Californian Cioppino fish soup 🦀🐟

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, here’s my mother’s Californian Cioppino fish soup recipe!

This wonderful recipe is pretty versatile and can be served as a spicy pasta sauce, a stew or a soup.

This Cioppino recipe originates from the harbour in San Fransico where the Italian fishermen would combine whatever fish they had left, with fresh hebs and vegetables.

For fresh fish it’s best to pop down to your local market or fishmonger, but frozen fish can work too.

You will need:

  • 7 fresh crab claws*; cooked in salty water for 8 minutes; cracked open and the cooked flesh set aside.
  • 10 mussles, scrubbed and de-bearded
  • 6 clams, scrubbed
  • 6 large prawns in the shell, cut down the middle of the back and the black vein removed
  • 6 scallops
  • 230 grams sliced calamari
  • 230 grams fresh, firm white fish; cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and cut into thirds
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red bell pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb cut into thirds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (very spicy!)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 800 grams long Italian tomatoes (San Marzano); wizzed to a pulp
  • 1 handful of basil leaves
  • 1 handful of chopped flat leafed parsley
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • White wine
  • Fish stock / fish stock cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly groud pepper to taste
  • Crusty Italian ciabatta bread, sliced, toasted and prepared with garlic and olive oil


  1. Start by preparing the crab* meat and remember this is quite a fiddly business!
  2. Clean the clams and mussles thoroughly.
  3. Put the prawns, sliced calamari and white fish in a bowl.
  4. In a large cassarol/saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and heat the crushed cloves of garlic for one minute whilst stiring all the time.
  5. Add the chopped onion, fennel, red bell pepper, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Season to taste.
  6. Saute for 2 minutes, until the onion is soft.
  7. Over medium heat, add the tomatoes and cook together until the sauce thickens
  8. Add the clams and mussels to the pan and cook for 2 minutes
  9. Next add the fish, scallops, shrimps, calamari and prawns. cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Add the cooked crab, stir and cook for another 5 minutes
  11. Check to see if the clams and mussels have opened and discard any which have not!
  12. If you wish to serve the Cioppino as a soup, add white wine and fish stock in equal measures (just use fish stock cubes and hot water), and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  13. To thicken the soup, just scoop out the fish, add 3 diced potatoes, boil it on high heat for 10 mins, wizz it up with a hand mixer to make a smooth texture and then put the fish back in!
  14. Serve your Cioppino soup as a pasta dish or a stew served with grilled, garlic ciabatta bread.
Tip for the crab* Using the crab claws makes this recipe very fiddly but the crab does actually give a very good bouillon for the soup. So if you want to simplify the recipe, feel free to leave out the crab!
cioppino IMG_2564

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