San Franciscan Choppino Recipe (aka Cioppino)

August and September are big birthday months in our family and we usually gather together to celebrate everyone’s birthday in each month with a special dinner.    We did that last month ago for the August birthdays but didn’t seem to find time for our September birthdays this year.

Since we weren’t going to have time for a family celebration this month, my niece decided she wanted to make her new favorite dish Choppino for her fathers birthday.   My niece Bella is of the “texting generation”  and can easily send 2 or more texts before I can answer one…sigh.  So after multiple texts and frustration on my part I finally suggested that she come over for dinner and I would teach her how to make Real San Franciscan Choppino, just as I had learned so many years ago.

San Franciscan Choppino

Over the years I’ve worked and dined at restaurants that had Choppino on their menu, but it was rarely the real thing, being more of a Fugazy style representation of the dish.   The big difference in the local Italian style Choppino and a San Franciscan Style Choppino  is in how the sauce is made.   The origin of this dish is said to come from Ligurian region (Genoa) of Italy, and that the Italian American fisherman from the North Beach area of San Francisco came up with this dish utilizing the catch of the day with a variety of fresh seafood that was on hand.  You’ll find versions that contain less seafood and others that contain squid, but the main ingredients of this dish are the shellfish anything else that finds its way into the pot is a bonus!

San Franciscan Choppino

We had a great time as we worked together in the kitchen, and Bella showed her technical skills by making and Instagram montage of the process.   We had a wonderful dinner that night and more than just the dinner was the time spent together in the kitchen, sharing recipes and stories.   Bella also learned that that very expensive dinner out could be made for a lot less at home, feeding a family for the price of one dinner.   That was the real lesson of the day.

If you’ve never thought of making Choppino, I urge you to try this recipe.  It may contain a lot ingredients, but it really is a very simple dish to make and I promise you’ll have one delicious dinner on your table that will impress your family or friends.

5.0 from 2 reviews
San Franciscan Choppino (aka Cioppino)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (core removed)
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 (26 -32 ounce) can of whole plum tomatoes crushed by hand
  • 2 cups dry white or red wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 dozen small clams, scrubbed
  • 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 9 16-20 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 9 large sea scallops
  • 3 crabs- dungeness preferred, (snow crab, blue claw, or Stone Crab Claws)
  • ½ pound of firm fish cut into 3 pieces (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy)
  1. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauteuse (deep skillet) over medium heat.
  2. Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion becomes translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste, plum tomatoes and all juices, wine, chicken stock, and bay leaf.
  5. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and allow to cook for one hour. Stir occasionally
  6. While sauce is simmering in another saute pan add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sear shrimp, scallops (and fish pieces if used) on both sides, but do not cook fully.
  7. Remove seafood from pan and place on plate for use later. If you did use the fish pieces you can add them to the sauce now. (do not add the shrimp or scallops at this time)
  8. In the same pan add a little more oil, clams and mussels. Cover and steam them until they open. (if any of the mussels or clams are open before cooking discard them, they're dead and aren't safe for consumption)
  9. At about the 45 minute mark of the simmering the sauce, add in the crabs, and the mussels and clams with all the pan juices. Continue to simmer.
  10. If you are serving your Choppino over pasta you may begin getting the water ready at this time.
  11. After one hour and your pasta cooking in the last five minutes of cooking, add in the shrimp and scallops.
  12. Taste the sauce and re-season as needed.
  13. Serve over pasta and enjoy with a loaf of crusty bread!


Thanks for stopping by today to see my new post.  Have a great week my friends!


  1. Wow great job Chef, that looks absolutely incredible! Fantastic recipe with lots of great flavors :)

    Happy Blogging!

  2. Oh wow, that looks absolutely amazing Chef!! I wish I had access to fresh fish. I would love to be able to make this for dinner tonight, or any night!! :)

  3. Ha! Ha! I just made the Brazilian version for my husband and HIS birthday! It adds some coconut milk. When we were in San Francisco a few years ago, my husband went ciopinno testing and had it in three different restaurants. All three were different, but one version used fennel, like yours. Great memories! And beautiful ciopinno, Chef!

  4. Cannot wait to make this at home – one my all-time favorite dishes!

  5. My kids love Cioppino! I made it a few weeks ago and it was such a treat. I wish I had dungeness crab – I did use monkfish. Beautiful!

    • It was such a delicious meal! I’m sure monk fish was very good in it. I saw some dungeness crabs at Sam’s club last time I shopped there, that’s where I get most of my shrimp (wild caught) lobster and scallops.

  6. Very impressive Chef Dennis. Your plating is stunning and so is your photography. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be pleased to be served this.

  7. YUM! That looks outstanding!

  8. Lora @cakeduchess says:

    I’d like this for lunch and probably would be fine with a bowl now for breakfast. Love the color of the sauce and the flavors just pop!

  9. I love cioppino and this sounds and looks fabulous. I need the sourdough to soak in the broth! What a lucky family to be able to celebrate like this!

  10. What wonderful flavors here!! I’d love this for dinner anytime :)

  11. Sometime in the past I seem to recall your saying you weren’t that fond of fish, but you sure know how to cook it – this looks magnificent and is going on my make soon list. If I send you a bunch of texts, will you invite me up for a class? :-)

  12. Oh my, this is so delicious! I only have this at good restaurants. Glad to know I can try this at home with your recipe. Thanks for sharing, Chef Dennis!

  13. Happy Birthday month Chef Dennis! How lucky for your niece that she gets to learn great cooking from a bonafide chef. And how wonderful for you that you’ve got someone who can teach you all the latest and greatest Instagram and texting technology =)

    P.s. I’ve bravely saved your choppino in my recipes-to-make file because your photos look so good. Also, feeding a family at home for the price of one meal in a restaurant is fabulous!

    • Thank you Kim! It’s definitely a good trade for both of us, the younger generation makes everything look so easy where electronics or computers are concerned.
      The choppino really isn’t that difficult to make, its more time consuming and even though the ingredients are a little on the expensive side, its still a lot cheaper than going out.

  14. When simmering do I cover? thanks

  15. THIS LOOKS AMAZING I can’t wait to try it! Thanks Chef Dennis!

Speak Your Mind


Rate this recipe: