This classic Italian-American stew makes a great addition to any meal. It works really well as a special occasion food (whether that’s Easter, Christmas, or New Year’s).
I’m on the seafood diet. I see food and eat it, especially this seafood cioppino. Yes, I made that joke. No, I don’t regret it.
Cioppino is one of my favorite seafood dishes. This San Francisco stew packs a punch of flavor and a hint of spicy kick. This is the perfect combination of elegance and ease. This seafood soup looks super fancy and complicated (which is great because it looks like you put in a lot of effort). But it’s really straightforward and easy to make!
One thing that can be kind of tricky with this dish is cooking the seafood. And one common issue is overcooked seafood.
How To Recover From Overcooked Seafood:
I can’t begin to explain how annoying it is to overcook seafood. Overcooked seafood texture is probably best and most commonly described as rubbery. Chewy and hard seafood generally means it’s been overcooked by a few minutes. The solution to overcooked seafood may sound a bit weird, but it’s to really overcook your seafood.
I like to break seafood cooking down into 4 different stages. Raw, cooked perfectly, overcooked, and … cooked perfectly.
Stage 1 is pretty straightforward: it’s uncooked seafood.
Stage two is when seafood is perfectly cooked, with the amount of time varying for different types of fish.
Stage 3 is the overcooked phase. This usually means the seafood is rubbery, hard, and all around unpleasant.
Stage 4 is where you let your seafood cook low and slow until it’s super soft. This technique usually requires simmering seafood on a medium to low heat for about 1 hour.
It’s important to note that this technique is mostly meant for seafood like mussels, shrimp, crab, lobster, squid, and clams. These are the types of fish that are generally harder to cook and tend to get hard and rubbery when overcooked. Flaky fish like halibut, tilapia, cod, and salmon end up breaking up if they’re overcooked.
If you’re worried about how to cook non-flaky fish, I recommend going with the seriously overcooked technique because it’s almost a guaranteed method for getting seafood cooked perfectly (without having to worry so much about timing).
What To Serve With Cioppino:
While this is a great standalone meal, cioppino is usually served with a starch on the side. Starches that I generally like to enjoy with seafood include pasta, noodles, rice, or potatoes (mashed, roasted, boiled). But my go-to side is usually a toasted piece of crusty bread (great for dipping in the sauce).
This “fisherman’s stew” is fantastic because it’s super customizable. The base sauce for this dish can be paired with a lot of different types of seafood. Even though I chose to use mussels, shrimp, and scallops in my cioppino this time around, you can also include clams, crab, lobster, squid, cod, tilapia, halibut, or sea bass. Or, if you think of anything better, give it a try! I only recommend you aim for around 3 to 4 pounds of seafood to get a good sauce to seafood ratio.
Another substitution you can make in this dish is to use stock instead of water. Chicken, fish, or vegetable stock all go really well with this recipe. For the sake of ease, I tend to stick with water as my main liquid, and it’s still great. But if it’s a special occasion, I sometimes like to break out some stock for an extra level of flavor.
Aside from the seafood, you can make a lot of different additions to the base sauce if you’re looking for a bit more greens in the dish. Celery, carrots, fennel, leeks, and shallots are just a few simple additions that you can make to the sauce.
Seafood Cioppino Recipe:
Description: This classic Italian-American stew makes a great addition to any meal. It works really well as a special occasion food (whether that’s Easter, Christmas, or New Year’s).
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6-8 servings
– 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 1 medium onion, finely diced
– 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
– 2 teaspoons dried oregano
– 1 teaspoon dried basil
– 1 teaspoon dried thyme
– 2 dried bay leaves
– pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
– 1 cup dry white wine
– 3 tablespoons tomato paste
– 5 cups water
– 1 (15 ounce) can tomato puree
– 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
– 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1 pound uncooked scallops
– 1 pound mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add in your onion, garlic, and salt. Cook the vegetables over medium heat until the onion turns translucent and softens, about 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add the dried oregano, basil, thyme, bay leaves, and chili flakes. Still on medium heat, cook the spices for about 1 minute just to toast them.
3. Move the pot off the heat and add in your white wine. Return the pot to medium-high heat and bring the wine to a boil. Boil until the wine reduces by about half (around 5 minutes).
4. Add in the tomato paste, water, and diced tomatoes. Bring everything up to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 40 minutes.
5. Right before you’re ready to serve, raise the heat to medium-high and add in your seafood. Cook until the mussels open up and the shrimp turns pink on the outside with a white, opaque inside. The scallops will also turn opaque inside and out, with a soft yet firm texture.
* Make sure you remove your bay leaves before serving. They’re not edible, they’re just used for flavor.
I would love to hear any tips you’d like to add to this post and how your cioppino turned out in the comments below. Have any questions? Any ideas to improve this recipe? Feel free to comment for that as well.
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