Spicy Shrimp Cioppino

Spicy Shrimp Cioppino

Spicy Shrimp Cioppino is the most soul warming, comforting and overall impressive meal you can make for a gathering, dinner party or holiday. Year around it just makes your soul and belly happy. Cioppino is a staple in San Francisco, you can find it in almost every seafood restaurant. If it’s not on the menu, you can ask for it and most places make it in house anyways. A little known local secret.

Cioppino originated in the city of San Francisco in the late 1800’s when Italian fisherman would come settle in the North Beach area of the city. {For those who have not visited San Francisco, North Beach has some of the greatest Italian food. It’s pizza, pasta and cioppino heaven.} They would make this stew for their long trips out to sea. Typically, this is made with whole Dungeness crabs in the shell, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels.

Basically a seafood extravaganza in a bowl. I make mine with my favorite combination of shrimp, clams, mussels, dungeness crab, lots of white wine, garlic, and a heap of red pepper flake. Add more or less red pepper flake if you’re feeling the heat. This is a good base soup for any combination of your favorite seafood that can easily be interchanged.

Always make sure your clams and mussels are soaked in fresh water, scrubbed and rinsed before cooking. Mussels have what’s known as a “beard”, it’s this little fuzzy membrane that they use to attach themselves to surfaces, pull these off if you spot them. Most farm raised are already de-bearded, but give them a once over to check. If any clams or mussels are slightly open, give them a tap or squeeze on the shell, if they don’t slowly close throw them out. When cooking if there are some that don’t open during cooking throw them out. It’s just good practice to be aware if you have some dead shellfish on your hands and to know not to eat them.

I like to saute the shrimp first and then warm them through with the crab at the very end. Most recipes will throw it in the end to cook, but I think this overcooks the shrimp and makes it rubbery. The theme here is a little kick, I give the shrimp a nice seasoning of red pepper flake when sauteing them so the heat carries out through the dish when you serve it and you get a little bite of spice with every spoonful.

Cioppino is a real treat and during the holiday season is the best time to serve this heart warming dish. The combinations of your favorite seafood is endless and it’s one of the most comforting meals to make for the whole family to enjoy. Don’t forget to serve this meal with plenty of toasted sourdough bread and wine!

Wine Pairing Recommendation: This is a job for Italian wine, for red I’d pair with a Sangiovese, for white something light and refreshing like a Soave.

Spicy Shrimp Cioppino

1 September, 2014
: 6
: 20 min
: 30 min
: 50 min
: Easy


  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Large Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch Red Pepper Flake
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • 1 large Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Red Pepper Flake, more or less depending on heat preference
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2 cups Dry White Wine
  • 1 can {28 ounces) Crushed Tomatoes {Cento is my favorite}
  • 4 cups Fish Stock or Vegetable Stock
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 pound Littleneck Clams, soaked in fresh water for 20 minutes and rinsed
  • 1 pound Mussels, scrubbed, rinsed and debeared
  • 1 whole {2 pound} Cooked Dungeness Crab, legs removed from body
  • 1 bunch Parsley and Basil Leaves, chopped for garnish
  • Step 1 In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and saute for 2 minutes until pink, season with kosher salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside.
  • Step 2 In the same pot add butter and chopped onion. Turn heat down to medium and season with salt and pepper. Saute onions while stirring until slightly browned and tender, about 8 minutes. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flake, and tomato paste. Stir to combine and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Turn heat down and pour in white wine. Bring wine to a simmer to deglaze the pot and scrap any brown bits off the bottom. Add crushed tomatoes and stock, stir to combine. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 more minutes. Season with kosher salt and ground black pepper pepper.
  • Step 3 Add clams, and mussels to the pot. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until clams and mussels have opened. Add the crab legs and reserved shrimp to the pot and stir to combine and warm through, about 2 minutes. Serve into big bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and basil. Enjoy!

Spicy Shrimp Cioppino

Savor and Enjoy!

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15 thoughts on “Spicy Shrimp Cioppino”

  • How spicy is this? I’m guessing not very, if all that is in it is 1/2 a teaspoon of red pepper flake, but I am making this for a dinner party, potentially, and while I love all things spicy, a few of my guests don’t care for very much spice so I wanted to clarify based on the name. Thank you.

    • Hi Megan, it’s all based on what your comfort level is with some spice. If you like it spicy then by all means throw in some more red pepper flake. This recipe has a great balance of flavors along with some good heat. You could also omit the red pepper flake if you have guests that are heat sensitive. Enjoy!

    • Hi Sharon, you can absolutely omit if that’s not your thing. I suggest subbing it out with more stock, about 3 cups, so 5 total of fish or vegetable stock.

  • I made this tonight for my partner’s birthday dinner–we ate cioppino in San Francisco back in 2002 and loved it. It was my first crack at making it at home and this recipe was FABULOUS. I couldn’t believe how great it tasted, and my partner was blown away too. Definitely a keeper. Thank you so much for sharing this delicious recipe. :)

    • Thank you Janel! I’m so happy you and your partner liked it! Cioppino is one of those perfectly comforting dishes that I can have anytime of the year. It’s a true favorite in my house as well. Cheers!

  • Hi I want to make this recipe for Christmas, it reminds me of the Portuguese style shrimp dishes my family made. I have a question: can you explain a little more about how to “soak and gorge” the shell fish? TY PS Love your site.

    • Hi Grace,
      When preparing clams or mussels you must gorge them of all their sand before cooking. Most shellfish now bought in the grocery store doesn’t have much sand but it’s always good practice. Soak in salt water for a couple hours to gorge them of dirt and sand. Strain them and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
      Have a very Merry Christmas! Cheers!

    • Hi Ashley,
      If you’re using cooking wine, I would suggest only about a 1/2 cup to deglaze. Cooking wine doesn’t have the flavor profile that a good Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio would have when using in this recipe so use it sparing. Cheers!

  • I thought you weren’t supposed to soak them because it doesn’t keep them fresh it actually kills them before cooking.

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