Cioppino – San Francisco Fish Stew

Here is our stew, ready to eat.

I’ll admit, I’d never had this fish stew. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been to San Francisco before and we live far enough from the ocean that good fresh seafood is hard to come by. However, I do love fish and I was looking forward to this dish.

Cioppino is a stew that originated in San Francisco by Italian immigrants. The story is that the immigrant fishermen would use the catch of the day to make a stew while on the boats. As Italian restaurants started becoming popular, the stew became popular with everyone else. There are a ton of recipes online for this stew and, apparently, one of it’s best attributes is that is very┬áversatile. We used the recipe provided by Luke but made a couple modifications based on what’s in our pantry and creativity. For example, some of the online recipes call for white wine, so we substituted this for the plain water.

This recipe comes to us from Luke Shaffer. Luke’ wife and Curt worked together at a place which shall no longer be named. It wasn’t a great experience for him but he met some really great people while he was there. Chef Luke is a professional Longhorn Fan who pays the bills by working as a top rated chef in Austin. You can see more of his creations at his blog LukeWhatsCooking.

To start with, we used a bag of Costco’s frozen seafood medley. This was Luke’s suggestion. Thaw the frozen seafood in the┬árefrigerator so that it will cook evenly and not taste like frozen fish.

Here are the vegetables ready for chopping.


  • 3 Tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup carrot, small dice
  • 1/2 cup celery, small dice
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, rough chop
  • 28oz can CENTO brand crushed tomato
  • 28oz can CENTO brand chef’s cut tomato
  • 8oz tomato puree
  • 28oz water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • One bag of Costco Frozen Seafood Medley (2.5 pound bag)

Here is our seafood thawing while the soup simmers.


The first part of this is to make the tomato soup that will be base of this recipe. Start by sweating the carrots, celery and onions in the bacon fat with a health pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.

When they are softened, add the garlic. When you can smell the garlic add the tomato paste. Cook this until it just begins to color and then add everything else – except for the seafood.

At this point we made a couple modifications. We used half of a large Costco can of tomatoes instead of the 2 cans listed above. Also, we didn’t want to water it down so we added white wine in place of the 28oz of water. Simmer this mixture for 2 hours. You can adjust the seasoning to taste. When it’s complete, puree with a stick blender OR in batches in the blender. (Luke’s WARNING: if using the blender, fill below half-way and make sure the top is sealed. It will swell and be HOT!!!!)

At this point you have a REALLY good tomato soup. You could stop right here and have a really good meal, but that wouldn’t be the point, would it?

At this point we used the seafood from Costco and mixed it all into the soup. If you have access to fresh seafood, you can use any or all of the following. Add seafood of your choice in the following order: fish, crab legs, clams/mussels, calamari, scallops, shrimp.