Cioppino – Fish Stew


Joe Scarpone, chef and owner of Savolo restaurant in Philadelphia, describes cioppino as a fish stew which has its roots in the Italian-American community that once dominated San Francisco’s waterfront. Scarpone, who lived and cooked in California’s Napa Valley for 10 years, says the word “cioppino” comes from the English “chip in!” — the cry of one fisherman to another as donations of fish were gathered for a communal stew at the end of each day.

  • 1 pound salt cod (see note on page 83)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons Pernod, Pastis, or anisette (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • 1½ cups bottled clam juice
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 pound frozen calamari rings, not thawed
  • 20 littleneck clams
  • 20 mussels
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1 pound red snapper filet or other white fish, cut into eight pieces
  • ¾ pound sea scallops
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

For serving:

  • 1 loaf rustic Italian bread
  • 1 clove garlic (whole)
  • high-quality extra-virgin olive oil


  1. The night before you are going to serve the dish, soak the salt cod according to package directions (usually 24 hours, in several changes of water). For shortcuts, see note.
  2. Put fennel seeds in a dry skillet set over high heat and toast, stirring constantly, until fragrant; 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions and peppers are softened; 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Add white wine, Pernod (if using), toasted fennel seeds, and saffron (if using) and cook, uncovered, until reduced by half; about 8 minutes. Add the chicken broth, clam juice, and tomatoes.Reduce heat and simmer. You can make this up to a day ahead; allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently before proceeding.
  5. Peel and devein the shrimp. Scrub the shells of the clams and mussels under cold running water. Discard any shellfish that do not remain firmly closed when tapped.
  6. Add the frozen calamari rings, clams, and mussels to the simmering stew (refrigerate the shrimp until needed). Cover and cook until the clams and mussels open up, 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Using a slotted spoon, remove the clams and mussels from the pot, discarding any that have not opened. Set the shellfish aside in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to protect them from drying out.
  8. Add the soaked, drained salt cod and allow the broth to simmer and reduce for approximately 20 minutes, or until the calamari and cod have become tender and the broth has thickened.
  9. Lightly season the snapper (or other fish), shrimp, and scallops with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Simmer the fish until just cooked through, approximately 5 minutes. Add the clams and mussel back to the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Add the basil, parsley, and tarragon. Stir and heat through.
  10. Toast slices of bread and rub with the cut side of a garlic clove and brush with oil. Serve the stew with a piece of the bread on the side.

NOTE: Salt cod is found in bags or little wooden boxes in the seafood section of the supermarket. If you don’t have time to soak the cod overnight, buy salt cod bits (as opposed to filets), then rinse them and simmer them for about 30 minutes, rinsing and changing the water at least four times. Taste to see if it is too salty; keep rinsing and simmering if it is.

Recipe from Joe Scarpone, chef and co-owner of Sovalo (

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