Authentic Italian Cioppino "Fish Stew"

This Italian Cioppino "Fish Stew" is a delicious mix of flavorful seafood and authentic Italian herbs and spices that is sure to become a new favorite recipe.

You all are in for a real treat today because I am sharing my families Authentic Italian Cioppino "Fish Stew" that my Mom has been making my entire life, and is one of those recipes that will be a family staple for generations to come.

Today I am sharing it with you, and I hope that you will appreciate the simple, yet incredibly rich flavors of this stew, and will love it as much as we do. Remember when making this recipe that you are now experiencing an extension of my families traditions. This is what I love so much about food and food culture, this recipe has been passed down through generations to get to me, and today I am happy to share it with you.

All I ask is that when you are making this recipe you put on some Italian music, open a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, and enjoy the process of making this dish. Take the time to smell the various herbs and spices, appreciate the seafood that will give it such rich flavor (please make sure to purchase fresh, wild caught fish!), and serve this was a piece of high-quality Italian bread (or for my gluten free folks, try toasting up my gluten free bread into some crostini's).

Authentic Italian Cioppino Fish Stew - The Well Essentials

Cioppino's are an Italian "fish stew" that traditionally was thought to be a kind of peasant dish because it quite literally was a mix of whatever was leftover at the end of the day from the day's catch.

While food historians generally agree that the Italian-American "Cioppino" originated in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1800's by Italian's who immigrated from the Genoa area in Northern Italy, various forms of this fish stew have also been made for centuries by Italian's in Southern Italy, and is a common dish that you may see around the Christmas holiday if you ever get the chance to spend Christmas Eve, and the "feast of the seven fishes" with an Italian family. 

Authentic Italian Cioppino Fish Stew - The Well Essentials

What I love so much about this dish is how simple the ingredients are, yet how well they all complement, rather than compete with each other, to create a really complex flavor profile, and an absolutely out of this world stew. 

The secret ingredient to this cioppino is absolutely the fennel seeds, which somehow brings all the flavors together in a way that just is not possible without the fennel, believe me I have tried. 

Fennel is also one of those flavors that I think most people don't really know what to do with, or may have never cooked with, so I love that this recipe can act as a great entry point into experimenting more with this incredible ingredient. 

Authentic Italian Cioppino Fish Stew - The Well Essentials

Another thing that I love about this cioppino is that you can really use a variety of different types of seafood. Like I mentioned, cioppino's were considered peasant dishes filled with whatever fish was leftover at the end of that day's catch. While most of the time we will make this exactly as I have described in the recipe below, there are times where we will exclude the shellfish and instead will just do fish, or will substitute the fish for shrimp, it really depends on what is available and what we feel like that week.

Authentic Italian Cioppino Fish Stew - The Well Essentials

authentic italian cioppino fish stew

serves roughly six people


  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 large white onion (finely chopped)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh garlic

  • 2 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup tomato puree

  • 2 - bottles of clam juice

  • 1 cup dry white wine

  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 1 pound wild caught white fish (haddock, hake, etc.)

  • 2 - 6 ounce cans of chopped clams

  • 1 - 6 ounce can of crabmeat

  • 1 pound fresh mussles

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (finely chopped)


  • Place a large sauce pan over medium heat.

  • Add the olive oil, chopped white onion, and garlic to the sauce pan and allow to cook slightly.

  • Next, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, clam juice, and white wine to the pan.

  • Add the oregano and fennel seeds, and allow to simmer for ~10-15 minutes.

  • Next, add the white fish, chopped clams, crabmeat, and mussles to the pot.

  • Reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer until the fish is cooked all the way through (it should begin to flake apart) ~15 minutes.

  • Remove the pot from the heat, and add chopped basil, stirring the basil into the stew gently.

  • Serve with a side of toasted Italian bread or pasta, and enjoy.