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After trying numerous cioppino in San Francisco my wife and I decided to try our hand at making it at home.
You can prep the seafood while the vegetables are softening or the broth is cooking, so it comes together very easily.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cooking Time: 40 minutes
- Serves: 4–6, generously
- 1 large onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1–2 fresh diced tomatoes, or 3–4 roma plum tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1–2 jalapeños (optional, if you want it spicier, which you do)
Broth and Spices
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 1–2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- ground black pepper
- fresh basil leaves for garnish
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound live mussels
- 1 pound small clams
- 1 pound sturdy white fish (cod is excellent)
- 1 can crab meat
- calamari rings
From what we gathered during our cioppino scouting trip, everyone who makes cioppino makes it a little differently. You can mix up various kinds of seafood, try other vegetables, change up the spices. It’s a very forgiving dish. Ours is an amalgam of the best cioppinos we’ve tried.
- Chop the onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeño if you like it spicy, and sautée on high in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven until the onions are translucent and the peppers have softened a bit.
While the vegetables are cooking, mince a lot of garlic and add it to the pot just long enough to brown it a little and give it that nice nutty flavor. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Stir often with a nice sturdy wooden spoon.
- Chop up the tomatoes and add them, along with two cans of crushed tomatoes to the pot or dutch oven. Add the dried and ground spices, saving the basil for the end.
- Simmer the broth for a while to cook the tomato sauce a bit. Once it’s nice and hot, and the color turns a little deeper red, add two cups (eh, about half a bottle) of a dry white wine. Don’t use cooking wine – use something you’d actually drink. You don’t have to go high-end, but the wine will contribute a lot of flavor to the finished product. I used a chardonnay from Napa, figuring I’d keep it local to the region.
The seafood will water-down the broth a little as it releases some liquid during cooking, so don’t worry about it thickening up as it cooks.
- While the broth is cooking, prepare your seafood. The market we bought our shellfish and seafood at didn’t have calamari, but they did have baby octopus, which I grilled before cutting up into the cioppino. It was the only misstep in this recipe, and I wouldn’t recommend adding it to the dish unless you really like rubbery baby octopus. It could be that I just didn’t cook it properly. I cut off the heads and discarded them (Amanda took a photo of the pile of heads).
- Cut up the white fish (the cod held up really well, and was the best thing in our cioppino), peel and devein the shrimp, and otherwise get the seafood ready to go. Add it to the pot, stirring it gently just to get it covered by the broth. Let it simmer on medium-low (so it’s not splashing or bubbling) for 15–20 minutes or until the mussels and clams have opened.
After simmering the seafood, dish into large bowls and garnish with fresh basil. Serve with some crusty garlic bread and a glass of wine (red or white, both go very well with cioppino).