Spicy Cioppino Recipe with Fennel and Herbs

Two weeks ago, Mr. Luz and I had the pleasure of cozying up for the weekend in beautiful Berkeley Springs, West Virginia with two of our favorite people.

We laughed alot, ate alot, and didn't change out of our pajamas at all on Saturday. It was preeettty fantastic, and just what we needed.

Whenever we go to WV, I like to cook something super-tasty as a "Thank You" to Rick and Kate, our hosts, for inviting us to their perfect get-a-way.

This time I decided to make cioppino, a tomato-based seafood stew, because it's tangy, rich, and so filling. My favorite part of the cioppino is the fennel--it adds a freshness to every bite and nicely complements the the tomato and seafood flavors without overpowering the dish.

I especially like this recipe because blending the base adds flavor while letting the seafood really steal the show-presentation-wise. And you can make the base ahead of time and then throw in the seafood right before you serve it for maximum freshness. It seems like a daunting list of ingredients and steps, but everything cooks quickly and provides great flavor. To speed up the process, you can skip the blending step and just let your cioppino be chunky, and you throw the fish into the pot to cook with the rest of the seafood, but it will fall apart once you start stirring it up with those mussel shells.

Requisite Cute Foxy Shot.....
Cioppino--Tomato and Fennel Seafood Stew Recipe

3 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cans of diced tomatoes in juice
1 bunch fresh basil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large fresh parsley sprigs
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cups shrimp stock
1 cup clam stock

1 lb. mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 lb. large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 lb. firm fish, cut into 2 inch chunks
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 large fennel bulb, thin sliced
2 cups white wine
3 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

To make the base:

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until cooked. Stir in tomato paste and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly browned. Add the tomatoes, herbs, and shrimp and clam stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered.

Allow the base to slightly cool. Remove bay leaf and any remaining thyme and parsley ribs. Add the base to a blender and blend to a thick, slightly chunky soup.

To make the stew:

Bring the blended base to a simmer. Add the wine, chopped parsley, and fennel and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Rinse and pat dry the fish cubes. Dredge the fish in flour with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large, shallow pan over medium heat. Add the fish to the pan and cook, stirring gently, until browned.

Add mussels and shrimp to the stew base, cover, and cook until the mussels are open and the shrimp are done. 5-7 minutes. To serve, put the fish in the bottom of a bowl and cover with the stew.

Mr. Luz doesn't hold back with his handmade Sourdough breadbowl...



  1. Oh soul - I LOVE a good cioppino! I am literally salivating thinking about this. Yum!!

  2. Oh dear Lord, add some of those Gulf Oysters and do a pan-seared redfish instead of the bland stuff we get up East in the winter? Soooo good.

    I'm pretty picky re: cioppino (no watery frou frou crap here), and a blended base adds the most flavor/texture. You should try it! ;)

  3. Sad to say ... but Gulf shellfish makes me ill. I thought I'd developed allergies but I think it's more likely a reaction to all the pollutants. Being from the pristine waters of Alaska, I guess my system got spoiled. No local seafood for me here, so cioppino will wait. :[

    Hey, speaking of fennel, what are your ideas of things to do with fennel tops? I am looking to a lovely fennel bulb salad because some came home with me today (they are just so damn seductive at that farmers market!), but I cannot bear to waste all that frilly loveliness.

  4. Yikes!!! Being from the Midwest, we take seafood however we can find it, polluted or not. Though I did have some fresh-caught Alaskan halibut this summer and it was transcendent. ;)

    Mmmmfrilly loveliness. I have to say I just toss the fennel tops on top as a garnish because I, too, can't bear to throw them away. I love a good fennel salad with some cucumbers and yogurt. Damn. Now I want summer food. ;) Let me know what you figure out re: the frillys.

  5. Having a bit of Facebook dialogue - Brandy Blue had a wonderful suggestion and I'm also thinking a spanikopita sort of thing.

    I'll "friend" you - I'm the okra flower. :)

  6. this seems WONDERFUL! a hearty fresh soup to snuggle up to on a cold winter's night... and i LOVE berkley springs, wv!