Born from the humble kitchens of Ligurian fishermen, but perfected on the coast of California, this aromatic and hearty stew mirrors the soul of Italian cuisine – rustic, flavorful, and deeply rooted in local traditions.
Its origins can be traced back to Genoa, in the Liguria region. Fishermen would toss the catch-of-the-day into a pot with herbs and wine, simmering until all flavors melded into a harmonious concoction. The name “Cioppino”, however, is completely unfamiliar to many Italians, as this term was popularized by Italian immigrants in San Francisco. They recreated this comforting dish using the Pacific’s bounties, and the Americanized ‘Cioppino’ was born.
Each region, from Liguria to Sicily, has its unique spin on this classic dish. While the Genovese version primarily emphasizes fish, the Sicilian rendition often includes a broader spectrum of seafood. Our featured recipe, for instance, adds a delightful Sicilian touch with the inclusion of squid and the hint of dried Sicilian oregano.
Depending on the catch of the day, or personal preference, the seafood components in this stew can vary, but the soul remains the same: a tomato-rich broth, aromatic herbs, and the freshest seafood. San Marzano tomatoes form the base of the broth, pumped up by white wine to add acidity and minerality.
To finish, the stew is garnished with gremolata, an awesome blend of parsley, lemon zest, and garlic. This final flourish cuts through the richness, firing a burst of freshness with each bite.
Step By Step Guide to Making Italian-American Cippolino Seafood Stew
Before diving in, ensure all your ingredients are prepped. Chop the fennel bulb and onion finely, mince the garlic cloves, and portion out your seafood as indicated.
1. Making the Base:
- In a sizeable heavy-bottomed stockpot, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
- Introduce the finely chopped fennel, onion, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. This aromatic trio will infuse the oil, setting the stage for the flavors to come.
- Sauté until the onions adopt a soft and translucent hue, typically around 8 to 10 minutes.
2. The Squid:
- Add the cleaned squid to the pot. Let it simmer over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. The squid not only adds its distinct taste but also tenderizes in this process.
- Pour in the dry white wine. Elevate the heat to medium-high and let it bubble away until most of the wine is absorbed. This process, lasting about 20 minutes, dampens the alcohol’s sharpness and joins it with the developing flavors.
- Blend in the crushed San Marzano tomatoes.
- Season with lemon zest, salt, pepper, and the aromatic dried Sicilian oregano.
- Allow the mix to simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, until it achieves a luscious thickness. This phase should span around 30 to 35 minutes.
5. Adding Liquid:
- Infuse the mixture with water and seafood stock, bringing it to a gentle boil.
- Introduce the mussels, clams, and shrimp. Seal the pot with a lid, letting the steam work its magic to open the shells in about 5 minutes.
- Delicately fold in the pre-portioned firm-fleshed fish and lobster meat. Monitor until the fish becomes opaque, which should take 3 to 4 minutes.
- While the stew bubbles, craft the gremolata. On a chopping board, combine fresh parsley, zesty lemon, and the peeled garlic clove. Chop finely.
- Once cooked, ladle the stew into individual bowls.
- Sprinkle a generous pinch of the freshly made gremolata on top, offering a burst of zest with every spoonful.
There you have it! A bowl brimming with the essence of Italy’s coastline.
Deborah Mele is a self-taught cook whose passion for Italian cuisine began after living in Milan, Italy for 8 years. Although not Italian by birth, she became a true Italian by heart and palate. Deborah created her Italian recipe blog ItalianFoodForever.com 12 years ago to share her passion for Italian food. During her various travels throughout Italy, Deborah fell in love with the central Italian region of Umbria so when they retired, Deborah and her husband bought two farmhouses there where they now reside for six months a year and run a farmhouse rental for guests and give cooking classes.