“Cioppino” is an easy to prepare healthy and yummy soup/stew dish with a tomato base and lots of the best seafood you can afford.
It is said to have been conceived in San Francisco during the late 1800’s by Northern Italian immigrants and reputed to have been first served by Nunzio Alioto at Alioto’s #8 fish stand in San Francisco in 1925.
The fishermen of the time, including Nunzio Alioto, likely adapted the dish from their regional Italian dishes such as Buridda from Liguria or the Tuscan soup Cacciucco. Indeed, all along the coast from Northern Italy to Portugal, you’ll find regional variations of this dish.
Alioto’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf is where I first enjoyed Cioppino, but certainly not my last. When in the Bay Area, my wife and I would always find time to dine there. A romantic late lunch at one of their tables looking out over the Golden Gate bridge. Near Perfection!
As I mentioned in the Tomato Soup Base posting, Alioto’s is a great landmark dining spot on the Fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re in the area and don’t mind touristy places, we highly recommend you visit. Be sure and reserve a table with a view.
Interestingly enough, when you careen through the Alioto’s online menu you don’t see this iconic dish, but instead you’ll see Seafood Bouillabaisse. This is likely the original Cioppino dressed up with some additional herbs and a dab of aioli.
To me the best part of this dish is having a really good sour dough bread for dipping in the soup. I can make a decent sour dough bread, but it doesn’t have that special San Francisco sour taste.
The recipe is simple to prepare and makes for a lovely meal. As I mentioned in the post heading, the Cioppino we’re preparing today is ” of the Swedish Style”. Fresh seafood is available here in the South of Sweden, but not in the variety as seen in many North American markets. More importantly, what we do have is very expensive compared to prices in the US. As an example, at the time of writing, a kilo (2.2 pounds) of fresh farm raised Norwegian salmon sells for about $17.75/pound and frozen is about $11.00/pound. So we’re using frozen. Fresh shrimp is about $24.00/pound and scallops are even higher, so again – frozen. So now you can see why I say “of the Swedish Style”, FROZEN!
Also, should you wish to lower the cost, just use one or two types of seafood and frozen is just fine. Good crusty sourdough bread and a good hearty white or red wine make for a great meal.
About 45 minutes before serving, start warming the Tomato Soup Base (you’ve already prepared) over a low heat .
TIP! If preparing the base for Cioppino prior to serving, make it a day or two ahead to infuse the flavor. It can be keep in the fridge for a good five days. Also, when using frozen pre-made base, remove it from the freezer at least a day prior to preparing your Cioppino. In a rush, microwave it right out of the freezer! Set your microwave on a thaw setting for the required amount and then transfer it to your pot.
Once you have a nice simmer going, continue until the base is reduced to the desired consistency. It should have a lovely aroma at this point. I like to simmer it down so it’s a bit thicker, but some like more soupy. It’s your choice. If you need to thin the base, I’d suggest adding a bit more fish stock.
OK, so the bread is made (or purchased), the salad is ready to toss and the base is simmering. It’s time to get everyone headed toward the table as the seafood cooks fast. As different seafood cooks a different temps, the order we put them in the Cioppino varies. I always place fresh shell fish (claims & mussels) in first. Once they begin to open (about 8-10 minutes) toss in the white fish and give a stir to mix, then the salmon. After about a minute, toss in the peeled raw shrimp (prawns) and cook a couple of more minutes. It’s ready when the shrimp are just starting to become opaque. Remember the seafood will continue to cook once you remove it from the heat, so take it off early so you don’t overcook. Of course, give one of those shrimp a taste!
Place the cioppino in a warmed tureen and garnish with the chopped parsley. Time to eat! Serve with hot sauces of your choice. My favorite is “Texas Pete” hot sauce (sorry my Swedish friends, I’ve not seen it here) or Sriracha. Don’t forget the bread for dipping.
Southern Variation: Want to try a Cajun version? Just add about a pound of Boudin, Andouille or if you want to kick up the heat try Chorizo sausage. Fresh is best, but try what you have available. For our Swedish readers, isterband korv would be similar to Boudin sausage. If you like bacon, use chopped thick bacon (or pancetta) as the fat of choice and just leave the bacon in.
As my son always says, “Everything’s better with bacon!”
Thanks for reading and happy eating. And remember, comments (below) are greatly appreciated.
Cioppino - In the Swedish Style
This is a easy and healthy soup/stew that's great for lunch or serve it loaded with seafood and serve as a main coarse. Great served with a crusty fresh artisan bread for mopping up the sauce. The amount and type of seafood is a personal preference. Adjust quantities of seafood to suit your taste and budget. Fresh is wonderful, frozen is fine (thawed). This is a very low fat dish!!!!!
- 5 cups (12 dl) of Tomato Soup Base thawed
- 1/2 pound (227g) of halibut or other firm white fish, cut to 1" (25mm) chunks
- 1/2 pound (227g) of Salmon or fish of choice, cut to 1" (25mm) chunks
- 24 raw peeled shrimp (or prawns)
- 18 - 24 claims of choice
- 12 scallops
- 6 stone crab claws or raw langoustine tails
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 handful of flat leave parsley chopped
- Lemon for garnish
Prepare or thaw out Tomato Soup Base and warm to a brisk simmer.
Clean the shellfish with a brush and clean cold water.
Place the shellfish in the simmering base until they open. This should take 8 –12 minutes.
Then add the crab leg for a minute.
Next add the fish (cut into 1” chunks), cook one minute
Put in the peeled prawns (raw).
When the prawns look almost done (2 minutes) remove from heat and serve.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
The seafood will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat.
If using frozen seafood defrost in the refrigerator the night before cooking.
Remember the seafood will impart saltiness, so watch your salt.
Adapted from Nunzio Alioto Cioppino Recipe