Last weekend the temperatures were hovering around 0F. The perfect kind of weather for soup. I know they say that milk is the perfect food but for my money soup has a pretty good claim to the title. It’s warming and filling and gives you a real feeling of well-being.

So for our Sunday evening meal I made cioppino (cho-PEE-no)—Italian fish soup. Not only is it a great soup but it’s soup with a little bit of sunshine. And this is a recipe with a story. I’ve made cioppino by more-or-less this recipe for more than twenty-five years and sometimes for a hundred or more people. A dear friend told me that a few years back she ordered cioppino at a local (to her) restaurant. When she’d tasted it she said “a friend of mine makes better cioppino than this”. She ended up giving the cook the recipe I’d given her some years before. And they started making cioppino according to my recipe. So, somewhere in the wilds of Manhattan Beach, there’s a restaurant that’s making my cioppino.


Serves four

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium leek, cleaned thoroughly and chopped (white part only)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced (optional)
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
½ tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. dried marjoram
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 bay leaf
4 cups fish stock, clam juice, or a combination
&frac12 lb. bay scallops
&frac12 lb. medium shrimp, shells removed and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute the onion and leek in the olive oil over medium heat in a non-reactive soup pot until the onion is transparent.
  2. Add the optional garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes, fennel, marjoram, the optional cayenne pepper, bay leaf, fish stock or clam juice, salt, and pepper and stir thoroughly.
  4. Simmer the soup for a half hour partially covered. If it gets too thick, add more stock or clam juice.
  5. Ten minutes before serving add the scallops and shrimp. Stir it in and cook ten minutes.

Serve this soup with some good Italian bread and a little dry red wine. Anything is better with a little dry red wine.

This soup is fantastic when you make it for a crowd. When you make it for a large number of people, just increase the ingredients proportionally. A combination of sea food is best, the more the merrier. The ideal combination is a mixture of flaky fish like turbot for texture, firm fish like monkfish for heartiness, and shellfish like shrimp, scallops, or mussels. Use 1/4 lb. of seafood per person. Do not use fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel.

4 comments… add one
  • jessy Link

    i’ve only had this soup once before at a resturaunt. But i’m intending to make it this week. I have a differant recipe I am following because it is much closer to the resturaunt. What I have calls for lobster tail and crab. I would also add more cayenee though. The soup I had was very spicey.

  • Good luck, jessy. My best advice to you is 1) don’t overcook your seafood and 2) add hot sauce or cayenne a little at a time and taste the result. When you think it’s almost enough, you’re probably done. Heat tends to develop over time.

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