Mama’s Cioppino

By Lisa Schroeder
Published on: May 21, 2021

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Although its origins are hazy, cioppino is usually credited to San Francisco fishermen at the turn of the century. They’d each throw a bit of their day’s catch into a communal pot. The result was so good that it wasn’t long before cioppino found its way into mama’s soup pot – and, now onto restaurant menus. There’s no hard and fast rule about what kinds of fish and seafood you can put in it – just include what you and your family enjoy. If you like calamari, add some. Don’t like shrimp? Leave them out. If you have kids, make sure you add at least a few clams in their shells. Kids love to scoop out the clams and use the shells as castanets.

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium cloves garlic, chopped (2 tsps)

1 tsp crushed red peppers

4 cups ( 1 quart) Pomodoro Sauce or store-bought tomato-basil pasta sauce

1 1/2 cups Fish stock or bottled clam juice

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp dried basil

1 tsp kosher salt (divided)

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (divided)

16 littleneck or other clams, soaked (about 1.5 lbs)

16 mussels, scrubbed clean and debearded (about 10 oz)

12 large (size 21-30) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lb non-oily fish fillets (such as cod, red snapper, or flounder), cut into finger-size strips or chunks

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc


3 cups washed spinach leaves (about 4 oz)

Crostini for garnish

  1. Place a large (12 – 14-inch) skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes. When hot, add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes and cook just until the garlic softens slightly, 1 minute, but do not let it brown (or it will be bitter).
  2. Stir in the pomodoro sauce, stock, parsley, thyme, and basil. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-high, and add the clams and mussels. Cover and cook until the shells open, 5 to 7 minutes. (Try not to lift the cover until a few minutes have passed or you’ll let all the precious steam out, which is what cooks the shellfish). Discard any shellfish that have not opened after 7 minutes; they could be spoiled.
  3. Add the shrimp, fish, wine, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cover and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes more, or until all the seafood is cooked through. (The shrimp and fish will be opaque rather than translucent.) Stir in the spinach and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Ladle the fish and broth into wide, flat soup bowls. Place 2 crostini, crossed, on one side of each bowl, and serve.


Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder

Lisa is the chef/owner of Mother's Bistro & Bar in Portland, Oregon. Her award-winning restaurants have been featured in The Oregonian, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Town & Country, USA Today, and Bon Appetit.

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