Cioppino: Seafood Stew with Red Wine and Fennel

Cioppino: Seafood Stew with Red Wine and Fennel 1638 1653 Lynda Balslev

Winter is bowl-food season, which invites steaming vessels brimming with soups and stews and the promise to warm and nourish. Winter is also the season for Cioppino, when Dungeness crab is in season. This San Francisco shellfish stew originated in the 1800s when the Italian and Portuguese fishermen chopped up leftovers from their daily catches to make this robust and flavorful soup. Its name is derived from the Italian term ciuppin, which means to chop. Serve with Coldigrotta Venezia Giulia IGP Rosso.  

Serves 6 


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste 
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juices
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups medium-bodied red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1/2 pound littleneck clams or mussels
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled, deveined
6 to 12 large sea scallops
1 to 2 cooked Dungeness crabs, legs cracked, flesh removed from bodies
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish


Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine, and then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, wine, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or the sugar, if desired. 

Add the clams to the pot, cover and cook over medium heat until the shells open, about 5 minutes (discard any unopened clams). Add the shrimp and sea scallops, partially cover the pot, and cook until the shellfish are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the crab legs and crabmeat and continue to cook until thoroughly heated. 

Ladle the stew into warm serving bowls and garnish with parsley. Serve with crusty baguette or garlic bread.

Lynda Balslev is an award winning writer, recipe developer, and cookbook author currently based in the San Francisco Bay area. She studied cooking in Paris and remained in Europe for 16 years, while living in Switzerland, England, and Denmark, where she learned that the best way to immerse oneself in a new culture was at the kitchen table. When she is not writing about food and wine through the lens of the travel, she writes about travel and culture through the lens of food and wine. Either way, it’s a win-win, and she looks forward to her next trip. 


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