Classic Cioppino (San Francisco-Style Seafood Stew)

Classic Cioppino
Classic Cioppino

Classic Cioppino is a hearty Italian seafood stew that became famous in San Francisco.  San Francisco is one of our most favorite cities in the world, with one of the key reasons being the food.  Of course, with the city snuggly tucked into the gorgeous San Fran bay, the seafood is bountiful.  Every time we hit this magical city, we have to get a bowl of the heartwarming dish.

During our last stay, I found a couple local foodie folks who shared their recipe for Classic Cioppino with me.  I came home and played around with it, and this is what we love.  It is a beautiful dish, and even looks like it must have been labor-intensive to make – but surprisingly, it’s really not.  You’ll need just a couple hours to bring this iconic dish to the table.  And talk about a great thing to serve at the holidays, or anytime you want something special for loved ones.

This is now an instant classic on our home.  Try it…you’ll love it.  You can make the tomato base sauce the day before.  Then just re-heat and add the fish and cook until ready (about 8 minutes)!!   135% Loon Approved!

Classic Cioppino (San Francisco-Style Seafood Stew)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This Classic Cioppino is a true favorite Italian seafood stew originating in the incredible city of San Francisco. It is beautiful, and actually quite easy to make. You just need a couple hours from start to finish. Plus, you can tweak to you own tastes. Enjoy!!
Recipe type: Seafood
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4 - 6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ¼ flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (San Marzano are excellent), with juice
  • 2 (8 oz) bottles clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc is good)
  • 2 bay leafs
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
  • ½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 12 small hard-shell clams in shell
  • 12 mussels in shell
  • 1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb bay scallops
  • 1 lb firm white fish fillets (cod, halibut, haddock are all good choices)
  • 2 lbs fresh steamed crab legs
  1. In a large soup pot, or preferably large Dutch oven, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil, then add butter and let melt. Add onions, garlic, bell pepper, celery and parsley. Cook until soft, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes (break them up with your hands as you add them to the pot), and add the juice from the can.
  3. Add the clam juice, wine, bay leaf, basil, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and salt; bring to just a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  4. NOTE: At this point, stock may be refrigerated, covered and kept up to 2 days before serving. Just bring the stock back to a boil about 20 minutes before serving, lower the heat, and progress with the recipe.
  5. Scrub the clams and mussels with a small stiff brush under cold running water; remove beards from mussels.
  6. Discard any open clams or mussels. Let cold water run over shells for 5 minutes (shaking ever minute, or so).
  7. Gently stir into the sauce the clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and fish fillets. Cover the dish and let simmer for 7 - 8 minutes, until the clams and mussels open. Discard any shells that have not opened.
  8. Add the crab legs and steam until heated through, another 2 - 3 minutes.
  9. Try not to stir too much (it will break up the fish), and don't overcook!!
  10. Remove the bay leaves. Adjust seasonings
  11. Ladle sauce and seafood into large bowls and serve with toasted bread.
  12. Enjoy!


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