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Cioppino (Fisherman’s Stew)

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Cioppino, a hearty Italian-American stew made with a medley of fresh seafood in a rich tomato and wine broth, perfectly captures the taste of the sea.

Photo by Johnny Miller, Clarkson Potter 2021

Brimming with fresh seafood in a tomato and wine broth that tastes like the sea, cioppino (pronounced chuh-pee-noh) is a rustic Italian-American fish stew. Its origins can be traced back to Italian immigrant fishermen in San Francisco, but my personal favorite version can be found at Portofino, a picturesque bayside restaurant in Longboat Key, Florida. Every year, my family gathers at Portofino over the holidays to enjoy the cioppino, and the chef was kind enough to share his recipe with me. To make the recipe more accessible for home cooks, I have modified it by using fewer types of seafood (though crab, lobster, or mussels would all make wonderful additions). To fully enjoy this wonderful stew, serve it with garlic bread, focaccia, or a baguette to soak up the flavorful broth—and be sure to set out an extra bowl for shells and plenty of napkins.

What you’ll need To Make Cioppino

cioppino ingredientsStep-by-Step Instructions

Before cooking the stew, prep the clams. Littleneck clams are readily available at most supermarkets and are usually sold in a mesh bag because they are alive and need to breathe. If your fishmonger places them in a plastic bag, remove them from the bag immediately when you get home from the supermarket and place them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth in the refrigerator.

To prepare the clams for cooking, first, check that they are alive by making sure all of the shells are tightly closed. If any clams are open, gently tap them against the countertop; if they are alive, they will close their shells. Discard any clams that do not close their shells or that have cracked or chipped shells.

To clean, place all of the clams in a bowl and cover them with cool tap water. Let the clams sit for 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, the clams will expel sand from inside their shells. When you’re ready to cook, lift each clam from the water and rinse it, scrubbing if necessary, to get rid of any grit from the surface. (Note that most supermarkets sell farm-raised clams, which are already quite clean, so you may not find a lot of grit or sand.)

To cook the stew, heat 1/4 cup of the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and for 1 minute more. Do not brown.

cooking the shallots and garlic

Add the wine and increase the heat to high. Boil until the wine is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.

adding the wine

Add the crushed tomatoes, clam juice, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.

adding tomatoes, clam juice, water, sugar, herbs, and seasoning

Meanwhile, while the stew is simmering, toss the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange the fish on the prepared baking sheet.

chunks of fish on baking sheet

Bake for about 10 minutes at 400°F, or until just cooked through. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. (Note: most cioppino recipes call for the fish to be simmered in the broth but I prefer to bake it separately so that it doesn’t fall apart or overcook.)

When the stew is done simmering, remove and discard the thyme sprigs and stir in the butter.

stirring in the butter

Add the clams and bring the stew back to a simmer.

adding the clams to the broth

Cover and cook for about 6 minutes, until the clams have mostly opened. Gently stir in the shrimp and bring the stew back to a simmer.

stirring in the shrimp

Cover and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through and the clams are completely opened, about 5 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add the chopped thyme, then taste the stew and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

cioppino with opened clams and cooked shrimp

Divide the warm fish into serving bowls. Ladle the stew over top, dividing the clams and shrimp evenly amongst the bowls. Garnish with parsley, if using, and serve with garlic bread, focaccia, or a baguette for sopping up the broth.

Video Tutorial

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Cioppino (Fisherman's Stew)

Cioppino, a hearty Italian-American stew made with a medley of fresh seafood in a rich tomato and wine broth, perfectly captures the taste of the sea.

Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped shallots, from about 3 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (8 oz) bottles clam juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 7 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 1½ pounds firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as halibut, cod, salmon, snapper, etc., cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1½ pounds (about 18) littleneck clams, scrubbed (see note)
  • 1½ pounds extra large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Fresh chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat ¼ cup of the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute more. Do not brown.
  3. Add the wine and increase the heat to high. Boil until the wine is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, clam juice, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt, red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme sprigs, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, while the stew is simmering, toss the fish with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Arrange the fish on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.
  6. When the stew is done simmering, remove and discard the thyme sprigs and stir in the butter. Add the clams and bring the stew back to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 6 minutes, until the clams have mostly opened. Gently stir in the shrimp and bring the stew back to a simmer; cover and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through and the clams are completely opened, about 5 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Add the chopped thyme, then taste the stew and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  7. Divide the warm fish into serving bowls. Ladle the stew over top, dividing the clams and shrimp evenly amongst the bowls. Garnish with parsley, if using, and serve with garlic bread, focaccia, or a baguette for sopping up the broth. Set out a second bowl for shells and plenty of napkins.
  8. Make Ahead: The stew, without seafood, can be made 2 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator, covered. When ready to serve, bake the fish and bring the stew to a simmer before adding the seafood.
  9. Note: Littleneck clams are readily available at most supermarkets and are usually sold in a mesh bag because they are alive and need to breathe. If your fishmonger places them in a plastic bag, remove them from the bag immediately when you get home from the supermarket and place them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth in the refrigerator. To prepare the clams for cooking, first, check that they are alive by making sure all of the shells are tightly closed. If any clams are open, gently tap them against the countertop; if they are alive, they will close their shells. Discard any clams that do not close their shells or that have cracked or chipped shells. To clean, place all of the clams in a bowl and cover them with cool tap water. Let the clams sit for 20 minutes to an hour. During this time, the clams will expel sand from inside their shells. When you’re ready to cook, lift each clam from the water and rinse it, scrubbing if necessary, to get rid of any grit from the surface. (Note that most supermarkets sell farm-raised clams, which are already quite clean, so you may not find a lot of grit or sand.)

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 575
  • Fat: 23 g
  • Saturated fat: 6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 20 g
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Fiber: 4 g
  • Protein: 69 g
  • Sodium: 2327 mg
  • Cholesterol: 287 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • The b0mb cyclone has subsided in California and dungeness crab season is going full force in the Bay Area. I can’t think of a better way than to marry Jenn’s cioppino with our succulent west coast crab, sour dough bread. and a splash of meyer lemon from the garden. This tasty dish will be our main course for the Sunday’s 49’ers playoff vs. the Eagles. No matter who wins our palettes will be tantalized and tummies delightfully full. Of course we all are hoping for a HUGE 49er win!

    • — Jane, San Anselmo on January 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was so easy and so delicious! My family immediately requested the recipe. Every drop was devoured, I served it with 3 different types of bread

    • — Diane Roman on January 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Really good stew. I didn’t have clam juice on hand so I used a vegan chicken stock (I don’t eat chicken!) and because of that I chose to cook the shrimp, salmon and scallops right in the stew so impart some of the seafood flavor to it; I added both in the last 5 minutes of cooking so they wouldn’t overcook. I also added fennel seeds to the spice mix. Otherwise followed the recipe as written. Cooked some ditalini pasta to have something starchy with it.

    • — Denise S on January 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Simply ……FABULOUS

    • — Mary Ness on January 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Question for Jenn, can you add a pinch of saffron? If yes, at what point? I had something similar at one time and have been searching for similar recipe ever since.

    • — Joni J Cooks on January 3, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure, I’d add it along with the tomatoes, clam juice, etc. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 4, 2023
      • Reply
  • Made this as part of New Year Eve dinner and it was a smashing success! Very easy to prep in advance. Store has beautiful looking cod loin so skipped the shellfish and just used that. Served as suggested with arugula/parmesan/lemon salad and some multigrain bread. YUM!.

    • — Elizabeth on December 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely delicious!! My husband and I grew up just north of SF and this was definitely a hit all around. Paired it with fresh homemade roasted garlic sourdough and a great wine. Thank you for this wonderful taste of home!!

    • — Jaimee on December 31, 2022
    • Reply
  • Terrific!!! Made this as a complete departure from our traditional Christmas Day feast. Used Chilean Sea-bass for the white fish. Roasted in the oven as the recipe suggested was key to it being fall-apart flaky in the stew 🥰. Only departure from Jenn’s recipe was to add a cup of Bloody-Mary mix (suggested in another recipe I found). I liked the extra little zing from that. First time trying to make foccaccia – MUST make!!! Thanks, Jenn, for giving me the confidence to try it ! May be our new tradition😋

    • — Julie Roedell on December 30, 2022
    • Reply
  • My husband liked it but not love it. I didn’t like it at all. I found myself having to add a bit of Sriracha to give it some kick. It tasted like a bland chunky soup, kind of watery. Maybe some tomato paste, hot paprika and corn starch to thicken the sauce will help.

    • — Marcela on December 21, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I like to add have Dungeness crab to my cioppino but never have been sure when to add it to the sauce or how long it should simmer. When able to find live crab, everything except the gills goes in the pot! I also add slices of fennel to the sauce as well as roasted fennel seeds. Par this with a hearty Barbera and enjoy.
    Lou

    • — lou altomar on December 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I make cioppino often, but I usually cook the fish in the stew, and, as you note, it falls apart. I love the idea of cooking the fish pieces on the oven! Will def try that next time. I always add fennel, too, as my wife loves Bouillabaisse, and adding that to my cioppino is much easier and keeps her happy.😇

    Cheers, Dennis from Maine

    • — Dennis Jud on December 20, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this last year; it was outstanding and all of my guests raved! I now want to make for another dinner party but one person keeps kosher and can’t eat any shellfish. Can you suggest what fish to use other than the halibut? Thank you.

    • — stacey on November 5, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Stacey, glad this was such a hit with your guests! Cod, salmon, and snapper, would all be great options. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2022
      • Reply
  • Hi there. Can I use mussels instead of clams? And, if so, any change in recipe or timing?

    • — Suzanne on October 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sure, Suzanne (and you don’t need to make any modifications). Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 24, 2022
      • Reply
  • Your cippino recipe has become one of my favorite seafood dishes. I make a large batch about once a month, then refrigerate individual servings for later use. While I love fish, I often substitute scallops for them in this dish, so that I end up with a clam-shrimp-scallop bouillabaisse. In any event, thanks for sharing a great recipe!

    • — Will Mansfield on October 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this Cioppino for a small dinner party for 7 friends. Everyone raved about the soup.
    It was delicious and very easy to make. I especially liked the idea of baking the white fish separately, I used halibut. I made a huge pot so I was able to send people home with leftovers and received more messages about how much they enjoyed the soup the next day……….thanks for the recipe…..John.

    • — John Connor on October 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wonderful recipe….I also added fennel seed and a touch of saffron to the broth….also a sprig of rosemary and thyme……My fish consisted of large shrimp, Barramundi, fresh caught sockeye salmon, scallops and west coast mussels……
    Served with lemony quinoa and an arugula, spinach, grape and apple salad with heirloom tomatoe vinaigrette ……
    Super duper….thank you
    Judy H….Crawford, Colorado

    • — judes henderson on October 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • I don’t know why it was not tasty. I did the same way. Husband liked it but I didn’t. I love all your other recipes

    • — Vivian Brooks on October 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Can I substitute seafood broth for the clam juice?

    • — Debbie on April 21, 2022
    • Reply
    • The taste may be slightly different, but it will work. Hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 22, 2022
      • Reply
  • I was a little hesitant to make this because I’ve never cooked clams before but wow, it was so delicious!! My husband said it would be a great meal to make for company…. Simple but very flavorful and elegant. Thank you!

    • — Kara on March 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wow! So very delicious and flavorful. I changed nothing in the recipe – made as written and it is perfection. I used salmon, rainbow trout, shrimp and clams, and it came out wonderfully. This is a keeper, Jenn, just like every other recipe I have used from your collection. Thank you!

    • — Jackie on February 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Wouldn’t go through all the expense of making it again..I wanted to love it but lacked flavor for me

    • — Sherry Cummins on February 13, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Longtime recipe-copier and just generally obsessed reader ☺️. I’ve made your cioppino twice before and both times were a hit. Is it best to make the soup broth the day of? I was considering cutting down on prep time by cooking everything but the fish the day before. Thoughts?

    • — Callie on February 11, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Callie, Totally fine to do everything but the fish the day before – it will likely taste even better. Glad you enjoy the recipes! 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 11, 2022
      • Reply
  • My husband said it best. “This is restaurant quality cioppino!” I have to agree with him. This was such a flavorful dish. I cut the clam sauce in half to reduce the sodium in the dish.

    I did follow the recipe as written and found that cooking the shrimp 5 minutes was way too long. They were definitely over done and had a rubbery texture. The next time, I will opt for about 2-3 minutes instead as the shrimp will still cook in the broth for a bit. AI did use fresh not frozen medium sized shrimp. I think the smaller size probably had a lot to do with it as well.

    Overall, this is a keeper. Thank you Jen! I love your recipes!

    • — Melanie O on January 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • Look no further for a cioppino recipe- this is THE one! Delicious, full of flavor and relatively easy to make, it is great for entertaining because you can prep it all beforehand. I used cod, shrimp, little neck clams and stone crab because thats what was fresh at the seafood counter. Served with gluten free garlic bread and a salad and received rave reviews.

    • — LC on January 1, 2022
    • Reply
  • Is this spicy? If I don’t like spicy food, would you recommend omitting the red pepper flakes completely or just reducing it? I don’t want to sacrifice the flavor! Thank you!

    • — Jamie on December 10, 2021
    • Reply
    • It’s really not spicy, but feel free to cut the red pepper flakes in half or just omit them if you’re really sensitive to heat. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • I first had Cioppino in NorCal about ten years ago. Always look for it on menus, but not easy on the East Coast. No more! I made this and it was outstanding! Substituted pan seared scallops for the clams. Was outstanding. Thanks so much for making me a better cook! Jay

    • — Jay on December 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe and it is a favourite for special occasions. I have a dinner guest coming over who is allergic to butter. What would you suggest? Should I prepare her bowl separately?
    Your expertise is appreciated!

    • — Loree Lane on November 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Loree, I would just add the shrimp and clams to the stew and at the end and add the butter after you’ve taken a portion out for your dairy allergic guest. (You could drizzle a little olive oil over hers if you’d like.) Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • Amazing! Beautiful flavours. Opted for mussels, haddock and scallops (shellfish allergy) and this turned out beautiful and tasty. Thanks Jen 💜

    • — Lianne on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Turned out great! I was a bit a confused at the part where it said to return to a simmer. I’m a novice when it comes to cooking, so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to increase the heat to get it bubbling again and then decrease the heat to keep it at a simmer OR if I was just supposed to wait it out? Whatever I did must have been fine because it tasted great and got props from my bf!

    • — Diana on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad it turned out well! If the mixture doesn’t start to simmer again shortly after you put an additional ingredient, you can increase the heat slightly to help bring it to a simmer. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on November 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • A lovely, elegant dish – came together quickly. Packed full of flavour!
    LMRM

    • — Lorraine Rossi Marier on November 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello! Really excited to make this but can’t find clam juice where I live. What would be the best substitute without having to make homemade stock?

    • — Selina on October 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Selina, I haven’t tried it, but I suspect you could get away with replacing the clam juice with vegetable broth. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on October 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • I’m going to make this tonight for my husband’s birthday. I want to add scallops too as that is one of his favorites. Should I cook it separate in the oven or should I cook in the broth? What would be the appropriate amount of time to cook it? Thank you.

    • — Chris on August 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Chris, I would cook them with the fish in the oven; the cook time should be about the same. Happy birthday to your husband!

      • — Jenn on August 23, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thank you!

        • — Chris on August 23, 2021
        • Reply

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