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Cioppino is to San Francisco what New England Clam Chowder is to Boston or what bouillabaise is to Marsailles – a signature dish that highlights the fresh seafood that each city can offer.  There are a lot of places in and around Fisherman’s Wharf (Pier 39) that offer cioppino.  I have never found one there that I liked – it seems to pander more to tourists who want to say they’ve “been there” and sampled the “real thing”.  I’d travel farther afield.  One place that comes highly recommended for cioppino is Sotto Mare in North Beach.

The great thing about cioppino is, like similar dishes, it can be prepared with almost any variety of fish and shellfish – whatever is the freshest catch of the day.  The same is true when preparing it at home.  And, if you’re mad keen about a fish that you might not have thought about, you can always try it – take a gamble!!!!  A brief history of cioppino is that it was a result of fisherman throwing some of their catch into the communal (fish) stew pot.

NB: US measurements used

Ingredients needed:  butter, onion, garlic, parsley, canned tomatoes, clam juice (or chicken stock & water if not available), bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, wine (red or white), shellfish (clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops), fish (halibut, cod, salmon, etc), crab meat, salt and pepper.

Prep time:  15 mins     Cook time:  1 hour     Yield:  8 – 10 servings


3/4 cup butter
2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh parsley leaves, minced
2 (14.5-ounce) cans plum tomatoes undrained and cup up*
2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice (or 8 oz chicken stock and 8 oz water if clam juice unavailable)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 1/2 cups dry red or white wine (whichever you prefer)
12 small hard-shell clams in shell
12 mussels in shell
1 1/2 pounds raw extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined**
1 1/2 pounds bay scallops
1 1/2 pounds fish fillets (halibut, cod, or salmon), cut into bite-size chunks
1 1/2 cups flaked Dungeness crab meat
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


In a large soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat, melt butter; add onions, garlic, and parsley it might be just me, but I was thinking some celery might also add some flavour, but that’s just me).  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened.  Add tomatoes, clam juice, bay leaves, basil, thyme, oregano, and red or white wine; bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.  If sauce becomes too thick, thin with additional wine or water.

NOTE: At this point, stock may be refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days before using.  To use stock that has been refrigerated, reheat to boiling and then reduce heat to low, until broth is simmering gently.

Scrub clams and mussels with a small stiff brush under cold running water; remove beards from mussels.  Discard any open clams or mussels.  Cover with cold salted water; let stand 5 minutes and then pour off the salted water.

Gently stir in the clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, fish fillets, and crab meat to the prepared stock.  Cover and simmer 5 to 7 minutes until clams pop open and shrimp are opaque when cut.  NOTE: Do not overcook the seafood (the seafood continues to cook after it is removed from the pan).  Remove bay leaves; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from from heat and ladle broth and seafood into large soup bowls and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Serve with Sourdough Bread


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