The Best Use for Dungeness Crab EVER: Homemade Cioppino

by Sarah on December 23, 2011

For as long as I can remember, our family has been eating cioppino on Christmas Eve . Don’t know why, or how, but since it seems to be a Singleton prerequisite that we all be Dungeness crab fiends, so that might explain it.  We used to get the soup and the seafood from the Hayward Fishery, but since Nana and Boppa don’t exactly live there anymore, we’ve had to come up with other alternatives.

Now we’ve got Guido to make it.  And in the past 7 years, he’s gotten pretty darn good at it.

It’s pretty simple, really, you just have to make an easy soup–saute vegetables, add tomatoes and liquid and simmer– then layer in all the seafood.  You can make the soup part in advance too–it’s probably even better if you do.

You can use whatever seafood you wish, but we are fans of crab–so we get lots of it.

We always have clams too, and sometimes mussels.   Don’t forget to soak them in some salted water so they spit out their sand.  Some of our strange clan don’t care for mussels so we didn’t have them last year.

Some big pieces of a firm, white fish are good too.   Big firm pieces so they don’t fall apart so easily.  We use cod.

Cover the cauldron at this time and let cook for a few minutes, until the clams open.   Dump in the shrimp,  cover the pot again and turn off the heat.  The shrimp will cook from the heat of the soup.

Ladle all that goodness into a big bowl and garnish with the fennel fronds.

We serve the stuff with pasta, crusty sourdough bread and salad.  I don’t know why we have it with pasta, but we do.  Sometimes you don’t question, you just eat.  Spaghetti in the bottom of the bowl, cioppino on top, bread to dunk.

You know, it’s so easy, I don’t know why we only have it once a year.  It’s still crab season, for crying out loud.



  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped---fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bottles clam juice
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried chili flakes (or more, to taste)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil
  • Suggested seafood
  • Crab, clams, mussels, cod, shrimp, calamari


  • In a large stock pot, heat 2-3 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, garlic and fennel. Saute until tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the chili flakes, oregano and basil, stir through.
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, clam juice and wine. Let the liquid come to a boil and let the vegetables cook until soft.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree soup.
  • Bring soup to a boil.
  • In layers, add the crab, then the clams, then the fish.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and cover the pot.
  • Let cook for a few minutes, until the clams open--about 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat. Add the shrimp, stir through and cover the pot, allowing the shrimp to finish cooking (1-2 minutes).
  • Ladle the cioppino into a big serving bowl and garnish with the chopped fennel fronds.
  • Serve with spaghetti, if desired, crusty sourdough bread, and lots of napkins
  • (Serves 6)

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