Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew


January 13, 2022

This easy Italian cioppino fisherman’s stew recipe is filled with flavorful seafood and a rich tomato based broth that makes this classic Italian seafood stew the perfect addition to your weekly meal rotation.

Italian Cioppino Fisherman's Stew

Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew

This Italian cioppino fisherman’s stew is based off of a traditional Italian-American “fisherman’s stew” that is native to San Francisco. Traditionally cioppino recipes were made as peasant dishes that would combine whatever was leftover at the end of the day from the fishermen’s catch.

While food historians generally agree that the Italian-American “Cioppino” originated in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1800’s by Italian’s who immigrated from the Genoa area in Northern Italy, various forms of this fish stew have also been made for centuries by Italian’s in Southern Italy, and is a common dish that you may see around the Christmas holiday if you ever get the chance to spend Christmas Eve, and the “feast of the seven fishes” with an Italian family.

How Do You Pronounce “Cioppino”?

If you want to make this traditional Italian seafood stew then you should probably learn how to pronounce it.


Ingredients You Will Need For This Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew

This easy cioppino fisherman’s stew is full of complex flavor that can come together in under 45 minutes, which is what Italian cioppino seafood stews are known for and each one is a little bit different.


No cioppino would be complete without a combination of traditional Italian spices. For this recipe we opt for dried oregano, fresh basil, and fennel — which is the secret ingredient to this cioppino that somehow brings all the flavors together in a way that just is not possible without the fennel.

White Wine

Don’t shy away from using wine in cooking. The alcohol will burn off during the process of cooking and the wine adds an incredible acidity and balance to the ingredients in this stew. Any dry white wine will do for this recipe, and don’t feel like it has to be expensive!

Olive Oil

Olive oil is an essential component of most Italian recipes and this one is no different. It gives a nice balance of fat to the dish that helps to enhance all the wonderful and aromatic flavors in the seafood stew.


If you are going to splurge on any ingredient for this easy cioppino recipe please let it be the fish. I personally love adding haddock to this cioppino that flakes perfectly and soaks up all the stews many flavors.


While you can add fresh mussles and clams to this cioppino, you can also opt for canned if you prefer. Also feel free to mix and match what shellfish you choose to add. There really isn’t one right way to make a cioppino, but the more shellfish the better in my opinion.


Cioppino seafood stews are a tomato based stew, which means that crushed tomatoes and some tomato puree for thickening are an essential part of this dish. I usually will use my own garden tomatoes that I can at the end of the season for this stew, but you can also use any canned tomato from the grocery store (ideally choose organic if possible).

Onion & Garlic

Lastly, the onion and garlic adds a base of Italian flavor to this easy cioppino recipe that helps to add balance to the acidic tomatoes. Always feel from to add more garlic if you like your seafood stew a little more on the garlic side (like me!)

Italian Cioppino Fisherman's Stew

What Is The Difference Between Cioppino And Bouillabaisse?

While these two seafood stews are similar, there are enough difference that set them apart that are worth noting as they each are amazing in their own way.

  • Cioppino Recipe: Cioppino Italian seafood stews are made using a tomato-based broth and traditionally are filled with fish leftover from the end of the “fishermen’s catch”. Traditionally cioppino’s were considered peasant dishes, and while the Italian-American “cioppino” is believed to have originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are many versions of “cioppino” seafood stews throughout Italy.
  • Bouillabaisse Recipe: Bouillabaisse is a traditional French seafood stew that is often made in a white wine sauce with some added tomatoes and saffron for seasoning. While bouillabaisse has been adapted around the world to include a variety of seafood, the traditional French dish would be served with scorpion fish, that is native to the Provence region.

How To Make This Easy Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew Recipe

Making this cioppino fisherman’s stew really is so simple, and can be made entirely in one pot which makes clean up a whole lot easier! For this stew it is best to use a large ceramic pot or dutch oven that will really help the flavors in the stew to simmer.

Step One: Sauté The Onions And Garlic

Place your large pot over medium heat on the stove, and add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add chopped onions and garlic to the pot and allow to cook until translucent and soft.

Step Two: Add The Liquid & Tomatoes

Once your garlic and onions have softened add the tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, white wine, and clam juice to the pot. Stir the ingredients together and then cover the pot and allow to simmer for roughly 15 minutes.

Step Three: Add Spices

Once your ingredients have been simmering for at least 15 minutes add the dried oregano and fennel to the pot. Cover the pot and allow the ingredients to simmer again for another 15 minutes.

Step Four: Add The Fish

Next, add all the fish ingredients to the pot and stir well. Cover the pot and allow to simmer until fish is cooked. You will know the fish is cooked when it has begun to flake. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.

Step Five: Remove From Heat

Once your fish is cooked remove the pot from the heat and stir in the freshly chopped basil.

Step Six: Serve

Serve immediately will a piece of Italian bread for dipping, a toasted crostini, or some pasta.

Note: Not Serving Right Away?

If you won’t be serving this cioppino recipe immediately it is best to get the seafood stew ready but hold off on adding the fish until you are ready to eat. This way you can simply bring the stew back to a boil, reduce to simmer, and add your fish to cook. In 10 minutes your meal will be ready to serve, and the fish in your cioppino will be perfectly cooked.

What To Serve With This Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew?

For this cioppino fisherman’s stew I recommend keeping it simple and classic and serving with a crostini or a piece of Italian bread for dipping (which is my favorite), but you can also serve it over a small helping of pasta if you want a slightly more filling dish.

Italian Cioppino Fisherman's Stew
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Italian Easy Cioppino Recipe (Italian Seafood Stew)

Italian Cioppino Fisherman’s Stew

  • Author: Megan Faletra
  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 45 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


This easy Italian cioppino fisherman’s stew recipe is filled with flavorful seafood and a rich tomato based broth that makes this classic Italian seafood stew the perfect addition to your weekly meal rotation.


Units Scale
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large white onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh garlic
  • 2 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato puree
  • 2 – bottles of clam juice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 pound wild caught white fish (haddock, hake, etc.)
  • 26 ounce cans of chopped clams
  • 16 ounce can of crabmeat
  • 1 pound fresh mussels
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (finely chopped)


  • Place a large ceramic pot or dutch oven over medium heat on the stove.
  • Add the olive oil to the pot and allow it to heat up for a minute before adding the chopped white onion, and garlic to the sauce pan.
  • Allow onion and garlic to cook until translucent and softened.
  • Next, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, clam juice, and white wine to the pot.
  • Add the oregano and fennel seeds, and allow to simmer for ~15-20 minutes.
  • Next, add the white fish, chopped clams, crabmeat, and mussles to the pot.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer until the fish is cooked all the way through (it should begin to flake apart) ~15 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, and add chopped basil, stirring the basil into the cioppino seafood stew gently.
  • Serve with an Italian crostini or pasta, and enjoy.

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan is a maternal-child health dietitian and mom of two. With nearly a decade of experience working in maternal-child nutrition both domestically and abroad, Megan is passionate about supporting mothers and their little ones through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.

Megan especially loves helping to nourish families with simple, delicious recipes that both children and adults will enjoy. All of the recipes at MADRE are gluten free, and focused on celebrating food culture, seasonality, and supporting the nutritional needs of growing children, mothers, and families.

Megan holds a MS in Nutrition and MPH in Global Health from Tufts University, and received her dietetic license (RDN) from Brigham and Women's Hospital. She has advanced training in pediatric nutrition and baby led weaning, and is currently working towards becoming a certified lactation consultant.

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Meet Meg

Mom of two girls under two, and registered dietitian specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and infant wellness. My passion for supporting moms and babies began more than a decade ago, but nothing made me more committed to helping moms and babies thrive than going through my own pregnancy and postpartum journey.

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