Some dishes always feel just a little bit more special than others. Cioppino, or Fisherman’s Stew if you prefer, is a dish that for whatever reason always makes me feel like it’s a special occasion. Simple, yet indulgent ingredients like fresh, quality seafood in a beautiful broth will always be tops in my book.
Cioppino and a bottle of wine
This is one of those recipes that demand vinyl to be played and dancing to commence in the kitchen while you cook. It’s one of those recipes where you better be prepared to make it single-handedly because your other hand should have a fresh glass of wine chilling in it. I mean, the recipe calls for wine, so what else are you going to do with the rest of the bottle – just let it sit there? That’s just plain wasteful. I generally like to make my Cioppino with a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris.
A little history for your palate
Cioppino’s origins can be traced to early 1800s San Francisco history by Italian-American immigrants. Fishermen who were unsuccessful with their catch that day would walk around with a pot to other fishermen, asking them to chip in what they could. The collected sea fare became their Cioppino, a varied collection of whatever was caught that day made into a stew that night. Its roots are heavily Italian, but also share similarities with the Bouillabaisse of French cuisine.
A note for special diets
This Cioppino is grain-free, gluten-free and friendly for Paleo, Keto, and SIBO diets. Traditionally, Cioppino is paired with a crusty baguette but we limit our grain at home and find that this soup is super filling on its own. If you aren’t adverse to some extra carbs and starches and want to increase the heartiness of this stew in the winter months, cannellini, great white northern, or kidney beans make for a great grain-free addition.
Cioppino (Fisherman's Stew)
Yield 6 large portions
- 1/2 lb Italian sausage, ground
- 2 tbsp garlic oil (may sub 2 tbsp avocado or olive oil plus 4 garlic cloves, minced)
- 1 1/2 cup fennel, finely diced
- 1 cup green onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cup dry white wine (I usually use a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Gris)
- 1 (32oz) chicken broth
- 1 (14.5oz) can diced roasted tomatoes
- 2-3 tsp fish sauce (I prefer Red Boat)
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 8 oz firm white fish (cod, tilapia, halibut, haddock), diced into 1.5-inch cubes
- 1 lb mussels, washed, debearded, and set to chill in an ice bath
- 1 lb large prawns or shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/2 a lemon
- In a large deep lidded saute pan over medium-high heat, brown ground sausage. Drain grease and set meat to the side in a separate bowl.
- In the same pan over medium heat, add garlic oil, fennel, and green onion. Sautee until fragrant about 3-5 minutes.
- Turn heat up to medium-high. Add the tomato paste and cook another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The paste should deepen in color significantly.
- Add the white wine and cook down by half. Scrape down the pan while this cooks down, so the delicious bits of fennel and onion do not burn.
- Add back the Italian sausage as well as the chicken stock, tomatoes, fish sauce, cracked pepper, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Taste the broth and adjust fish sauce, if needed. Fish sauce is naturally very salty, so a little goes a long way. I generally add in 1/2 tsp increments, stir, and then taste when adding more.
- Add white fish and simmer for about 2 minutes, then add prawns. If the prawns are already fully-cooked you can add your mussels in immediately as the prawns will just need to come back to temperature and you don't want to overcook them. If your prawns are raw, cook around 2 minutes before you add the mussels to the pan. They should be turning slightly pink by the time the mussels hit the pan.
- Cover your pan with the lid and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes undisturbed, or until all the mussels have opened and the flesh looks plump and fully cooked. Your prawns should be fully pink and cooked through by this time as well. The lid on my saute pan is glass, which makes this much easier. If your lid is not glass, monitor your pot closely. You want the mussels to cook evenly, making the lid handy, but you don't want the pan to simmer over the side.
- Discard bay leaf. Stir parsley and squeeze the half lemon into the stew, then serve immediately. I usually discard any mussels that did not open as it's possible that the mussel was dead before it hit the pan, and therefore not a safe option to eat. It's common to have one or two in a large bunch that do not open, even from the freshest seafood purveyors. I know some people say that these can still be fine, but I never like to take the chance.
Courses Main Courses, Soups & Stews
Serving Size 1 portion
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 17 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Cholesterol 59 mg
Sodium 1407 mg
Total Carbohydrates 11 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sugars 5 g
Protein 42 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.