Tante Marie’s Crab Cioppino

I first learned this recipe from my Aunt Mimi who lived near Carmel. It is a terrific dish to serve to visitors to the Bay Area in the winter when our Dungeness Crab is so good. Every country has it’s version of a fishermen’s stew–I understand the origin of this recipe is Genoa–it’s a San Francisco tradition!


  • 24 well-scrubbed live clams
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 4 lbs.fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
    (or 2 28-oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs. fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 lbs. fresh white fish (sea bass, rock cod, halibut)
  • 1 lb. sea scallops (optional)
  • 1 lb. raw shrimp (or prawns), peeled
  • 1 large cooked Dungeness crab, (optional)
    cleaned and cracked
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped


To steam the clams, place them in a heavy bottomed pot with 1 inch of water.  Cover and cook over high heat, shaking occasionally, until the clams are open.  Keep covered until ready to use.

To make the soup base, put the onions with half a teaspoon of salt in a large Dutch oven with a generous splash of olive oil and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions are softened.  Stir in the garlic and continue to cook and stir another minute or two.  Stir in the fennel, then the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Then add the broth from the steamed clams leaving the last tablespoon in the pot since it probably has sand.  Bring this mixture to the boil, stirring, and let simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the white fish into large chunks, coat with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the little tough part from each scallop.  Remove the shells from the shrimp.  Place these on another plate and coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

To make the cioppino, fifteen minutes before you are ready to serve, bring the soup base to the boil, stirring, and stir in the fish.  Cover and let simmer 5 minutes.  Next, stir in the scallops and the
shrimp and  let simmer another 5 minutes.  At this point stir in the steamed clams and the cracked crab, if desired.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Cover and let sit a minute or two. Sprinkle with
parsley and serve in warmed bowls with sourdough bread.  Serves 8.

If using Dungeness Crab, you can ask the fish monger to crack the crab for you; or do it yourself.  To do this remove the legs from the crab, and crack with a hammer or nut cracker.  Remove the back
from the body of the crab, remove the gills from this and wash under cold water.  Break the body in half.  Chill the crab until ready to add to the stew.

Note:  This would be wonderful served with Italian bread, spread with a mixture of butter, mashed garlic, salt, and minced fresh oregano; and also with a spinach or mixed greens salad.