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August 2, 2021

Cioppino or Seafood Soup – impressive crowd-pleaser.

Posted on June 15, 2020 by in seafood

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Cioppino or Seafood Soup

Cioppino or Seafood Soup – “an impressive crowd-pleaser” says Martha Steward. Yes, indeed Cioppino is a dish that will make jaws drop at your table. Dramatic with lots of wow elements. The color, the abundance of seafood and or course the aroma.

Cioppino or Seafood Soup is a Italian-American dish that originated in San-Francisco and was traditionally made from the catch of the day, which included crab, clams, prawns/shrimp, squid, mussels and fish. I wanted to make a classic bouillabaisse and in my search for a good recipe, I found this recipe. What is the difference between a cioppino and a bouillabaisse? Cioppino has a fragrant tomato base while bouillabaisse has a light fish stock base with a few tomatoes added to it. Bouillabaisse is also French in origin, characterized by the addition of saffron.

Ingredients for Cioppino

Of course I had to change the recipe. Firstly to give it my own stamp, but also to use what I had available. I had salmon leftover form a previous shoot, so I wanted to use that as my choice of fish. Secondly, we are in lock-down and we still had a ban on alcohol, so I had no wine. All I could find was non-alcoholic beer, which was great, because now I know it works just as well.

Here are a few important points.

1. Make sure all your seafood is prepped before you start. Once you start adding the seafood, it is literally minutes before you serve, so be well prepared.


2. Scrub your mussels and place in a bowl of cold water. Add 1-2 T flour and leave for 20 minutes or so. The mussels will not be impressed and in the process spew out all the sand that may still be in the shells. Rinse properly before you add them to the stew.

3. Cut the fish/salmon in bite-size chunks. The fish also go in last with the prawns as it takes literally a few minutes to cook.I prefer to shell my prawns, but the choice is yours.

4. Make sure your table is set before you start. Have lots of garlicky, toasted bread for the delicious broth.

5. Don’t forget the wet napkins at your table.

Cioppino or Seafood Soup

Cioppino or Seafood Soup

serves 4


80 ml /¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 large fennel bulb, chopped – keep the fronds for serving

3 – 4 garlic cloves – finely chopped

1 large green chili – finely chopped

15 ml / 1 T fennel seeds

2 bay leaves – I used fresh, but dried ones can also work

330 ml beer or 250 ml white wine

2 x 410 g cans chopped tomatoes

1 x 80 g tomato paste

1 liter / 4 cups vegetable stock

500 g mussels – I used about 800 g, because we love them so much

600 g prawns – deveined and shelled

400 g salmon or trout fillet, cut into 3 x 3 cm pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

5 – 10 ml sugar – optional

For serving your Cioppino or Seafood Soup

the fronds of the fennel

Garlicky Crusty toast for serving

Wedges of lemons

Cioppino or Seafood Soup


Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onion, chili, fennel, and garlic and over medium heat sauté until soft and slightly brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the bay leaves and fennel seeds and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes so that the fennel seeds can release their flavor.
Add the beer, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and adjust the season with salt, sugar and pepper. Simmer this sauce for 10-12 minute, stirring occasionally.
Now add the stock and bring back to a slow simmer. Simmer for 40 – 50 minutes, while you shell and devein the prawns and prepare the mussels and fish. Taste the sauce when it is down cooking and adjust the seasoning.
Turn up the heat and add ONLY the mussels. Put the lid on the pot and cook the mussels for 5 minutes until they just open up. Now add the prawns and the salmon/trout and cook for another 4-5 minutes. The salmon must just be slightly poached. Sprinkle some fennel fronds on top.
Take this pot of goodness straight from the stove to the table and serve with hot garlicky toasted bread Remove from heat and serve right from the pot with crusty bread for dipping.

Cioppino or Seafood Soup

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