Tasty Tuesday – Zuppa di Pesca



Cioppino is a grand San Francisco seafood dish modeled on the traditional Italian “Zuppa di Pesca” (Soup of Seafood) prepared as village specialities along its coasts, some of which bore names that sounded like “Cioppino”.  San Francisco’s fishermen have been Italian and Portuguese for generations; this recipe comes from their traditions, the  restaurateurs of San Francisco and the wonderful variety and quality of seafood that the coastal waters there provide.

Note that Cioppino is typically served with the shellfish still in their shells, making for somewhat messy eating. It’s a lot of fun for an informal gathering. Have plenty of napkins available and don’t wear white.




  • 3 pounds halibut, sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into inch-long cubes
  • 1 large (2 lb or more) cooked Dungeness crab (hard shell) or a cooked lobster
  • 1 pound (or more) of large shrimp
  • 2 pounds little neck clams, mussels, or oysters or all three


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 large green bell pepper)
  • 3 coves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 28 ounce can tomatoes
  • Broth from the mollusks
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cups fish or shellfish stock
  • An herb bouquet of bay leaf, parsley, and basil wrapped in a layer of cheesecloth and secured with kitchen string
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley for garnish

Optional seasonings: a dash of Tabasco sauce and or Worcestershire sauce

Steam mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters) in a small amount of water (about a cup) until they just open. Set aside. Strain and reserve the cooking broth.

If using crab, removed the crab legs from the body and use a nut cracker to crack the shells so that the meat can be easily removed once it is served (leave the meat in the shell). Break the body in half, and then cut each half again into either halves or thirds. Keep the top shell of the crab for making stock.

If you are using lobster, cut the tail in pieces and reserve the body and legs for making stock.

Note you can use prepared fish or shellfish stock, or you can make your own. If you are not making your own stock, you can discard the crab top shell or lobster body. If prepared shellfish stock is not available, you can combine some prepared fish stock (available at many markets, including Trader Joe’s) with clam juice.

Split the shrimp shells down the back and remove the black vein.  The easiest way to do this, without removing the shell, is to lay the shrimp on its side and insert a small knife into the large end of the shrimp, with the blade pointing outward from the back (away from the shrimp and your hands). Once you have split the shrimp shells, you can turn the knife toward the shrimp, and cut in a little to find the black vein. Pull out the vein as much as you can. You can probably also use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the backs of the shrimp.

Alternatively, you can shell the shrimps and devein them. Shell-on imparts more flavor; shell-off is easier to eat.

In a deep 8-quart covered pot, sauté onions and green pepper on medium heat in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, broth from the mollusks, red wine, tomato juice, fish or shellfish stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove herb bouquet. Taste and correct seasoning.

Add the fish and cook, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the steamed mollusks, crabmeat, and shrimp. Heat just until shrimp are cooked (just 2-3 minutes, until they are bright pink). Do not overcook.

Serve in large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with crusty French or Italian bread and a robust red wine. Have plenty of napkins available, a few extra bowls for the shells, and nut crackers and tiny forks for the crab.

Serves 8.




  1. Vic says:

    I absolutely love seafood! The rest of the fam never allows me to get it! one time, we enjoyed joe's crab shack but i'd like to eat this stuff everyday of the week! this is amazing! i really would love to try this here at home!!!! u rock woman! thank you for the full details:) have a yummy tuesday—xoxo

    • Patty says:

      Hey pretty lady!

      Please try this! It's always reminded me of Puttanesca (Whore's Spaghetti) in a way because anything available is just added to the mix at the time of cooking. When I lived in San Fran as a kid, I remember the fishermen at the wharf would make huge pots and all throw in some of their daily catch to the Cioppino at the end of the day; that was when Fisherman's Wharf was a lot more rustic, wild & wooly than it is today.


  2. No. 7 says:

    I had cioppino on some night during my residency…it was all such a blur. What I do remember was that it was delicious and that I wanted to make it at home. Thanks for the reminder and the recipe 🙂 If you're ever in Brunswick, Maine try it out at Clementines. Yummy!

  3. No. 7 says:

    and p.s. – if you're ever in Brunswick, ME you'd better be there with me!

    • Patty says:

      At this very moment, allow me to, poetically, say this….

      If I EVER get outta here……I'm goin' to Kathmandu

      And then I will come see you!

  4. May says:

    Oh, my gosh! I want to eat dinner at YOUR house! This looks fabulous (and intimidating to a cooking slouch).

    • Patty says:

      May….my door is always open!

      Not intimidating at all! The best cooks don't measure, remember that. Grab a pot, a little of this & that, taste, add more spice and serve! That's what is wonderful about a recipe like this….start with a few basics and get creative!!

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