We San Franciscans like to believe this soup was invented in the North Beach area of our city by Italian-American fishermen. But the prototype for this soup -- a wine and tomato base, sometimes with fish fillets and always with shellfish -- exists on every coast of almost every country, with variations that make it unique to each area: saffron in Spain, orange zest in Provence, a lemon-egg yolk thickener in Greece and Dungeness crab in San Francisco.
Since it is Christmas Eve, we've deviated from tradition and used shelled crab meat and shrimp so as to remove the work for the diner. The cioppino is best served with crusty bread, preferably San Francisco sourdough, on the side to dip into the broth.
Servings: 6 - 8
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 pounds cod fillets (or other boneless white fish), cut into bite-size pieces
- 18 clams, scrubbed and rinsed well
- 18 mussels, scrubbed and rinsed well
- 18 medium shrimp (about 8 ounces), peeled and deveined
- 1 pound cooked crab meat
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, wine, sugar, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, bay leaves and half the cod and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the clams and mussels and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the remaining cod and the shrimp and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the crab and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and any clams or mussels that do not open.
To serve, ladle the soup into soup bowls and serve immediately.
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