Get your whole feast of 7 fishes in this easy cioppino recipe! Overflowing with seafood, in a hearty tomato broth. Perfect for Christmas Eve!

7-Fishes cioppino served in a white ceramic bowl with fennel orange gremolata.

It’s almost Christmas, and I just couldn’t wait another day to share this fabulous 7-fishes cioppino recipe with you!

I used to make this easy seafood stew every year on Christmas Eve, but in recent years I got away from it.

I’m so glad to have revived the idea, as this is one of the yummiest and most effortless ways to honor the age-old tradition.

If you’re a loyal reader, you already know how Italian foods hold such a special place in my heart. I talk about this a lot in both my pizzelle recipe post and my panettone recipe post, among others!

And this easy, one-pot seafood stew is just one more example.

It honors the Italian-American tradition of preparing 7 different types of fish to celebrate Christmas, and it couldn’t be more gloriously abundant and mouthwateringly scrumptious.

Plus it’s so easy to make, in just one pot!

Cioppino recipe, prepared and served in a white bowl with a red plaid napkin.

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What is cioppino?

Cioppino (pronounced chip-PEEN-oh) is a traditional Italian-American seafood stew that was invented by fishermen in San Francisco.

As the legend goes, the men would each “chip in” a portion of their day’s catch to make a stew that they all could share.

Cioppino can contain any number of different types of fish, in a robust tomatoey broth. I like to use 7 different kinds, in the Christmas Eve tradition.

Why this is the best cioppino recipe

  1. Honors tradition: This recipe combines the entire feast of 7 fishes into one spectacular dish.
  2. Delicious: Fresh, tender seafood, simmered in a flavorful garlicky, tomatoey, slightly spicy broth.
  3. Easy to make: The whole Christmas Eve feast is ready in about an hour, with just one pot to clean up afterwards.
  4. Feeds a crowd: Gather your whole crew together for this meal. It’s overflowing with succulent seafood!

Ingredients

Ingredients for making cioppino, with text labels.

Oil: I prefer extra-virgin olive oil for the flavor, but you can use any type of cooking oil

Fennel: A vegetable with the texture of onion or celery, but a juicy, mildly licorice-y flavor. We will be using the tops in a fresh gremolata topping and the bulb in the stew itself.

Orange: Fresh orange zest and juice complement the fennel and seafood in the loveliest way.

Onion: A medium-sized onion, roughly chopped, adds flavor and texture to the soup.

Tomato: Tomato paste adds richness and body to the broth, and canned, diced tomatoes packed in juice add texture to the stew.

Wine: I prefer a dry white wine here, to compliment the fish. If you don’t like to cook with alcohol, feel free to leave it out.

Stock: I like chicken stock best, but fish stock will work too!

Seasonings: This soup gets seasoned with a combination of kosher salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.

Seafood: Use any type of fish or shellfish you like. I’ve used a combination of the following:

  • Salmon
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Mussels
  • Clams
  • Crabmeat

But smelts, baccala (salted cod), scungilli (aka: whelk or conch), and calamari (squid) are also traditional for the feast of 7 fishes.

Special equipment

How to make 7-fishes cioppino

This dish comes together in around an hour, in just one pot!

Step 1: Make the gremolata

I like to start by making a fennel and orange gremolata, which is a simple topping that adds a pop of freshness to the soup.

However, this step is totally optional! So feel free to omit it if you’re pinched for time.

Cut off the stems and fronds of the fennel bulb.

Cutting off the top of the fennel bulb.

These can go into the bowl of your food processor, along with the orange zest and juice, a little of the salt and garlic powder, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Fennel tops, orange zest, and garlic, in the bowl of a mini-chopper.

Process everything together finely, to make a “salsa” of sorts.

Fennel orange gremolata, presented on a vintage silver spoon.

And set this aside while you get going on the cioppino itself.

Step 2: Saute the vegetables

Sliced fennel, chopped onion, and seasonings go into a big pot, along with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil.

Fennel, onion, and seasonings in a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.

Saute this mixture until the veggies are starting to go a little translucent and tender.

Step 3: Add tomato paste

Clear a little space at the bottom of the pot, and add the tomato paste.

Adding tomato paste to vegetables and seasonings.

Stir everything around, allowing the tomato paste to cook and brown, and form a thin film on the bottom of the pot.

This film is known as “fond,” and it will add so much flavor to your cioppino!

Browning tomato paste to create fond on the bottom of the pot.

Step 4: Deglaze the pot

Once the tomato paste has browned, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pot with your spoon to pull that fond up and into the mixture.

You can also add the diced tomatoes and stock at this point!

Step 5: Simmer the fish

Once the liquid is simmering, turn the heat down to low. Everything can sit like this until about 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it.

At which point, you’ll start adding the seafood, according to what needs the longest vs. shortest cooking time.

If you’re using the same kinds of seafood as I have, they should go into the pot in the following order:

  1. Salmon & lobster
  2. Shrimp & scallops
  3. Mussels & clams

And if you’re using canned crabmeat, that’s already cooked so you can just add a spoonful or two on top of each bowl just before serving.

How to serve

Ladle the cioppino into individual serving bowls and top each one with a spoonful of gremolata.

This stew is fantastic with some fresh greens, lightly dressed with lemon vinaigrette or balsamic vinaigrette.

A couple of garlic knots or a few slices of ciabatta or focaccia bread make the perfect accompaniment!

And for dessert? Tiramisu of course!

Or just coffee and a few almond biscotti, if you want to keep things simple.

Expert tips

Instant pot cioppino: Saute the veggies, seasonings, and tomato paste on high heat, then deglaze and turn down to low. Simmer the seafood for just a few minutes before serving.

Slow cooker cioppino: You can saute everything and deglaze, then move the broth to a crockpot to simmer until just before serving. Add the seafood at the last minute. The soup is ready as soon as it’s cooked through.

Let the fond develop: Give the tomato paste a few minutes to brown over medium-high heat. This will add the most incredible rich flavor to your broth! Don’t worry if it seems to stick to the pot. When you add the liquids, you can scrape the film up easily with a wooden spoon.

Don’t overcook: Add the seafood just a few minutes before you’re ready to serve the cioppino. Seafood cooks very quickly, and if you add it too soon it could become rubbery.

Enjoy immediately: Sadly, seafood doesn’t keep for very long. This dish is meant to be devoured asap!

Seafood cioppino with fennel and tomato broth.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Feast of 7 Fishes?


It’s an Italian-American tradition to serve 7 different types of fish on Christmas Eve.

What is gremolata?


Gremolata is a fresh, uncooked, salsa-like topping that’s traditionally made with garlic, herbs, and citrus. This version utilizes fennel and orange, to mirror some of the flavors already in the soup. It adds a pop of freshness and a pretty garnish to the dish.

Can this be made ahead?


You can saute the vegetables and seasonings, and add the liquids to create the broth up to a few days ahead of time. But the fish shouldn’t go in until the last few minutes, or it could get overcooked and rubbery.

How to store


This cioppino can sit on the stovetop or in the crockpot for an hour or so, but if you have any leftovers, they should go straight into the fridge. And I would try to finish them up within a day or so. I would not recommend freezing this dish.

What is the serving size?


You can serve around 10 people with this recipe. The nutritional info provided in the recipe card below is for 1/10th the whole batch, and it includes the gremolata topping.

Best San Francisco  cioppino recipe , served with fennel gremolata.

A few more of my favorite Italian recipes

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7-Fishes cioppino served in a white ceramic bowl with fennel orange gremolata.
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7-Fishes Cioppino

Servings: 10 people
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Get your whole feast of 7 fishes in this easy cioppino recipe! Overflowing with seafood, in a hearty tomato broth. Perfect for Christmas Eve!

Ingredients

Instructions
 

To Make the Gremolata Topping

  • Cut the stems and fronds off the fennel bulb, and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the orange zest, orange juice, 1 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
  • Process the mixture finely and set aside.

To Make the Seafood Cioppino Stew

  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high until shimmering, slice the fennel thinly, and add it to the pot along with the chopped onion, remaining salt and garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and bay leaves.
  • Saute the vegetables and seasonings until tender and fragrant (approx. 3 to 5 minutes).
  • Clear a space in the center of the pot and add the tomato paste.
  • Continue to cook, stirring, until a brown film forms on the bottom of the pot.
  • Deglaze the pot with the white wine, scraping with a wooden spoon to lift the brown coating up off the bottom of the pot and into the mixture.
  • Stir in the diced tomatoes and their juice, along with the chicken stock, and turn the heat down to a bare simmer.
  • About 8 to 10 minutes before serving, slip the salmon and lobster into the pot and allow them to poach in the broth.
  • About 5 minutes before serving, add the shrimp and scallops to the pot.
  • About 2 to 3 minutes before serving, add the mussels and clams to the pot.
  • When the mussels and clams have opened, ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with crabmeat and the reserved gremolata.
Serving: -38g, Calories: 318kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 37g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 147mg, Sodium: 1188mg, Potassium: 1041mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 360IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 121mg, Iron: 4mg
Cuisine: Italian
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Soup
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