilapia, be sure to add them at the very end to prevent overcooking. Have fun with different seafood combinations. You can bet the Italian immigrant fisherman (or their wives) used whatever fresh seafood the day's catch brought. Or see the Feast of the 7 Fishes above for Christmas inspiration.
- Fresh Herbs - Fennel and aniseed is the signature herbal flavor in this dish but if you don't have any, you can use others. Fresh basil is my first choice as an alternative for it's somewhat spicy and liquorice notes. If using basil, add it near the end to keep it's vibrant flavor. Parsley, oregano and thyme are also decent substitutions.
- Tomatoes - I love the light flavor of fresh tomatoes because they don't overwhelm the soup. If you don't have fresh, you can sub 1 cup of crushed tomatoes or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste.
Step By Step Instructions
This classic cioppino recipe is a delicious and hearty Italian-American seafood stew that's easy for any home cook to do. With just one pot and by simply adding the ingredients in order, you'll have a delicious broth with perfectly cooked seafood served up in no time!
Step 1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in crumbled Italian sausage and sauce until cooked though.
Step 2. Add garlic, aniseed, onion, and red pepper flakes. Sauté approximately 5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Step 3. Add chopped tomatoes and fennel.
Step 4. Sauté another 5 minutes until tomatoes are juicy and fennel is translucent.
Step 5. Next add broth, wine, orange zest and juice. Bring to a simmer and let cook 10 more minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
Step 6. Finally, add the seafood in order of cooking time. First add the crab and put the lid on the pot. Let it cook 5 minutes.
Step 7. Next add clams and/or mussels, replace lid and cook 4 more minutes. (Clams weren't available on the day I shot this so we used mussels. They were particularly sweet and delicious.)
Step 8. Finally, add your cubes of cod or other fish. Stir them in gently so as not to break them up. Replace the lid and let it cook the fish, about 2 more minutes.
Make The Saffron Garlic Aioli
Sauce Step 1. Make the saffron aioli by adding finely minced garlic, saffron, hot sauce, and lemon juice to the mayonnaise.
Sauce Step 2. Stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside for serving with crusty bread. Dip that aioli slathered bread in the delicious seafood and tomato-based broth.
Toast some rustic bread and get out bowls. Scoop a mix of seafood into each bowl, then spoon broth over. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds or parsley if you like and then serve it up with spoons and forks, toasts and the saffron aioli.
Storage + Reheating
For best results, make this the day you are going to serve it. To store leftover cioppino, cool the stew down to room temperature within two hours of cooking. Once cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate it. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you need to store it for longer, you can freeze it for up to three months in any covered, freezer safe containers Alternatively, divide the cioppino into individual portions before freezing for easy thawing.
To reheat cioppino stew, heat it slowly on the stovetop over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Do not to boil the stew or it will overcook the seafood and make it tough. Heat it until it reaches a safe serving temperature of 165°F and enjoy.
If you want to prepare this ahead of time, you can make the aioli and the broth without the seafood, up to 3 days ahead. Once ready to serve, heat the broth back to a simmer and continue adding the seafood as per the recipe.
This classic dish is easy but the most important step is to ensure you have fresh fish that is properly cleaned and deboned. If you're using mussels, wash and debar them by pulling off the fibres that hold them to the rocks. For littleneck clams, wash them, discard any that are not tightly closed or are broken. After finishing the stew, discard any unopened clams or mussels.
Fish and shellfish are the star of the fisherman's stew and as such, the quality is directly related to the finished dish. Inspired by dishes like Catalan fish stew and French bouillabaisse, this simple cioppino is the perfect recipe to use fresh, catch of the day fish and shellfish.
The Dungeness crab, cod, and clams or mussels are prepared by being simmered in a tasty and aromatic tomato-based broth. The Dungeness crab is cleaned and cracked, while the cod is cut into bite-sized pieces. The clams or mussels are soaked and scrubbed to remove any grit. The seafood is added to the simmering broth and cooked just tender. This method of simmering allows the flavors of the seafood to infuse into the broth without overcooking it, creating a rich and flavorful dish.
Cioppino originated in San Francisco and was created by Italian immigrant fishermen. It is a tomato-based seafood stew with clams, mussels, fish, fennel and herbs.
Bouillabaisse is a French fish stew with saffron, firm fish, served with rouille which is like an aioli but with bread crumbs added. Thyme, bay leaves and fennel are the traditional herbs in this seafood soup.
Catalan Fish Stew is a Spanish seafood soup also known as Suquet de peix. It has nuts, paprika, hot and bell peppers, local fish, and picada which is similar to garlic aioli.
This famous seafood stew is full of beautiful seafood in a fish stock base and it's all made in just one pot. With it's layered flavors of dry white wine, orange, fennel seeds, whole tomatoes, and seafood, it's perfect served up with sourdough bread on a cold day. I hope you love it as much as we do.
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Cheers friends! Sabrina
Easy Cioppino Recipe - An Italian Seafood Stew
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ½ lb Italian Sausage (approx ¾ cup)
- ½ cup Onion
- 2 cloves Garlic
- ½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 teaspoon Anise Seed
- 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 cup Fennel
- 1 Orange, Zest + Juice approx 4 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon zest)(
- 5 cups Seafood Stock or Chicken Broth
- ½ c Dry White Wine
- 1 Dungeness Crab
- 1 lb Clams or Mussels
- ½ lb Cod
- Salt + Black Pepper to taste
Saffron Garlic Aioli
- ½ c Kewpie Mayonnaise (or real mayonnaise)
- ¼ tsp Saffron
- 1 clove Garlic, Minced
- 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
- ¼ teaspoon Hot Sauce (I use Tobasco)
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in crumbled Italian sausage and sauce until cooked though.
- Add 2 cloves minced garlic, aniseed, onion, saffron and red pepper flakes. Sauté approximately 5 minutes until onion is translucent.
- Add chopped tomatoes and fennel and continue to sauce another 5 minutes until tomatoes are juicy and fennel is translucent.
- Next add broth, wine, orange zest and juice. Bring to a simmer and let cook 10 more minutes, and season to taste with salt and black pepper if you like.
- Finally, add the seafood to the pot in order of cooking time. I first add the crab and put the lid on the pot. Let it cook 5 minutes, then add clams and/or mussels, replace lid and cook 4 more minutes. Finally, add your cubes of cod or other fish. Stir them in gently so as not to break them up. Replace the lid and let it cook the fish, about 2 more minutes.
- Toast some rustic bread and get out bowls. Scoop a mix of seafood into each bowl, then spoon broth over. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds or parsley if you like and then serve it up with spoons and forks, toasts and the saffron aioli.
Saffron Garlic Aioli
- Make the saffron aioli by simply mixing together 1 clove of minced garlic, saffron, hot sauce, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside for serving. The aioli can be made ahead up to 3 days.