San Francisco’s Portuguese Cioppino

by | Mar 3, 2013 | Main Dishes, Recipes, Soups

One of my favorite shows on the Food Network is Throwdown with Bobby Flay, and now it comes on a few early mornings every week, so we watch it over coffee. A couple of weeks ago one of our favorite Northern California dishes was featured, Cioppino, and the competitor, Phil DiGirolamo, came from one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. And best of all, Phil won the throwndown! So I’ve had Cioppino on my mind for a couple of weeks, and finally decided it was time.

 Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery in Moss Landing

The story behind Cioppino started in the 1800’s with Portuguese and Italian fishermen, they would use the catch of the day from the docks in San Francisco bay to create a tomato and wine based seafood stew. Typically it would include Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish.

So following that tradition (I’m Portuguese after all!), I used whatever I had available to throw down a Cioppino! I looked up a few different Cioppino recipes, Bobby Flay’sGiada de Laurentis’ and bon appetit, and used the ingredients I had on hand, and the herbs that I preferred. It only takes about 40 minutes, and you’ve got a delicious bowl of seafood stew on your hands (and down your gullet!).

San Francisco Portuguese Cioppino

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes (or less, mine turned out almost too hot!)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 8-ounce bottles of clam juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 pound cod, cut to 1” squares, about the size of the scallops
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp (I left the shell on for more flavor)
  • 1 pound clams (I cheated and used frozen steamer clams from Trader Joes)


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and herbs, and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and carmelize for a 3 – 5 minutes. Add the whole tomatoes with their juices and mash with a potato masher. Stir in the wine and clam juice, cover and simmer about 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Simmering Cioppino

Add the seafood by size, whichever will take longer to cook first. I started with the scallops for five minutes, then tossed in the fish and shrimp for about three more minutes, and the clams were already cooked, so threw them in for the last two minutes just to heat. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and pepper. And, in the San Francisco tradition, I served it with some sourdough garlic toast.

Portuguese Cioppino and Sourdough Garlic Toast

Saúde! Nancy

“Are you ready for a throwdown?!”