Crab Cioppino Stew in a bowl
Appetizers, By Ingredient, Entrees, One Pot/One Pan, Sauces, Seafood, Soups

The Best San Francisco Style Cioppino Recipe

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Our San Francisco Style Cioppino is a hearty tomato based stew full of crab, garlic, and rosemary that has been simmered to perfection! 

I remember helping mom set the dining room table when I was little. We put the leaf in the table so it would extended as far as it could go. Mom had a plastic tablecloth on top and we lined the table with huge bowls. This was a yearly thing that she and I did. What was the occasion? We were having Crab Cioppino, using her San Francisco Style Cioppino recipe! 

Every year I helped her prepare this delicious tomato based stew that would simmer on the stove all day. There is a lot of prep work that goes into Cioppino, but it is SO worth it. I washed the fresh vegetables, while she sliced, diced, and chopped them. We measured out the spices, opened cans and read the recipe card twice to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Our recipe always turned out perfect.

SAN FRANCISO STYLE CIOPPINO

I am so thankful that mom and dad raised us with this tradition and we were able to enjoy the amazing flavorful stew of crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, celery, herbs and spices (and of course crab!). I have shared it my own kids, family and friends, and everyone treasures the food and tradition just as much as I do.

What is Cioppino?

Cioppino is a hearty tomato and basil stew that is made in a large pot. This stew is also known as Fisherman’s Stew, which has a variety of seafood in it. For Crab Cioppino,  it is the same, however the seafood is omitted, except for the crab.

What is the difference between Cioppino and Bouillabaisse?

They are actually very similar. Cioppino is an Italian stew and is tomato based. It is usually served as a Seafood Cioppino, and also a Crab Cioppino. It is popular in the Italian sections of bigger cities, such as San Francisco (North Beach) and New York (Little Italy). Bouillabaisse, on the other hand, is a fish based stock with saffron. Tomatoes are added in as well as a variety of fish.

I have personally never tried Bouillabaisse, but I am also not much of a “fish” person. I do adore shellfish though!

How much crab do you need per person?

A good starting point is 1 1/2 – 2 lbs of crab per person. Of course, you know your friends and family best, so that might be a better gauge of how much they might eat. In our family, this is a big event, and our Crab Cioppino dinner usually happens only once a year, so we don’t skimp. One Dungeness Crab on average, weights about 1.5 pounds, so we usually buy one crab per person.

Before you get started making this hearty stew, here are a few helpful hints:

How do you eat Crab Cioppino?

Once the stew is ready to go, add all of the seafood back in. Dish up in soup bowls and add some fresh basil or Italian Parsley for garnish. Sourdough garlic bread or just a plain Crusty bread  goes well with this seafood stew.  When you dip a slice of toasted garlic bread into the sauce, it is delicious!

For our family (and usually a few friends), a  Cioppino dinner isn’t just a meal, it is an event.

We all gather about two hours before dinner will be served. As guests arrive and walk through the door, they are greeted with an scent like no other. Our San Francisco Style  recipe has plenty of garlic, herbs, and other aromatic ingredients, it certainly is a treat for the senses. It is a BYOC type of thing (bring your own crab), and usually someone brings a large green salad. Although it is tempting to have an appetizer or two, our better judgment tells us to wait for dinner. 

 

What ingredients do you need to make this savory seafood stew?

Olive oil, onions, garlic, celery, fresh parsley, salt, bay leaf, sweet bail, rosemary, pepper, oregano, paprika, dill seed, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, dry red wine, and of course crab.

Below is a quick breakdown of the recipe along with photos. The printable recipe card at the bottom of this post is available so you can print off the full recipe and list of ingredients that you need. 

HOW DO YOU MAKE SAN FRANCISCO STYLE CRAB CIOPPINO?

 

Sliced onions and diced celery

Stir and sauté the first 4 ingredients (olive oil, onions, garlic and celery) in large pot

Add parsley, salt, crushed bay leaf, basil, rosemary, pepper, oregano, paprika and dill seed, and sauté for 1 minute:

Add the remaining four ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/1/2 hours. Add crab and cook/heat through. Serve with salad and garlic bread.

We never rush through this meal. Sitting at the table and chatting, nibbling on crab, and drinking wine is all part of the fun. Well and you can only make a meal go so fast when everyone has to work for the food!  The wine flows freely however, and speaking of wine…

What wine goes good with Cioppino?

There are many wines that go with this savory stew, including Riesling, Sangiovese, and Pinot Noir. My brother (a big wine guy) suggests a Zinfandel or a nice Barbera. He loves to experiment with different red wines when we have Cioppino.

When this seafood event is over, you will have one full belly, but you will feel so, so satisfied. These dinner parties are always a blast and they are definitely something we look forward to every year.

A little advice on throwing the perfect Crab Cioppino dinner!

Remind your guests that this isn’t a fancy dinner party. Tell them  to wear OLD clothes, as when you eat Cioppino, it is very likely that the sauce will get on your clothes, and Cioppino sauce will stain!  Purchase some of those silly crab bibs (or other plastic bibs) for yourself and your guests. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did. The bibs with the “catchers” on the bottom are even better. And finally – place a couple of huge piles of napkins at each end of the table. You will go through a bunch! 

 

Crab Cioppino Stew in a bowl


Yield: 8 - 10

The Best San Francisco Style Cioppino Recipe

Crab Cioppino Stew in a bowl

Our San Francisco Style Cioppino is a hearty tomato based stew full of crab, garlic, and rosemary that has been simmered to perfection! 

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large crushed bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. sweet basil
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. dill seed
  • 3 1/2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Instructions

Stir and sauté the first 4 ingredients (olive oil, onions, garlic and celery) in large pot

Add parsley, salt, crushed bay leaf, basil, rosemary, pepper, oregano, paprika and dill seed, and sauté for 1 minute:

Add the remaining four ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/1/2 hours. Add crab and cook/heat through. Serve with salad and garlic bread.

We never rush through this meal. Sitting at the table and chatting, nibbling on crab, and drinking wine is all part of the fun. Well and you can only make a meal go so fast when everyone has to work for the food!  The wine flows freely however, and speaking of wine...

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 170Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 864mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 3g

This calculation is an estimate. The actual numbers vary depending on the actual ingredients that you use

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