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March 17, 2010

Recipe for cioppino (fish soup)


Cioppino (chuh-PEEN-oh) originated with Italian fishermen in San Francisco, some time in the early 1900s. When the fishing boats came back to the dock, each man would toss some of his catch into a communal stockpot, and they would share a bowl of soup before heading for home. Of course no two batches of cioppino were exactly the same, because they depended on the catch of the day. And that's still the best way to make this fragrant tomato-based soup. Use any mix of fish and shellfish that looks good at the market. I love to make "pink" cioppino, containing only shrimp and salmon, with little flecks of red (hot pepper flakes). Whatever you do, don't omit the fennel; it makes the magic in this soup.


A simplified version of a recipe that first appeared on The Perfect Pantry, adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis' Everyday Italian. Serves 8.


3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced (a mandoline works well for this, if you have one)
1 large onion, chopped
A pinch of kosher salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 large squirt of tomato paste from a tube (2 Tbsp, more or less)
26 oz canned chopped tomatoes (I use POMI), or fresh chopped tomatoes with juice
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
3 cups homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson 99%)
2 8-oz bottles clam juice
1 bay leaf
1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed (if you can't find these, double up on the mussels or shrimp)
1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1-1/2 lb raw "large" shrimp (26-30 size), peeled and deveined
1/2 lb cod loin or scrod or halibut, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 lb salmon (skinless fillet), cut into 2-inch chunks


Heat the oil in a large (8-quart or larger) nonreactive (stainless steel or enameled cast iron) stockpot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion and salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomato with the juices, wine, chicken stock, clam juice and bay leaf. Cover, and raise the heat just until the soup comes to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes. (Can be made ahead up to this point; refrigerate or freeze.)

Add the clams, and cook for 15 minutes. Then, add the mussels, shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams and mussels are open, about 5 minutes (discard any that do not open). Season the soup to taste, with salt and red pepper flakes. Serve hot.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types | March 17, 2010 at 05:31 AM

I never thought of this as a flexible dish that depended on the catch of the day.

Posted by: Pam | March 17, 2010 at 08:37 AM

This sounds like a good one Lydia! I love this soup with some crusty bread, I guess Bob is in for a treat tomorrow night (have to have corn beef tonight!) I am really enjoying this blog and all the creative and different kinds of soup you are posting..thank you again for another great blog!

Posted by: tasteofbeirut | March 17, 2010 at 09:23 AM

Wonderful soup and wonderful photo of it!

Posted by: Maria | March 17, 2010 at 10:32 AM

This soup looks great-all I need is a piece of crusty bread to go with:)

Posted by: Renee | March 17, 2010 at 10:44 AM

This soup sounds great! I love to make soup every week and I am so glad to find this blog.

Posted by: Kalynskitchen | March 17, 2010 at 12:06 PM

Yes, I can testify just how absolutely delicious this is. Still have fond memories of making (and eating) it with you!

Posted by: Milton | March 18, 2010 at 10:30 AM

I cant look anymore. Im all souped out but still i want!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anne Bennett | March 19, 2010 at 01:56 PM

Oh my what a gorgeous soup. (I am a school friend of Christine Cooks.)

Posted by: Lydia | March 19, 2010 at 05:22 PM

TW, I think all soups are made to be a bit improvisational. That's why I love soup.

Pam, so glad you are finding inspiration here. I have many wonderful soups planned, so stick around!

Tasteofbeirut, thank you. I'd love to share some Lebanese soups, if you have recipes.

Maria, this is one of the soups I could eat every week, and I'm always glad when I have leftovers.

Renee, Anne: I'm glad you found your way here. More soups to come!

Kalyn, that was one of the most fun times in the kitchen. It was great to be able to show off some of our local shellfish, too.

Milton, don't get souped out now! We're just getting started.

Posted by: CJ McD | March 22, 2010 at 07:46 PM

When I was single, I'd whip up a small batch of cioppino using whatever looked good at the market or use what I had in the freezer. I love, love LOVE seafood and this is one of my favorite soups.

My husband is allergic to shell fish so if I do make it now, it's quite a bit different from the cioppino I so love. It's still wonderful.

Thanks for sharing the recipe. I want to eat it all! Don't forget a great loaf of crusty bread for sopping up juice.

Posted by: Crow Blog | October 12, 2014 at 08:13 PM

Don't send anyone after me with pitchforks, but you can skip the chicken broth and use - V8 juice instead! Yes, I know how that sounds. But you certainly won't need any extra salt.. *ha* I was desperate for the tomato base and found I only had V8 and a small can of tomato paste, and it worked wonderfully.

Posted by: Tara Martinez | December 1, 2014 at 02:16 PM

This soup recipe is fantastic!! My husband and I ate full bowls for 2 days! We picked up the pre mixed seafood bag (comes without clams) from Costco and it was so easy! Love, love, love!!

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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