Ina Garten’s authentic Cioppino is outrageously good and truthfully, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Cioppino, a classic tomato-based seafood stew loaded with shrimp, cod, mussels, scallops and clams, is a healthy stew (or soup) that’s surprisingly easy to whip up in just about an hour. San Francisco is where Cioppino was invented way back in the 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen would share the day’s catch with other fishermen who came home empty handed. This famous soup was also commonly cooked on boats while out at sea, as well as in fisherman’s homes long before it made it’s way to restaurants along the famous San Francisco wharf.
Nunzio and Rose Alioto
The first restaurant that helped make Cioppino famous was Aliotos. In 1925 Nunzio Alioto, an Italian immigrant, set up a stall at #8 Fisherman’s Wharf to sell lunchtime snacks to the Italian workers. His business quickly grew, and by 1932 he had constructed the first building at the historic corner of Taylor and Jefferson, by combining the fish stand with a seafood bar specializing in shrimp cocktails and steamed fresh crab. Nunzio passed away unexpectedly and “Nonna” Rose, his widow, and her three children, began running the stand. In doing so, Rose became the first woman to work on the wharf. By 1938 she had installed a kitchen in the original structure and officially opened Alioto’s Restaurant.
It’s been said that Rose used to put a bib around her son before eating Cioppino and say, “if it doesn’t splatter on your shirt, you aren’t doing it right.” Nothing could be further from the truth, this irresistible seafood stew is notorious for splattering while you eat it and mop up all it’s delicious broth. It’s a risk worth taking, if you ask me.
Cioppino vs. Bouillabaisse
Other cultures have a version of Cioppino, including Italy’s neighbor, France, where their “fisherman’s stew” is known as bouillabaisse. Cioppino is Italian in nature with a purely tomato-based broth, where bouillabaisse is French, and has the addition of saffron to it’s fish stock-based broth with chopped tomatoes added in.
Cioppino Seafood Stew
- 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups fennel, white part only, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves grated
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups good quality seafood or fish stock
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound cod fillets skin removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound sea scallops, halved crosswise
- 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
- 1 dozen littleneck clams
- 1 Tablespoon Pernod
- 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- Step 1 In a Dutch oven add the olive oil and place over medium heat. When hot but not smoking, add the fennel and onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Step 2 Add the garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, stock, wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Step 3 Next, add the the cod, followed by the shrimp, scallops, and finally the mussels. Do not stir. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes, until the seafood is cooked and the shellfish open.
- Step 4 Stir in the Pernod. Cover and set aside for a few minutes for the flavors to blend. Discard any shellfish that have not opened.
- Step 5 To serve, ladle the soup into large, shallow bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley. And don’t forget the bread for sopping!