Classic, Slightly Spicy Cioppino Recipe

Like its cousin stew bouillabaisse, cioppino came from humble origins, thrown together in large pots with local fishermen's end-of-day catch. Cioppino originated in San Francisco, California, from Italian-American immigrants who needed to use local resources to make cheap, filling meals. Unlike the delicate French stew that emphasizes saffron, fish stock, and fennel, the Italian-American dish leans heavily on tomato, using plenty of garlic and fresh parsley to give it a distinctly Italian flavor. Both hearty soups can use any variety of fish you have on hand (since after all, that's how it was originally made), but a cioppino is much more likely to have shellfish like crab, mussels, clams, and squid.

 In this recipe written by developer Michelle McGlinn, mussels, clams, squid, and jumbo shrimp are simmered in a spicy Calabrian chile tomato broth until plump and bursting with flavor. The ever-so-slightly-spicy broth is rich and flavorful from a long, vegetable-heavy simmer, making it perfect for soaking up with crusty bread. Whether you like it a little more rustic like the original stew or as fancy as it's served nationwide today, make cioppino for your next Sunday supper for a fun and filling seafood feast.

Gather the ingredients for a classic, slightly spicy cioppino

To create the saucy broth of cioppino, first grab olive oil, shallot, celery, Calabrian chiles, tomato paste, and white wine. You can find Calabrian chiles in the International aisle or near the jarred peppers in the grocery store; look for crushed chiles, which are easy to scoop into your skillet. After adding the wine (we suggest a dry white like sauvignon blanc), you'll need a large can of crushed tomatoes and a couple of cups of fish stock or broth. You can also use vegetable or chicken stock if needed. The fish used in this recipe are clams, mussels, squid, and shrimp, but you can throw in flaky white fish, crab legs, scallops, or lobster if desired (cioppino is a great way to clean out the freezer). Whichever fish you choose to use, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley to serve.

Start with the aromatics

Use a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven and heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot, garlic, and celery, and stir while they begin to soften. Stir in the Calabrian chiles and tomato paste and combine, using the back of a spoon to stir any stubborn bits of paste. Once incorporated, splash in the wine and let simmer while the liquid reduces.

Add in the tomatoes

Add in the crushed tomatoes and fish stock and bring to a steady simmer. For a more textured stew, use diced tomatoes instead. For a smoother, sauce-like consistency, use tomato purée. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors join together, adding more stock as needed if the mixture gets too thick. The broth should be the consistency of marinara sauce.

Cooking the fish

With cioppino it's important to add the longest-cooking fish first, then add fish like squid and shrimp towards the end to avoid overcooking (and ending up with gummy, chewy shrimp). If you're using flaky white fish like cod, add it earlier in the recipe; if you're using crab or lobster, add them closer to the end. In this recipe, we add the clams and mussels first – clams take the longest to cook, so if you're using more than a dozen, consider adding them slightly before the mussels. Cover and wait for the shellfish to open slightly — not quite all the way — then arrange the shrimp and squid around the skillet, nestling into the broth as much as possible. Cover and steam again until the squid is opaque and firm, the shrimp pink, and the shells completely opened. If any shells do not open, throw them away (and if none of the shells open, keep steaming for a few more minutes).

Serving cioppino

While it's not completely necessary, no cioppino is truly complete without crusty bread for soaking up the tomatoey sauce. When serving warm bowls of cioppino, make sure everyone has plenty of clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid, and then a hefty ladleful of broth. Warm up a baguette or grill slices of olive-oil brushed Italian bread to soak up the last of the broth. To make a full meal with the cioppino as the centerpiece, serve with leafy green salad, roasted vegetables, and sweets like panna cotta or tiramisu. Storing leftovers isn't recommended, but can be done for 3-4 days; provided you reheat the fish slowly on the stove in simmering broth so as not to overcook. Cioppino is delicious in any season and makes for both a deliciously warming snowy dinner and a bright and saucy summer soirée. Change up the fish with the seasons to keep it seasonally fresh, and always serve with lots of crusty grilled Italian bread.

Classic, Slightly Spicy Cioppino Recipe
5 from 34 ratings
Learn how to make cioppino, an Italian-American dish that's loaded with seafood in a spicy broth.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bowl of tomato, mussels, and shrimp
Total time: 50 minutes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chopped Calabrian chiles
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups fish stock
  • 12 clams, scrubbed
  • 20-30 mussels (or 1 bag), scrubbed and debearded
  • ½ pound jumbo shrimp (about 8-10), peels and tails on
  • 1 pound squid tubes and tentacles, tubes sliced into ¼ -inch rings, beaks removed
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley, for serving
  1. Heat olive oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and celery and cook until fragrant and soft, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chiles, and once incorporated, stir in the tomato paste and combine. As the paste starts sticking to the bottom of the pot, add the wine and bring to a simmer.
  2. Cook until wine no longer smells bitter and reduces slightly, about 2 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and fish stock. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat to medium low. Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cover. Cook until shells partially open, about 8 to 10 minutes. Before the shells open completely, add the shrimp and squid and nestle into the broth as much as possible. Cover again and cook until clams and mussels open and shrimp is completely pink, about another 5 minutes. Throw away any unopened clams and mussels.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need any). To serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Calories per Serving 504
Total Fat 16.0 g
Saturated Fat 2.7 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 395.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 33.3 g
Dietary Fiber 6.0 g
Total Sugars 12.7 g
Sodium 1,627.7 mg
Protein 53.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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