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Best Cioppino Recipes

Best Cioppino Recipes

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The broth in this twist on the classic San Franciscan cioppino has smoky depth, which is a beautiful counterpoint to the spicy, savory flavor of the harissa mayonnaise.By Anolon® Gourmet Cookware


The broth in this twist on the classic San Franciscan cioppino has smoky depth, which is a beautiful counterpoint to the spicy, savory flavor of the harissa mayonnaise.By Anolon® Gourmet Cookware


Cioppino: A Taste of Vintage San Francisco

If anyone knows the historic secrets of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s my friend Vince Rafello. This coastside cook combines a briny Sicilian-Portuguese pedigree with a fishing heritage that dates back nearly three centuries. “We’re seafaring folks,” he tells me. “I’m pretty sure we’ve all got saltwater running through our veins.”

On a cool, windy spring afternoon, I sit by the fire with Vince and his wife Ruth as he shares fond memories of a dockside childhood. I’m fascinated by his stories of happy years spent helping out at the family’s fish market, one of the first on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Rafello’s Fish Market was founded in 1915 by Vince’s grandfather, a local fisherman who ran the business with the help of his wife and two sons.

“The Wharf was a great place to grow up,” Vince tells me. “I used to go crab fishing with my dad. When I was a kid, the water in the San Francisco Bay was so clean we could keep live crabs in underwater wooden boxes beneath the wharf. Whenever we needed fresh crab, we’d just grab a few and cook them in front of the restaurant. It was a tiny place, without even a stove—just a few tables and a Bunsen burner.

“As a ten year old, I’d make giant Dungeness crab cocktails and Louies. We’d take big handfuls of fresh crabmeat and mix them with a homemade Louie dressing that was so thick a fork would stand up in it.”

After her husband passed away, Vince’s grandmother and the rowdy Rafello boys continued to keep customers well fed with fresh seafood cocktails and steaming clam chowder, which Vince and his sister lugged down to the wharf in big pots from the Rafello family kitchen in North Beach.

That lively home kitchen was also the place where Vince’s dad cooked up fragrant kettles of his legendary crab cioppino for family and friends—along with a steady stream of appreciative local police, who didn’t mind checking their weapons at Nonna Rafello’s door. Those fabled Sunday dinners are now a delicious part of San Francisco history.

“My dad was a gourmet cook and didn’t know it. He could do anything with any kind of fish,” Vince recalls. “He used to make his own wine, too, down in Nonna’s basement. The family called it ‘Dago Red.’ I think the last time we made it was back in 1948, using grapes we’d picked in Saratoga. I remember smelling like a winery for about a week.”

Today, Vince serves his crab cioppino on the same scarred wooden table his dad and grandmother used—only now the table occupies a place of honor in his kitchen in the tiny coastal town of Montara, California (about 25 miles south of San Francisco). Another tribute to vintage seaside traditions: Vince’s paintings of Fisherman’s Wharf back in the good old days.

As an authentic wharf-raised cook, Vince tells me two signature secrets for great cioppino:

Use the ingredients you love best.

Vince says he never makes cioppino exactly the same way twice—it all depends on his mood and whatever fish he’s brought home from the docks or our local fishmongers. His only criterion is that the seafood should be “so fresh that you can taste the ocean.”

Share your homemade cioppino with people you love.

The classic fisherman’s stew is a favorite on the Rafello family table whenever fresh crab is in season (which, in our area, is usually from November to late spring).

How to Make It

Trim off and discard tough stems and base of fennel head. Rinse fennel, core, and chop.

In a 6- to 8-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir fennel, oil, onion, garlic, and 2 tablespoons parsley until onion is limp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes (including juice), white wine, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and chile flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer on low heat until flavors are well blended, about 15 minutes.

Add clams and crab. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp, cover and simmer, until clams pop open, shrimp turn pink, and crab is hot, 6 to 9 minutes longer remove seafood as it finishes cooking. Discard clams that do not open. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle broth and seafood into wide bowls. Sprinkle with remaining parsley.

What is Cioppino?

Like my dad who was born there (go Niners!), San Francisco is where cioppino was created way back in the 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen would share the day’s catch with other fishermen who came home empty handed. The Italian seafood stew is a grab bag of ingredients and can easily be adapted to what’s available.

Other cultures have a version of cioppino, including Italy’s neighbor, France, where their fisherman’s stew is known as bouillabaisse.

The differences between cioppino and bouillabaisse are few. Cioppino is Italian in nature with a purely tomato-based broth where bouillabaisse is French, and has the addition of saffron to it’s fish stock-based broth with chopped tomatoes added in.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ¼ pounds cod fillets, cut into chunks
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound bay scallops
  • 10 small clams in shell, scrubbed
  • 10 mussels, cleaned and debearded

Melt butter in a large braising pan over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic in melted butter, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until onions are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir chicken broth, diced tomatoes, wine, water, basil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves with the onion and garlic. Place a cover on the braising pan and cook mixture at a simmer until the tomatoes are softened and the broth flavorful, about 30 minutes.

Fold cod, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels into the broth mixture bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, return cover to pan, and continue to simmer until the clams open, 5 to 7 minutes.

Recipe Summary

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (16 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons crushed dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 8 clams in shell, scrubbed, or more to taste
  • 8 mussels, cleaned and debearded, or more to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and bell pepper in hot oil until tender, about 5 minutes add garlic and continue to saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large stockpot.

Stir tomatoes, chicken broth, white wine, tomato paste, parsley, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and black pepper with the onion mixture in the stockpot bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the tomatoes are softened, about 15 minutes.

Stir shrimp and cod chunks into the tomato mixture. Arrange clams and mussels in the liquid so they are partially submerged. Cover pot again and continue cooking until the clams and mussels open, 7 to 10 minutes.

Recipe Summary

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 fresh red chile pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 (10 ounce) can minced clams, drained with juice reserved
  • 25 mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 25 shrimp
  • 10 ounces scallops
  • 1 pound cod fillets, cubed

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil, and saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and chile pepper until tender. Add parsley, salt and pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, paprika, cayenne pepper, and juice from the clams. Stir well, reduce heat, and simmer 1 to 2 hours, adding wine a little at a time.

About 10 minutes before serving, add clams, mussels, prawns, scallops, and cod. Turn the heat up slightly and stir. When the seafood is cooked through (the mussels will have opened, the prawns turned pink, and the cod will be flaky) serve your delicious cioppino.

Old-Style San Francisco Crab Cioppino

San Francisco Cioppino. Many have had it with the heavy red sauce and seafood. Not the best, in our opinion. This recipe was handed down from an elderly Italian lady in San Francisco in the 50's. Hehee. original recipe called for a &quotcheese glass&quot of white wine. So authentic! This recipe makes the most wonderful seafood broth, a touch spicy with loads of great seafood. We have made it for years and it is a real winner! This is a very authentic, old style, San Francisco Crab Cioppino. The recommended ingredients make enough for 6-8 hungry seafood fans. This is the kind of meal where you can sit and eat and sip wine for a few hours. You will need plenty of napkins and bibs are recommended. You will also need some crab/lobster tools to get all of the wonderful meat. Share this with people you know, who won’t mind getting rather messy! Don't forget lots of toasted sourdough garlic bread. Dip it in the broth as you go. If you are a seafood fan and love a great broth, you will not be dissapointed.

Cioppino seafood stews are known for their rich complexity of flavor and each one is a little bit different.


No cioppino would be complete without a combination of traditional Italian spices. For this recipe we opt for dried oregano, fresh basil, and fennel — which is the secret ingredient to this cioppino that somehow brings all the flavors together in a way that just is not possible without the fennel.

White Wine

Don’t shy away from using wine in cooking. The alcohol will burn off during the process of cooking and the wine adds an incredible acidity and balance to the ingredients in this stew. Any dry white wine will do for this recipe, and don’t feel like it has to be expensive!

Olive Oil

Olive oil is an essential component of most Italian recipes and this one is no different. It gives a nice balance of fat to the dish that helps to enhance all the wonderful and aromatic flavors in the seafood stew.

If you are going to splurge on any ingredient for this cioppino please let it be the fish. I personally love adding haddock to this cioppino that flakes perfectly and soaks up all the stews many flavors.


While you can add fresh mussles and clams to this cioppino, you can also opt for canned if you prefer. Also feel free to mix and match what shellfish you choose to add. There really isn’t one right way to make a cioppino, but the more shellfish the better in my opinion.


Cioppino seafood stews are a tomato based stew, which means that crushed tomatoes and some tomato puree for thickening are an essential part of this dish. I usually will use my own garden tomatoes that I can at the end of the season for this stew, but you can also use any canned tomato from the grocery store (ideally choose organic if possible).

Onion & Garlic

Lastly, the onion and garlic adds a base of Italian flavor to this cioppino that helps to add balance to the acidic tomatoes. Always feel from to add more garlic if you like your seafood stew a little more on the garlic side (like me!)

Phil’s Fish Market Cioppino Recipe

Phil’s Fish Market Cioppino Recipe: the best cioppino on the West Coast!

This is the real, true Phil’s Fish Market cioppino recipe from Phil DiGirolamo himself. I visit Phil’s a few times a year, and this rich broth packed with fresh seafood never lets me down. We can easily call it “the best” since Phil’s Fish Market Cioppino recipe beat Bobby Flay in a cioppino showdown on Food Network, and he ships his fish-laden tomatoey broth to soup lovers around the world by the gallon.

Phil packs his soup with clams, mussels, white fish, Dungeness crab, prawns, and scallops. Since we’re sharing his recipe, that’s what we’ve listed here, but you can use the base sauce and add any fish you choose. Remove it all from the shells for “lazy-man’s style” cioppino after cooking if you’d like, but the traditional soup is interactive – shells and all. The lemon and fresh parsley are an absolute must for serving. I usually chop the parsley and sprinkle it over the cioppino and pop the lemon on the side. I also serve it with warm gluten-free sourdough (I like Bread Srsly) or rolls.

Dining at Phil’s Fish Market:

If you’re ever in Moss Landing, CA – stop by to see Phil and tell him we sent you! The Cioppino in a Bowl at Phil’s Fish Market is gluten-free, but they usually serve it with a hunk of garlic bread. Tell the person taking your order you have a gluten allergy and to omit the bread. The fire roasted artichokes are AMAZING, since it’s 20 minutes from where they’re grown, so score one of those, or “Special Artichoke Salad.” Steamed mussels are fab (no bread) and the Siete Mares, a Mexican-style fish soup, is awesome, assuming you’ve already had the cioppino. The wine list is predominately local and pairs well with seafood.

If you have someone who is GF but doesn’t eat seafood, they can do the Grilled Chicken Salad or the Greek Salad. I really like the Greek Salad, and we often order it and a fire roasted artichoke to share before we eat our cioppino. You can check out the menu here.

I usually try to visit when the restaurant will be a little slower: 10:00-11:15am, 2:00-4:30pm, or after 7:00pm. (They close at 9:00pm.) That gives the staff more time to pay attention to my allergy.

Give Phil’s cioppino a try. I promise this recipe is totally worth the time.

Love seafood? Try this Real Louisiana Shrimp & Grits recipe, and these killer Dynamite Salmon appetizers too.

Recipe of the Week: Seattle Cioppino

Cioppino is a tomato-based seafood stew that originated in San Francisco and is considered an Italian-American dish. Traditionally, it's made from the remnants of the catch of the day, which in SF is usually a selection of local shellfish. Here in Seattle, we like to do things a little differently by adding salmon and whitefish into the mix. Sounds incredible, right?

If you answered in the affirmative, you should consider coming to Seattle magazine's second annual Pop! Bubbles and Seafood event on February 20, wherein a number of fantastic Seattle restaurants, including Anthony's--which created the delitable seafood medley above--will shell out samples of their impressive dishes. Helping you to wash it all down will be the selection of more than 40 sparkling wines, specialty cocktails and beer.

Get your tickets now. While you're at it, think about rounding out your weekend with the Seattle Wine and Food Experience on Sunday, February 21.

In the meantime, if enjoying some cioppino at home is more your style, check out the below recipe for the Anthony's version. Hearty, savory and comforting, this dish should recall brighter, sunnier days and the allure of an unbeatable Pacific Northwest summer. Try pairing with a crisp white wine, or even Champagne if you're feeling celebratory.

Cioppino Sauce

A light tomato broth incorporating fresh tomatoes and herbs that is very similar to a thin marinara sauce.


20 Ounces Diced Sweet Plum Tomatoes

Pinch Coarsely Ground Black Pepper

2 Tbsp. Fresh Marjoram – Chopped

Sauté onions and garlic over low heat until they become soft. Add parsley and seasonings. Cook for one minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, clam juice and white wine. Let simmer for 45 minutes.

Cioppino can be made using a variety of fresh fish and shellfish. The key is to use only the freshest seafood. Additional shellfish that may be used include calamari, ocean prawns, lobster, scallops or Alaskan King Crab. Anthony’s prefers to use halibut or lingcod, but any firm white fish can be used.


3 Quarts Cioppino Sauce (recipe above)

8 Pieces or ¾ lb. cut in pieces Firm White Fish (Halibut or Ling Cod)

4 Pieces or ½ lb. cut in pieces Fresh King Salmon

1 ½ lb. (approx. 3 per serving) Mussels

1 ½ lb. (approx. 3 per serving) Manila Clams

1 Whole Crab, Cracked Dungeness Crab

8 each or ¼ lb. Small Spot Prawns

Sauté salmon and white fish in olive oil and garlic. Add all shellfish and Cioppino Sauce. Cover and steam until fish is cooked (clams and mussels should be open) but do not boil. Arrange in bowl and serve.

Watch the video: The best Cioppino I have ever had!!!