You don’t have to be a chef to make this recipe for the Barefoot Contessa’s authentic cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew loaded with shrimp, cod, mussels, and clams for a healthy soup and surprisingly easy dinner that goes from fridge to table in just about an hour.
Cioppino Seafood Stew Recipe
Fun fact. Back in the day I worked as a server (we called ourselves waitresses then) in the best seafood restaurant is Salt Lake City. It was the summer after graduating college and I was saving money for a trip to Europe. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a job, and even better, it’s where I met my husband.
I was a good waitress. Most of the time. But there was that one time I definitely was not, that dinner service I was carrying a tray loaded with three iron serving skillets atop china plates filled with hot-as-hell cioppino to be served to my table that was up the stairs and around that always tough-to-navigate corner.
As I rounded the corner, I felt it happening. The heavy platters saddled with those steamy pots of Italian fisherman’s stew slowly began to slide. I braced myself and tried to rebalance. It didn’t work. The platters of cioppino slid off the china plates. And then off the tray. And then directly into the lap of my hungry customer. It was a waterfall of tomato stew. My customer had been totally cioppinoed.
That poor guy was not one bit happy about it. But then who would be? And yes, his dry cleaning bill came out of my check.
Luckily that whole nightmare of an experience didn’t tarnish my love for cioppino. In fact, it inspired me to learn to make it at home. Safely at home.
Now, all these years later, I’ve found the recipe that matches the deliciousness I discovered with my first bowl of cioppino while visiting San Francisco. And it’s from one of my favorites, the Barefoot Contessa herself.
And seriously, it’s a quick-to-make recipe my friends, so don’t save it just for special occasions. Bookmark it for any night of the week.
This cioppino recipe comes from who I am sure is America’s most loved cookbook author, Ina Garten, and her newest cookbook Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks where she proves that home cooks like me can be pros in their own kitchens thanks to her easy, delicious recipes.
From breakfast to dinner to dessert, there are tons of recipes in this cookbook I marked up with my sticky notes like Farro Tabbouleh with Feta, to Chicken Marbella, to Triple Chocolate Loaf Cake.
But the healthful, chock-full of seafood cioppino is where my cravings landed, and in redemption to that poor man I spilled upon, is the recipe I’m sharing today.
What is Cioppino?
Like my dad who was born there (go Niners!), San Francisco is where cioppino was created way back in the 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen would share the day’s catch with other fishermen who came home empty handed. The Italian seafood stew is a grab bag of ingredients and can easily be adapted to what’s available.
Other cultures have a version of cioppino, including Italy’s neighbor, France, where their fisherman’s stew is known as bouillabaisse.
The differences between cioppino and bouillabaisse are few. Cioppino is Italian in nature with a purely tomato-based broth where bouillabaisse is French, and has the addition of saffron to it’s fish stock-based broth with chopped tomatoes added in.
What’s in This Cioppino Recipe?
The most beloved ingredients in cioppino are obviously the seafood. As to which seafood, that’s totally your choice and can include any combination of:
- meaty white fish such as cod or halibut
- calamari or squid
- shucked oysters
Ina keeps this seafood cioppino recipe simple by calling form shrimp, cod, scallops and mussels. I added clams too because we love them so.
In addition to your choice of seafood, here’s what else you’ll need to make this Italian seafood stew:
- Olive oil
- Yellow onion
- Fennel seeds
- Red pepper flakes
- Crushed tomatoes
- Seafood stock
- White wine
- Anise flavored liqueur
- Fresh parsley
How to Make Cioppino
The broth for this fisherman’s stew is incredibly easy to make, with canned crushed tomatoes, white wine, and seafood stock. I’ve found just one grocery store brand that makes seafood stock, so you could use clam juice, or make homemade seafood stock.
Freshly chopped fennel and dried fennel seeds pair with the garlic and onion to become your Italian-flavor builders.
After simmering the broth, add the seafood, then cover and simmer until the shellfish open. Be sure to toss any unopened clams or mussels.
And there you have it! Dinner is served. Don’t forget the sourdough for dipping, and please, don’t spill on any of your guests.
What Type of Liqueur Should I Use?
Ina calls for Pernod, an anise-flavored liqueur, to be added before serving. Pastis, ouzo, or sambuca may be substituted.
What’s the Best White Wine for Cioppino?
Any dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio, will work in this cioppino recipe. Use a white wine you’d happily drink, not one labeled as “cooking wine.”
Tips for Making Cioppino Seafood Stew
Scrub the shells then soak the mussels in a bowl of water with a few tablespoons of flour for 30 minutes, or so the mussels spew any sand that may be lurking in the shells. Nobody likes a mouthful of sand, except live mussels. Rinse them before adding to the stew.
I prefer a cioppino that’s easy to eat so I shell and remove the tails from my shrimp before cooking.
And while I LOVE crab, I don’t usually include it because it’s a mess to crack the shells after they’ve been soaked in that lush tomato broth. If you decide to use crab, I suggest you cut the legs in half lengthwise for your guests so the meat is easy to strip straight from the shell.
More Easy Soup Recipes You’ll Love
- Tortellini Soup with Artichokes
- Fish Chowder with Copper River Salmon
- Killer Beef and Three Bean Chili
- Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup
- Vegetarian Crockpot Lasagna Soup
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Cioppino Seafood Stew Recipe
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cups fennel bulb , white part only, cut into ½-inch dice
- 1 ½ cup yellow onion , 1 large, cut into ½-inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves , pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups seafood stock
- 1 ½ cups dry white wine , such as Pinot Grigio
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound cod fillets , skin removed, cut into 2-inch dice
- 1 pound large shrimp , peeled and deviened
- 1 pound sea scallops , halved crosswise
- 1 dozen mussels , scrubbed
- 1 dozen littleneck clams or other small clam
- 1 tablespoon anise flavored liqueur such as Pernod or Pastis
- 3 tablespoons parsley minced
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.
- Stir in the garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, stock, wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Add the seafood in the following order: first the cod, then the shrimp, scallops, and finally the mussels. Do not stir. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes until the seafood is cooked and the shellfish open.
- Stir in the liqueur, being careful not to break up the fish; cover and set aside for 3 minutes for the flavors to blend. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
- Ladle into large, shallow bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve with slices of sourdough baguette.
- To make this cioppino even faster to cook on weeknights or for an easy get together, prepare the soup base up to 2 days before, refrigerate, then reheat and add the seafood before serving.
- Recipe by Ina Garten, Cook Like a Pro. Reprinted by permission Clarkson Potter/Publishers.
More Seafood Recipe Ideas You’ll Want to Make Too
- Chicken, Crab and Andouille Sausage Gumbo Recipe
- How to Make the Best Steamed Clams
- Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Jambalaya
- Linguine con Vongole (Linguine with Clam Sauce)
- Grilled Lobster Tails with Smoked Paprika Butter
- Peel ‘n Eat Beer Steamed Shrimp
Get Ina Garten’s Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks here.
Who else loves the Barefoot Contessa? Share more recipes you love, and what you love about this one, in the comments below.
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What is the name of the seafood restaurant where you worked in Salt Lake City? I will be visiting in a couple weeks and I’d love to check it out!
It was Market Street Grill. Still around, but back then it was THE ONLY fine dining destination. Now there are so many!
I love Cioppino ! I would never put oysters in it. I think they take over the taste of any dish. Clams and crab, of course. Part of the experience is getting the sauce on your fingers. Wear a bib, eat some crusty bread, have some fun.
My husband and I loved this! I made with slightly different seafood combo. The fennel in the store was quite pathetic so I subbed celery and upped the fennel seed a touch and I would not ever use enough Pernod to justify purchase of a bottle. I’d read numerous recipes before seeing Ina’s and some had some orange zest so I did add that. This recipe is so adaptable, as is Ina. I figured she’d forgive the modifications. It was a “lick the bowl clean” broth.
So glad you both enjoyed it!
This recipe is phenomenal !! We loved it and our guest were more than pleased!! It is expensive but a real treat!!
We also used homemade seafood stock!
This easily fed six people. Served with rosemary ptarmigan bread toasted and buttered with ghee.
I’m glad you and your guests enjoyed Jodi!
How could you resist commenting on the addition of ptarmigan bread? Also. the recipe sounds good enough to correct “buttered with ghee” to be “glee”!
I made this soup for my sisters, we get together every so often and it was a hit. It’s so good I didn’t know that letting the base cook for 45 min it gives the soup a great taste. This became a favorite already
Made the sauce yesterday, it tastes a little bitter. Can I add a little sugar to the sauce?
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Yes you may!
This looks delicious! I’m going to try this tomorrow and impress my wife’s relatives.
By the way, I think female servers are still called waitresses.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Thanks!! How did it go?
Wow! Made this for two friends last night and it was delicious! It was pretty (really?) spicy though, so perhaps I had some jet rocket chili flakes. Since I was only cooking for 3, I used much less seafood (1/2 lb halibut, 16 mussels and a bit less than a lb of shrimp), but still found the amount of broth to be right for me. Loved sopping it with bread and just eating it with a spoon! Not sure how this would serve 6? If I make for more will definitely increase the broth.
This is now my new go-to easy-but-impressive dish!
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
Thanks for Sharing Lisa! I am so glad this was a favorite for you.
I have been looking for a cioppino recipe for a long time! I first had this in Vegas at The Triple George restaurant 8 years ago and we go back every year for our anniversary. Once a year isn’t enough for this dish. This is spot on! Thank goodness ! I couldn’t find seafood stock at my local stores so I improvised with chicken stock and clam juice. Couldn’t tell the difference. I also used Lagastino, calamari, mussels, cod, shrimp.
Even here in Alaska, some of the seafood items were pricey or unavailable. Did locate some Prince William Sound side-stripe shrimp and local scallops but the mussels were hard to come by. Substituted salmon for the cod and threw in a couple King crab legs.The sambucca was a good subtitute for the pernod.
We used Alaskan side-striped shrimp and Kachemak Bay scallops and Prince
William Sound halibut , Alaskan king crab and clams…….and our Alaskan home canned tomatoes…extra delicious even though a long way from San Francisco…..
Love Ina. I’ve mad this several times on Xmas Eve-it’s great for the Feast of Seven Fishes. I’ve also sauteed an anchovy in the oil before adding onion and fennel-adds a nice depth of flavor. This is great served over linguine and tastes even better the next day. My issue is the soaking of clams and mussels in flour(some people also use cornstarch orcornmeal).It really doesn’t work(or work that well) The only thing that will reaaly get rid of sand is salt. Use coarse Kosher or sea salt. Make sure it’s coarse. Mussels disperse sand all the time and it’s because of the salt water they live in. I used to use flour and still had sand/grit issues. Got online and researched seafood and fishing websites-all say o use salt. Works great, Thanks.
Ah thanks for all the suggestions Gary! Your ideas all sound great and I’ll try your suggestion for the mussels and clams too.
Beyond this great Diet, tips are marvelous, that supports health conscious people like I eat fit while still enjoying yummy foods! These recipes are delicious I’ve tried them! and so simple to make! Great read!
I made my own fish stock which was amazing. I used snow crab, halibut, shrimp and clams and made everything exactly as the recipe showed plus added a teaspoons of dried oregano and fresh thyme. It turned out great! My husband said it was the best cioppino he’s ever had.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
That sounds absolutely wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Mary!
I followed this recipe almost exactly maybe a few extra crushed chillies and it was amazing. Here in Copperton, the seafood cost me close to eighty bucks though. I would totally make this again, this fed three and everyone loved it. Served it with rye grain bread.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
That is pricey seafood but I am sure glad that it was worth it! Thanks for your comment, Darrah!
love Ina too, thank you for sharing this, the kind of seafood I enjoy much more than someth9ing like whole fish
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
I agree! Thanks Sabrina!