Cioppino seafood stew served with crusty bread

Cioppino: San Francisco's seafood stew

Tori Mitchell

Contributing writer

If you’ve ever visited San Francisco, CA, I hope you took the opportunity to try the city’s famous dish, Cioppino. If you didn’t, or you’ve never been to San Fran, book a trip now, as this dish is reason enough to visit the city on the bay. While a full week would be wonderful, you really only need a long weekend in San Francisco if that’s all the time you have.

As you eagerly await the trip to your new favourite city, get in the mood by making this special dish at home. Cioppino is a type of seafood stew, made with a wide variety of seafood in a tomato and white wine broth complete with crusty bread to soak up the juices. It’s warm and savoury and the best upscale comfort food you could imagine.

Cioppino stew served with crispy baguette

The dish dates back to 1925 when an Italian immigrant, Nunzio Alioto, living in San Francisco created the dish to sell from a stall at Fisherman’s Wharf to workers at lunchtime. It was a huge success and by 1932 opened a restaurant to sell the dish.

Ever since then, Cioppino has become wildly popular around the city and is by far the best and most important thing to try on your travels to the city. Plan to try it in San Francisco at Sotto Mare, a small local spot that is packed every night because everyone knows theirs is the best in town. They serve a large portion for two, with a small twist from the original version, including pasta in the stew, the perfect addition.

For this recipe, feel free to make substitutions for the seafood. I prefer to use items that are easy to find in my local grocery store, but you can certainly use whatever seafood you’d like. It can include any combination of the following: mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, white fish, Dungeness crab legs, and calamari.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine 
  • 1 large can (800 g) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups seafood stock or vegetable stock
  • 150 g dried penne pasta
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 littleneck clams, scubbed
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed
  • 450 g shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 450 g white fish, skin removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 baguette


  1. 1
    Begin by heating the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they’re translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. 2
    Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. 3
    Next, add the dry white wine and boil until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  4. 4
    Add tomatoes, stock, water, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  5. 5
    Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the baguette into thick pieces, about 2-3 inches long. This will allow the bread to be crusty on the outside but soft on the inside.
  6. 6
    Once the oven has preheated, bake bread for 10-15 minutes depending on preferred crustiness.
  7. 7
    Add clams to simmering broth, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. 8
    Add the penne, stir, and cook for 3 minutes. Then add mussels, then shrimp, then the white fish. Do not stir at this point.
  9. 9
    Cook for 5 more minutes, or once all clams and mussels have opened and shrimp and fish is cooked through. Discard any unopened mussels and clams.
  10. 10
    Ladle soup into bowls and serve with baguette.

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Tori Mitchell

Author - Tori Mitchell

A travel blogger and freelance writer, Tori has lived in four states and explored 31. Her current home base is Nashville, TN. She loves exquisite food, beautiful scenery, hiking and camping and her puppies. Tori aims to help busy, full-time workers find time to explore the world, learn about the people we share the earth with, and taste delicious food along the way. 

Last Updated 31 October 2022

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