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Cioppino (Revised)

The origin and the essential ingredients of cioppino (chuh-PEE-noh) remain obscure even after reading Thorne, McClane, Herbst and others in the bibliography.   For sure, it ain’t La Bouillabaisse De L’Atlantique, but rather an unpretentious fish stew, resident of San Francisco, with probable origins in the galleys of fishing boats operating out of San Diego, Monterrey and the San Francisco Bay. 

So, it’s an idea rather than a recipe: one kind of fish, maybe two that won’t fall to pieces in a stew, some shrimp and a variety of shellfish all bound together with a great tasting tomato sauce.  It is a high preparation quick-plated fish stew perfect for a buffet crowd who will find it fun to eat out of big pasta bowls with good bread.  My recipe changes every time I make it.  What remains constant is the requirement (a) that the fish and seafood not be cooked to death or break up in the sauce, and (b) that the sauce itself be stand-alone tasty.  If you want to make this dish more simply and concentrate on getting the fish right, start with a good marinara sauce and skip the tomato ingredients. 

Update: 2011

This is one of the early recipes on this Web site (2002) since I have been making this dish for a long time (every couple years, maybe). I did it again for a crowd on Super Sunday. Most of them were Steeler fans. We had a Pack of two. Certainly the merits of the cioppino had something to do with Packer's success.

Subtle changes here, save for Note 2, which is a better and more guest-tailored way to build the dish.

CIOPPINO (for 14)
• 3 onions, sliced
• 2 red peppers, lardons
• 4 garlic cloves, pureed
• 2 leeks, large julienne, white only
• ½ head cilantro, chopped
• ½ C EVOO
• 10 C (3 28oz cans) crushed tomatoes
• 1 C red wine
• 1 C water
• 2 C chicken broth
• sachet of basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, bay leaf
• 2 T Tennessee Sunshine or mild hot sauce (not Tabasco)
• ½ lb mushroom, sliced or broken
• 2 T Worcestershire sauce
• 4 lbs grouper or monk, cut into bite sized chunks
• 2.5 lbs medium size shrimp, unshelled (frozen OK)
• 2 lbs mussels cleaned
• 2.5 dozen little neck or cherry stones clams
• TT S/P

Rules: Allow per serving: (this dish is expensive, don’t make too much)
• 6 ozs of sauce
• 4 oz of fish
• 4 shrimp
• 3 mussels and 2 little necks
1. Sweat onions, peppers, leeks and cilantro in large (8 quart) heavy saucepot, add garlic
2. Add wine, stock, BG and reduce
3. Add tomato products, Worcestershire, Tennessee Sunshine and S/P, TT
4. Simmer for about 25 minutes until well balanced
5. Adjust seasoning (add some cayenne if too mild), add water if too thick, or puree with the stick blender and set sauce aside
6. Place fish in a second pot, season boldly, sauté in EVOO to slightly underdone
and set aside in warming oven
7. Season and sauté shrimp in EVOO to underdone and add them to the fish saucepot
8. Steam clams and mussels (separately) in a little sauce and chicken broth, drain and set aside
9. A la minute
• BTB sauce in serving pot, reduce heat to simmer
• add mushrooms
• add mollusks (See note 2)
• gently fold in fish and shrimp and it’s sauce
10. Serve in large heated pasta bowls with Caesar salad and sliced baguette
Note: 1. This recipe is good for 14 servings; add more fish for more people.
The sauce is a soup and should taste great. Reduce costs by substituting
frozen raw shrimp. Fish and mollusks must be fresh. Don’t overcook
any of the fish.
2. Buffet works best with 1C ladle of sauce and for each guest to then choose
from three adjacent pots of fish, mussels and clams.



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