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This delicious fish stew originated in the Italian-American fishing community in San Francisco. Fresh ingredients (or fresh-caught flash-frozen if you must) are paramount to the success of this dish. Because all the ingredients get chopped up (ciuppin means “to chop”), this is the perfect way to maximize the catch of the day – use tail pieces of halibut, for example, which are very tasty and much less expensive than big fillets that you’ll cut up anyway.

You’ll find Cioppino recipes with all different combinations of seafood and you should feel free to pick your favorites, or buy what’s on special at the fish market today. Substitute clams for mussels, or do both. Add squid if you like. Just be thoughtful about timing so that each type is cooked appropriately – add crab legs early and scallops late, etc.

Also, cooking shellfish in the shells will enhance flavor – and the eating experience. But if you don’t want that authentic roll-up-your-sleeves dining, you can remove shells prior to cooking for a lazy man’s version.

One other note: you can make the base (everything up to adding seafood) ahead of time, so it can come together quickly when you’re ready to eat. As a potlatch approach (this dish can be expensive!), assign friends different seafood to bring to the party.

Buon Appetito!


Cook in a large pot over medium heat:

  • .25 cups olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium onions, finely chipped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • .5 tsp black pepper

When onions are soft, stir to incorporate:

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

Add and boil uncovered for 5 minutes:

  • 1.5 cups dry white wine, should reduce by half in this time

Add and simmer for 30 minutes covered:

  • 28 ozs (2 cans) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup vegetable broth


  • 1 lb crab legs (thawed if frozen) cracked open and cut into 3” pieces
  • 18 mussels, scrubbed – cook these for 5 minutes and removed as they open for up to 10 minutes – discard any that do not open after 10 minutes (same if using clams)

When mussels are removed, add and simmer for 5 minutes or until just cooked:

  • .5 lbs halibut cut into chunks
  • 18 large shrimp, deveined (use their color to help gauge timing)
  • .5 lbs sea scallops, whole if medium-sized or chunked if large
  • 2 cups chopped baby Portobello mushrooms

Finish by:

  • Adding mussels back into dish to reheat briefly
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with:

  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese


  • In large flat bowls
  • With crab fork and cracker if you make it “authentic”
  • Accompany with sourdough bread
  • With a spare bowl for shells on the table