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Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 40 mins
Total time 40 mins
Yield Serves 8 (serving size: 1 1/2 cups soup and 1 bread slice)
As language morphs through time and locale, so does food. Yes, this fish stew has roots in Italy, but it is a distinctly San Franciscan treat. Chefs, restaurateurs, and history transformed the dish as well, from a humble soup of fish scraps and tomato-tinged broth to a carefully orchestrated celebration of the sea. Strict attention to the schedule of events in this recipe will yield glorious results.


  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced fennel bulb
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups Charred Tomato Passata
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless halibut fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 16 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 8 large sea scallops, cut in half horizontally
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 (1-ounce) slices sourdough bread

Nutrition Information

  • calories 347
  • fat 8.5 g
  • satfat 1.3 g
  • monofat 4.4 g
  • polyfat 1.6 g
  • protein 38 g
  • carbohydrate 26 g
  • fiber 3 g
  • cholesterol 91 mg
  • iron 8 mg
  • sodium 657 mg
  • calcium 90 mg

How to Make It

  1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, and saffron. This blooms the saffron, releasing maximum color and flavor.


  3. Heat a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

  4. Add the olive oil. Swirl.

  5. Add the fennel and onion. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

  6. Smash 2 cloves of garlic.

  7. Add the smashed garlic, thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, and salt. Stir half a minute.

  8. Add the wine. Bring to a boil and stir for 2 minutes.

  9. Add the passata and 1 cup water. Stir.


  11. Bring to a steady simmer. Add the halibut, the clams, and the mussels. Cover and cook for 6 minutes, or until the shells begin to sneak open.

  12. Turn the heat to as low as possible. Add the scallops. Cook for 5 minutes, and turn the heat off.

  13. Add the bloomed saffron mixture, the crabmeat, and the parsley, and gently fold to combine. The crab will simply warm through.


  15. Cut 2 garlic cloves in half. On a grill pan or under a broiler, slightly char/toast the bread for 1 1/2 minutes, turning once. Rub the toast with the cut side of the garlic cloves.

  16. Serve the Cioppino in shallow bowls with the charred bread. You'll need it to sop up all the tasty broth.

  17. Step by Step: Scrubbing and Debearding Mussels

  18. 1) You'll need to scrub each mussel to remove any dirt or sand that got left behind on the shell. Use a stiff-bristled brush to give them a good cleaning.

  19. 2) Next, you'll have to debeard them. You're removing the byssal threads (the "beard"), which connect the mussel to rocks or pilings in the sea. Grab the fibers with your fingers, and pull them out, tugging toward the hinged point of the shell.

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