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If I was hosting the Christmas holidays at our home, I would be serving this recipe for Cioppino on Christmas Eve.  For those of you who are not familiar with Cioppino, it is a seafood stew that originated in San Francisco.  Years ago when I had roommates, I would invite a few friends over before leaving for the holidays just to make this recipe.  It became a tradition that has since been lost.  Last week that changed when I snuck an evening of Cioppino in before we flew away for the holidays. 


Normally we travel over the holidays, split between our families;  Thanksgiving on the West Coast and Christmas on the East Coast.  I struggle with this every year as I’d like to have a holiday at our home for once.  It became even more of a struggle after we bought our first home.  This year it became even more apparent than ever that after 11 years together, we do not have any holiday traditions that we cherish and look forward to each year.  Being self-employed means we are typically working or traveling up until the very last minute when we are then dashing off to catch a flight back east.  No cutting down trees, sipping hot chocolate, hosting holiday parties, or stringing lights around the house.  After my annual, woe is me which shed a few tears, I decided things would be different this year.

We came home from a long 2 weeks of traveling and declared last week as our home for the holidays.  We bought a cute little Christmas tree, hung up lights around the house, played Bing Crosby, drank a lot of eggnog and invited a few friends over for a Cioppino dinner.  While it was not the holiday dinner parties I still invasion hosting someday, it did cure the holiday blues a bit.

** serve this rich fish stew with warm crusty bread, a Caesar salad, and lots of red wine.



  • Use a chopper to cut up the onion, fennel, and garlic.  Saves time and makes everything uniform.
  • Do not kill the clams or mussels by keeping them in the plastic bag when bringing them home from the market.  Lay them in a colander with a cold, wet paper towel draped over the top.  Replace if it dries out.  DO NOT buy them more than a day before.  30 minutes – 1 hour before adding to your cioppino, clean them before cooking or you will have sand in your cioppino.    To clean place them into a large mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and cold water.  Add them to the mixture.  Rinse after 30 minutes and repeat for another 30 minutes.  Drain and rinse before adding into the cioppino.
Yield: 4 - 6 servings



Cioppino is a seafood rich stew that was founded in San Francisco. It is a great recipe to have on hand when crab season kicks off. It is flavorful, and is always a crowd pleaser.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes


  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depending on the heat you like)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 ounces crushed red tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 cups white or red wine (red makes it a bit richer)
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound fresh clams
  • 1 pound fresh mussels
  • 2 fresh cooked and cleaned Dungeness crabs, have the fishmonger crack for you
  • 1 pound rock cod or other white fish, skinless and cut into 1 inches pieces
  • 1/2 pound calamari - optional, I only add if I can find fresh
  • 1/2 pound shrimp - optional, I only add if I am feeling wild and crazy
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped


    Using a chopper, chop the onion, fennel, and garlic together.
    Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion mixture and cook until soft, about 8 - 10 minutes.
    Add the bay leaves, oregano, and crushed red pepper.  Stir and then season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
    Still in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
    Add the crushed red tomatoes, white wine, water, and clam juice. Stir, then bring to a boil.
    Lower the heat to a very low simmer, and cover with a lid.  Cook for 60 minutes.
    Add the crab, clams, and mussels to the sauce, lightly stir and cover with the lid. Simmer over low heat until the clams and mussels open: about 8 - 10 minutes. Remove the ones that did not open.
    Lay the white fish on top of the stew, cover the pot with a lid and steam the fish until cooked through; about 5 minutes.
    Place all of the fish and seafood into a serving bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the sauce in the pan.
    Stir the parsley and basil into the sauce, then pour over the seafood.


Do not overcook the fish or seafood as they only take a few moments to cook. The sauce which is the base of this recipe takes the longest.

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Robert Marcacci

Sunday 15th of May 2016

How much does this recipe serve?

Nutmeg Nanny

Friday 27th of December 2013

This looks packed with flavor! Wow, I know my husband would be all over this :)

aida mollenkamp

Thursday 19th of December 2013

That's some legit looking cioppino! Happy Holidays!

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