Cioppino: The Best Fish Soup I know

Ahh Spring. The time time when a young man’s fancy turns to fish!Of course I could have said,  “Ahhh, winter, spring, summer, fall, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The time when a young man’s fancy turns to fish”.

At least this young man. While it’s true that I am not technically a young man. But that would be rude to bring up. So we won’t go there alright?

Because I want to talk Cioppino.

You probably know that Cioppino is a San Francisco tradition. It’s a flavorful fish stew in a slightly spicy tomato broth. It (supposedly) originated in the city’s Italian North Beach neighborhood a hundred or more years ago. This seafood-based soup can be made with any combination of seafood and fish you like. But I personally believe it must contain at least one variety of shellfish.

The recipe I use you’ll find below. It originated with the CIA Greystone. But honestly I just use it as a road map. Cioppino is one of those soulful pots of goodness that tells you where it wants to go as you cook.

Don’t forget to make a big pot. Because it’s a communal meal. Best served among friends with great sourdough bread, plenty of napkins and extra bowls for all those shells. Oh, and wine. Don’t forget the wine. My brother Grant chose to pair this Cioppino with  Four Vines “The Sophisticate” Zinfandel Sonoma County 2009. 

So pull up a chair, bowl and glass and let your fancy turn to fish. GREG

Cioppino serves CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1/2 c olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 4 t garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped, washed, dried & roughly chopped
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 t fresh oregano leaves, minced
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 2 t kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 t black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored, trimmed peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded & chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 3 c dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 c clam juice
  • 18 clams
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 lb firm white fish, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 lb salmon, cut into bite-size piece
  • 8 oz large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 8 oz scallops, cut into 1/2‑inch pieces
  • 8 oz calamri rings
  • 1/4 c parsley, chopped
  • 2 T fresh basil leaves, chopped


Wine Pairing

Four Vines “The Sophisticate” Zinfandel 

Grant Henry

Price $18

Pairs well with barbecue, beef, cheese, duck, grilled meats, hamburgers, pizza, pork, sausage, spicy foods.


In a heavy bottomed soup pot set over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and leeks and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add thyme oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and fennel. Continue cooking another 4 minutes. Add the green pepper, celery and carrot, saute about 4 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, stirring until it begins to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to high and add 2 cups wine. Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Reduce heat to medium-high. Simmer and reduce, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes with the juice, clam juice, and Worcestershire. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Then, using an immersion blender, roughly puree the soup base. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. You may make the cioppino ahead to this point. Store refrigerated up to 3 days.

In a large skillet with a cover set over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 cup white wine. Add the clams, cover and steam. shaking the skillet occasionally, until most of the clams open, about 6 minutes. Discard any unopened clams. Move the open clams to a plate and set aside in a warm place. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth straight into the cioppino base. Bring the base to a simmer. add the fish and shrimp to the pot, stirring to combine. Once the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the scallops, calamari, cooked clams (with or without the shells as you see fit) and chopped parsley. Simmer about 1 more minute.

Ladle the cioppino into warm shallow bowls, Garnish with basil. Serve warm.

Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network and was named one of The LA Weekly’s 5 favorite podcasts for food lovers.


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  • Look for Greg’s book Savory Pies coming Nov 2012, from Ulysses Press