cioppino (Italian seafood stew with fennel)

This recipe for Cioppino actually originates from Italian emigrants in San Francisco in the late 1800s. They would put in whatever the catch of the day was, so feel free to put in what ever seafood you can get or prefer. It’s packed with the flavours of chilli, fennel, bay, orange zest and wine. There are lots of versions of it and I took the best bits of all the recipes I found. It’s traditionally served with toasted sourdough or a crusty baguette, but I think it’s delicious with a side order of fries and a salad too.

Recipe serves 4 ( halve the ingredients for 2)


A few tbsps of extra-virgin olive oil 

A tsp of ground fennel seeds

2 shallots, finely chopped (or an onion)

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 

A sprig of thyme

1/2 tsp. chilli flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup of red wine

1 (400g) can chopped tomatoes 

500ml fish stock (I always use Knorr stock pots)

1 fresh bay leaf

A strip of orange zest (optional)

A handful of clams, I use frozen from the supermarket

A couple of handfuls of mussels, scrubbed

250g raw prawns, peeled and deveined(I keep some unpeeled for the top)

A few large scallops or a large handful of baby scallops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp of maple syrup (optional) I think it brings out the flavours

Freshly chopped parsley and basil leaves for serving

Baguette or toasted sourdough for serving

Lemon wedges, for serving


Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the shallots or onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute more.

Add wine and let boil until reduced by half, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add tomatoes, fish stock, bay leaves, fennel powder and orange zest (if using). Stir to combine, bring to a low simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. 

Add the clams and mussels to simmering stock, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Then add then prawns and scallops. Do not stir. Cover again and cook until all the fish and shellfish is cooked through, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with chopped parsley and basil leaves.

Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Note; I make my own fennel powder by grinding up fennel seeds in a coffee grinder.

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