Karl’s Simple Cioppino

The kids are not coming over this weekend, so it is just the three of us for dinner. Sundays have been restricted lately because of Miriam’s diet, so I could make something with tomatoes, garlic and onions. When I suggested cioppino Jan was all for it.

Karl’s Simple Cioppino

Karl’s Simple Cioppino

Cioppino is a relaxed Californian Italian-American soup. The ingredient list is much more a matter of “What is fresh today?” rather than a set list of fish—like bouillabaisse—with fresh tomatoes and a wine-based soup. The last time I made this soup I tried to be as authentic as I could. There was a long list of ingredients and a complex series of steps—roasting, chopping, frying, blending, and simmering. Today, I wanted something simpler.

This soup frequently has pureed red bell pepper as its base, but this week I made a lot of tomato sauce that needs to be used up. Because I had flipped the soup base—tomato for red peppers—I ended up dicing the red pepper and adding it to the other vegetables.

While the common seafood for this soup is a combination of While the common seafood for this soup is a combination of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels, and fish, I wanted to simplify it for feeding only three people, so I limited the kinds of seafood I was using. I also reduced the variety of vegetables from the last time I made this soup.

For the wine I decided to go with sherry, partly because I did not want to open a whole new bottle of  white wine. With the tomato sauce, some clam juice and sherry as my base and a limited seafood and vegetable list, I thought I could still make a  satisfying dinner soup. Some fresh rolls would not go wrong as a side dish—to sop up the last bit of soup in the bowls.

Karl’s Simple Cioppino


2+ Tbs. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt

2 stalks celery, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced

1 large red sweet pepper, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups Karl’s Tomato Sauce (substitute 2 cups canned tomato sauce and 2 Tbs. tomato paste)
2 cups clam juice
¾ cup dry sherry, separate uses

1 Tbs. Italian oregano (substitute regular oregano)
½ Tbs. basil, dried
1 tsp. thyme, dried
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. anchovy paste
¼+ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lb. raw shrimp, shells on
1 lb. Clams
1 lb. Mussels
½ lb. rock fish
½ lb. bay scallops

½ cup Italian flat-leafed parsley, chopped


1. Dice all of the vegetables and put them in separate bowls.

Tip: I have a set of plastic bowl that I use for this purpose. This make it easy to dump each vegetable into the pan when I am ready to cook it.

2. Add the olive oil to a Dutch oven and sauté the onions until they are just picking up some color, about 5 minutes.

Note: The last time I made this soup I pureed the soup base and I reserve a quarter of the vegetables to add near the end of the cooking time to give the soup some texture. Since I am not blending this soup this was not necessary.

3. Add the celery and fennel to the onions, continue sautéing for five more minutes.

4. Stir in the red pepper and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the peppers are soft.

5. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pot, add the garlic to the hole in the center, and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

Tip: You may need to add a  splash of oil to help the garlic sauté well.

Note: If you are using canned tomato sauce, add the tomato paste to the hole in the center of the vegetables at this time. Cook the paste until it is starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes.

6. Add the tomato sauce, clam juice, half a cup of sherry, oregano, basil, thyme, pepper, anchovy paste, cayenne pepper to the pot.

Tip: If your tomato sauce is in a jar or can use the sherry to rinse them out before adding them to the pot.

7. Cover and simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes to meld.

8. Peel the shrimp and place the shells in a small pot.

Tip: I lake to start with shell on shrimp and then use the shells to make some broth.

Note: Reserve the raw shrimp until later.

9. Cook the shrimp shells for 2-3 minutes, until they turn red.

10. Add 1½ cups of water and simmer the shells for 5 minutes.

11. Strain out the shells and return the broth to the small pot.

12. Put the clams in the small pot and steam them, until they just open.

Tip: If a clam or mussel is dead it will not open when you steam them. I prefer to know this before I toss them into my main soup pot. By precooking the shellfish, I can discard them without contaminating my soup. If I have too many bad clams or mussels, I may decide to discard the steaming broth as well.

13. Transfer the clams to a bowl and steam the mussels in the same pot.

Tip: You may leave the shellfish whole for aesthetic reasons, but I prefer to remove one of the shells— the one that is not attached to the meat. This makes more room in your bowl for soup and less shells to struggle with as you eat your soup.

14. Transfer the mussels to a bowl.

Tip: Again you may wish to remove half of the shells.

15. Cut the fish into one inch pieces and add it to the soup in Dutch oven.

Tip: Make sure to remove any pin bones from the fish filet.

16. Cover the pot and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

17. Add the shrimp, scallops, and the remaining quarter cup of sherry.

18. Cover the pot and continue simmering for another 3-4 minutes

19. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the shellfish and most of the parsley.

Tip: Reserve about a tablespoon to garnish individual soup bowls.

20. Cover the pot and let it cool for 2-3 minutes.

21. Serve the soup directly from the pot or put it into a large tureen with crusty bread on the side.

1 Comment

Filed under California Fusion, Main Dishes, Seafood, Soups

One response to “Karl’s Simple Cioppino

  1. Pingback:  Karl’s Dinner Rolls | Jabberwocky Stew

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