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Cioppino, Sacha Served What

Cioppino is a classic Italian-American stew, filled with fresh fish and seafood cooked in a delicious and flavorful broth.

This is one of those items that I’ll always order if I see it on a menu. Every time. Cioppino is one of my favorite foods, and even though it’s a hot stew, you can eat it at any time of year! It’s extremely fresh tasting, and made with a delicious, luscious broth that I could drink on its own.

There are two options for the broth:

  1. Making a homemade seafood stock.
  2. Using a store-bought seafood stock.

Both are absolutely wonderful, but obviously making your own stock will elevate your soup even more. It’s a labor of love, but for me, it’s 100% wort it! I include instructions for both methods.

To note: The homemade seafood stock is made with store-bought fish stock, for even more flavor, instead of using water as the base. Also, the homemade seafood stock contains tomato paste. So when making the Cioppino, there is no need to add tomato paste to the broth, since it’s already in the stock. However, if choosing not to make the homemade seafood stock, you will need to use tomato paste in the broth for the stew.

Let’s Talk About Fish and Seafood:

The fish and seafood I chose for this recipe was based on what looked good at the fish market. You can also choose what’s looking best or what’s available. If there are no lobster tails, get crab and use the shells from that, or double up on the shrimp. If the Chilean sea bass doesn’t look too good, cod will work instead. If you don’t love clams, use mussels.

My Cioppino recipe calls for 5 different types of fish and seafood. However you can always use 3 or 4 different types, if you don’t want to use all 5. Just supplement the amount you’re missing with extra fish or seafood that you’re choosing to use. For instance, if you don’t want to use bay scallops, get extra shrimp or clams.

Cioppino, Sacha Served What

Ingredient Notes:

  • Saffron – If you can’t find saffron threads, use 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon paprika (for a 2 person serving).
  • Crushed Tomatoes – I recommend crushed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes. If you can’t find crushed, use diced tomatoes, but crush them up in a bowl with a fork before adding them to the soup.
  • Bay Leaf – Fresh or dried works here.
  • Manila Clams – Littleneck clams work as well, but they will need to be cooked for a little longer before adding the rest of the seafood. You can also use mussels here instead. Clean and de-beard them, if they are not de-bearded already.
  • Chilean Sea Bass – This is my preferred fish for this recipe, because if it overcooks it doesn’t get tough, it remains soft. However you can also use cod, snapper, grouper, or halibut.
  • Lobster Tail – You can also use lobster claws and their shells, if you prefer. Substitute 4 claws per lobster tail. Or you can use extra shrimp (in their shells) or substitute lobster with crab (in their shells if making the Homemade Seafood Stock).
  • Shrimp – If you don’t want to use shrimp, you can use extra lobster or crab with their shells (if making the Homemade Seafood Stock).
  • Bay Scallops – You can substitute sea scallops if you prefer. Just cut them in half before cooking and remove the adductor muscles.
  • Dill – You can also use fresh chives or chopped parsley.
Cioppino, Sacha Served What


5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Additional Time For Homemade Stock 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Fusion, Italian
Servings 2 entree portions


  • 1 Fine Mesh Sieve if making Homemade Seafood Stock


For the Soup:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion diced small
  • ½ large fennel trimmed and diced small
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Saffron big pinch
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste only if using store-bought seafood stock
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • Homemade Seafood Stock recipe below (use 1 quart store-bought seafood stock if not making your own)
  • ½ 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ½ lb. manila clams scrubbed clean and soaked in saltwater for 15 minutes, then drained
  • ½ lb. Chilean sea bass
  • 1 lobster tail, in shell shell removed and reserved for homemade stock, tail cut in half lengthwise
  • 6 large shell-on shrimp shells removed and reserved for homemade stock, and deveined
  • ¼ lb. bay scallops
  • Fresh dill as garnish
  • Toasted or Grilled Bread for dipping

For the Homemade Stock:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lobster tail shell cut in half
  • 6 large shrimp shells broken into pieces
  • ½ yellow onion diced small
  • ½ large fennel trimmed and diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled, and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1 quart fish stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns


For the Soup:

  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, fennel, and a big pinch of Kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until translucent (lower the heat and add a splash of water if browning too quickly).
  • Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for 30 seconds. Then add red pepper flakes and saffron (and 1 tablespoon tomato paste if not making your own stock) and cook, stirring often, for another 30 seconds.
  • Add white wine and cook, scraping any brown spots from the bottom of the pot, until reduced by half.
  • Add stock, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook for 30 minutes, until slightly thickened, skimming any fat from the top. Taste and season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (the broth needs to be seasoned before the fish is added).
  • Add clams and cook until most of the clams have opened, 2 minutes. Add the sea bass, lobster, shrimp, and bay scallops and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Taste and season again with Kosher salt and freshy ground black pepper, if needed.
  • Serve immediately, sprinkled with dill.

For the Homemade Stock:

  • Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add lobster and shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  • Add another drizzle of olive oil, onions, fennel, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 more minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant and darkened in color.
  • Add white wine, fish stock, water, bay leaf, thyme, and black peppercorns and bring to a gentle simmer. Turn heat to low and simmer for 35 minutes, skimming any foam that appears from the top.
  • Strain stock through a fine mesh sieve, reserving for Cioppino.


Seafood Stock can be made up to 5 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
Cioppino can be made ahead of time as well:
  1. Either make the broth up to the step where the seafood is added and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Bring broth to a boil, season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and continue by cooking the seafood. 
  2. Or cook seafood in the broth, per the recipe, and remove with a slotted spoon once cooked. Store seafood and broth separately in airtight containers for up to 1 day. Reheat by bringing broth to a boil, adding seafood, and cooking until warmed through 30 seconds to 1 minute. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
Keyword Christmas, Fish, holiday, seafood, soup, special occasion
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Reader Interactions


  1. Eva Ginsberg says

    5 stars
    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make these wholesome and healthy seafood stews!

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