Last night I made a large pot of Cioppino for a group of 10+ for dinner at my house. For those of you living on the East Coast who have never heard of Cioppino, it’s an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. Italian fisherman who settled in the North Beach neighborhood developed this dish from the idea of cooking the leftovers from the day’s catch in a tomato and wine based broth. It’s commonly served with toasted sourdough and a Caesar salad – which is exactly what I did!
The recipe I used was based on this one from the November 1997 issue of Bon Appetit. I changed the proportions a little because I was making it for 10-12 people and used different fish than suggested, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 large onions
- 4 large celery stalks
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine (I used a California Meritage)
- 3 TB red wine vinegar
- 3 6.5 oz cans of chopped clams in their juices
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch of allspice
- pinch of cinnamon
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup white wine (I used Pinot Blanc)
- 1 lb of Prince Edward Island mussels
- 1 lb of cod (about 3 fillets), cut into 1-inch pieces (cut around the tiny bones)
- 12 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined*
- 12 oz bay scallops
*I purchased all the fish yesterday at my favorite gourmet grocer, Falletti Foods. The butcher will clean the shrimp for you if you ask (and if they don’t already have cleaned shrimp ready), but you will still need to chop it into bite size pieces before throwing it in the pot. I opted to get smaller, cleaned shrimp that were bore bite size and still full of flavor. These were perfect for the stew and I would recommend using them if you can find them.
- Using the pulse button on a food processor, chop the onions, celery, garlic and parsley. I did each separately so it didn’t turn to mush. Combine these four ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl (or tupper ware of your low on bowls and trying to save them for the actual meal – like me), combine the red wine, red wine vinegar, 3 cans of clams and their juices, rosemary, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, cinnamon and allspice. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a LARGE stock pot. I’m talking like 12 inches tall… the largest pot you own.
- Add the onion, celery, garlic and parsley and cook over medium-high heat until soft, about 8 minutes.
- Add the crushed and diced tomatoes and their juices and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
- Add the bowl of the red wine/clam/spice mixture and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice the sourdough and preheat the oven to 300. Spray the bread with some olive oil and toast in the oven about 10 minutes before serving the Cioppino.
- Also meanwhile, cut the cod if you haven’t already. You can also start to prepare the croutons for the Caesar salad if you’re making that and following my recipe (highly recommended).
- Once the broth has simmered for 30 minutes, add the water, white wine and mussels. Simmer until the mussels begin to open, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add the cod, shrimp and scallops and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until fully cooked through.
- Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted sourdough and Caesar salad.
I wouldn’t change a thing about this if I made it again (except maybe the portions if it was for a smaller group) – which I will! The flavors in the base were so harmonious with each other. I was apprehensive about the inclusion of cinnamon and allspice, but I think those were flavor elements that contributed most to the stew. I also loved the use of the canned clams, which is also something I was apprehensive about (canned clams? ew.), but I loved the texture it gave to the stew. The addition of the bay scallops were delicious, and cod is the perfect light fish for this stew. I think seabass (as the original recipe suggested) would have been too hearty, and also too expensive. Be warned, this isn’t a cheap dish to make! But if your friends chip in with wine, appetizers, dessert and maybe even a little cash it will all round out.
I served the Cioppino with a selection of California and Oregon Pinot Noir and California Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The white wines went perfectly, softening the spice with their rich and fruity flavors. Pinot Noir is also perfect for Cioppino because you don’t want to pair it with anything that is too rich or full-bodied that will compete with the flavors of the seafood in the stew.
As a side note, I just had a bowl of leftovers for lunch and it’s even better the next day!