Really Good Classic Seafood Cioppino

Last Updated on July 11, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

Cioppino is an incredibly flavourful tomato-based seafood soup. The best recipe is just the perfect amount of spicy. It is a light and healthy, brothy stew infused with dry white wine and loaded with mixed seafood. I love how it feels super special, but is a deceptively quick and easy recipe.

If you are a seafood lover like me, you’re going to go crazy over this seafood soup. The broth is superb – so packed with flavor. Light and brothy, this seafood soup recipe is perfect for warmer weather evenings.

I love this stew because it is brothy and light but still beautifully flavourful, with garlic, parsley and chili flakes packing a punch. 

Here are my top tips:

  1. To keep the quick-cooking seafood soft and tender, wait until the very end of the cooking time to add it so that it just cooks through. Clams, shrimp, and bits of salmon take only five minutes or less to cook and then it’ll still be perfectly moist when you ladle it into bowls.
  2. I like to borrow from Indian cooking wisdom and patiently let the onions cook fully to transparent and golden as the first step. This removes moisture, enhances the onion’s sweetness and concentrates the savoury flavour in the oil. Without a slow-simmered infusion of seafood flavour in the broth, we rely on this thoughtful layering of flavours to build a base that will knock your socks off.
  3. Season ingredients as you go for a soup that’s flavour bomb dot com. A pinch with the onions is key. Pre-salting the salmon also makes a huge difference.
  4. This is not a soup to keep simmering away. However, you can make it in advance up to the point of adding the seafood and just reheat the broth and continue right before you serve.

Seafood Cioppino Ingredients

I make use of most frozen, inexpensive seafood, thawed in the fridge overnight before using. The soup still tastes fancy despite being a freezer meal.

Oil and Butter: Why oil AND butter? The oil is a flavour carrier for the sauteed aromatics and can be heated to a higher temperature without scorching. The butter is a flavour of its own, and added toward the end, thickens and emulsifies the soup a little bit.

Clams: You can swap in mussels if you like, or just add more shrimp.

Fish: I honestly use frozen salmon portions for this and they are perfect. Swap in any other firm-flesh fish you have in your freezer (just nothing super thin and delicate or it will apart, but even that’s only an issue if you think it is). For example, try a firm white fish such as halibut, sea bass or cod.

Shrimp: I mostly use peeled, deveined shrimp that I buy frozen, but I had some cooked shrimp on hand so I popped that in instead. You can use the cheaper smaller shrimp for this and save your jumbo prawns for something else.

Broth: Use unsalted broth. I was very careful with salt measurements to make sure you get amazing results.

Wine: This adds another wonderful layer of flavour and a touch of acidity. Use more broth if you don’t want to use wine. (Note that the alcohol evaporates though!)

Clam juice: It comes in a small glass bottle and you can find it in the grocery store near the canned tuna. Clam juice is the liquid from steaming clams, and is not actually juice. Seafood stock or broth makes a great subtitution.

Herbs: I personally flavour my broth by adding in fresh parsley. Of course you can experiment and add in thyme, oregano, bay leaf, cilantro and even fennel.

This recipe is super versatile, and there are so many variations you can make of this. For example, try adding in different seafood such as scallops or various vegetables such as celery, potatoes. You can even give it a more creamy texture by adding in heavy cream.

The Only 5 Things to Know About Cooking Clams

LOVE clams? Me too! They are one of the easiest, tastiest, healthiest (loaded with iron and healthy fats) and quickest proteins you can make. Do you find them intimidating? You don’t have to. These things are basically all you need to know about cooking them:

  1. BUYING: Most grocery stores (even smaller and pretty basic ones) carry clams in netted bags on ice in the fish case. Ask the counter attendant how fresh they are – I use them within 3 days of the date they arrived at the store to ensure freshness.
  2. STORING: Keep clams super cold by filling a bowl with ice, placing the clams on top (still in their netted bag, or open it a bit if it’s a plastic bag) and place wet paper towels on top to keep them damp but let them breathe. Again, use them within 3 days from their harvest for best freshness. As long as they are fresh, they will smell like the sea and not distinctly fishy.
  3. PREPPING: Soak clams in a bowl of cold, salted water for 15 minutes while you prep other ingredients. As filter feeders, it’s super cool how they filter the water and spit out any sand inside their shells in the process.
  4. QUALITY CHECKING: If any clams are open, tap their shells. If they don’t close, they are not alive and should be discarded.
  5. COOKING: Cook clams until they pop open – it’s like a built in timer to let you know they’re done. Easy breezy.

All of the above also applies to mussels, too.

What to serve your seafood cioppino with:

I love to accompany seafood soup with a loaf of warm crusty bread and salted butter to mop up every last drop.

This recipe is also super yummy with my easy buttermilk drop biscuits.

In the summer, I also serve it with corn on the cob and a crisp green salad.

Other great seafood recipes

Seafood Cioppino

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Servings 4 people as a main or 6 as a side
Dinner
American, Italian

Ingredients
  

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion finely diced
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 large cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium tomato diced
  • cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • ¼ cup dry white or rose wine
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley packed, minced
  • 1 lb small clams
  • 8 oz salmon or other fish
  • 8 oz shelled raw shrimp or 6 oz cooked shrimp

Instructions
 

  • Soak clams in 1 litre of cold water mixed with 1 tbsp salt for 10 minutes to force them to release any grit.
  • Season salmon with ¼ tsp salt. Season shrimp with ¼ tsp of salt if using raw shrimp (the cooked kind has salt added).
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add onion and a ¼ tsp of salt; cook until translucent and soft, 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 2 minutes.
  • Add tomato and cook 2 minutes to until soften.
  • Stir in broth, clam juice, wine and 1 tsp more salt. Cover and bring to a simmer.
  • Add clams, fish and shrimp and cover pot again. Cook until clams open and fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in butter and parsley and serve right away.

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