I am proud to let you know that the recipe development for this classic Italian seafood stew that is the perfect, showstopping main dish for a Feast of the Seven Fishes was sponsored by DaVinci Wine. Brimming with a generous variety of clams, mussels, shrimp, and salmon, this hearty stew is meant for congregating over with friends and family. Be sure to serve it with ample crusty bread for sopping up every last drop of the delicious, fragrant broth. This post is sponsored by DaVinci Wine as part of my partnership with them for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. All opinions, recipes, and photos remain -as always- my own.
When your best friend of more than 20 years who despises seafood tells you that you need to make a seafood stew that her Italian American husband made, you had better stop and listen. Such is the case with today’s recipe for Cioppino – Italian Seafood Stew. My sweet friend Ali is Scottish Canadian from Prince Edward Island where there is a deeply ingrained fishing culture. She married a wonderful Italian American man, Brian, and in doing so, married their two cultures. Last year, while visiting the island, Brian took the helm in the kitchen and produced what is agreed to be the best Cioppino – Italian Seafood Stew that he had ever made. It was so good, in fact, that Ali, who -despite being from a fishing culture- has roundly disliked all forms of seafood for her whole life, agreed that it was magnificent. When I told Ali and Brian that I was working on a Feast of the Seven Fishes project for DaVinci, Ali immediately said, “You need to make Brian’s Cioppino!” After I picked my jaw up off of the floor, I quizzed Brian endlessly.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes, as I’ve learned, is a uniquely North American Italian tradition. Christmas Eve is a “fast night” in the Catholic Church. What this shakes out to mean is that it should be a meat-free evening. In the grand Italian-American festive spirit, The Feast of the Seven Fishes manages to keep the evening meat free while still being festive! I’ve never left an Italian-American friend’s house hungry!
It turns out that the secret to Brian’s masterful Cioppino was using a sausage based Sunday sauce that he had made as the tomato and Chianti base. Because I wanted to keep to the “meat-free” spirit of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, I used olive oil and the spices that make up the principle flavours of sausage -fennel, red pepper flakes, garlic, etc…- to duplicate the lusciousness and spice without adding the meat. And friends! It is hard to think of something more festive, more communal, more designed to be eaten as a group around a table full of love, than Cioppino. We are talking about a lush seafood and tomato broth that is absolutely brimming with a delicious variety of seafood: clams, mussels, shrimp, and fish. This is an interactive dish. There are whole clams and mussels and shrimps with their tails in the dish. You laugh, you chat, you hug, and you pluck the shells from the bowl, use your fork to extricate the clam or mussel, and eat, discarding the shell into a giant bowl in the center of the table. Nab a tail-on shrimp, bite off the shrimp and toss the tail in the bowl. Switch to a spoon and find every last morsel of the tender salmon in the rich, briny sauce. Then finally, use crusty bread to sop up every last drop of the succulent broth. This is a dish on which memories are made.
- Do not let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. This has a few ingredients, to be sure, but they’re not difficult to cook if you follow instructions and the payoff is huge.
- For best, most flavourful results, let the tomato soup base rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before reheating and adding the seafood to the mix. This gives time for those deep, rich, flavours to develop without actually adding sausage.
- Whether or not your mussels are marketed as “de-bearded” you’ll want to look for fuzzy little bits of detritus sticking out from the shells. Grip them, pull them back toward the hinged bit of the shell and pull out, removing the beards. If you have trouble gripping them, a paper towel can help you grab hold more securely.
- Likewise, you’ll want to scrub the exterior shells of your clams and mussels alike.
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Cioppino – Italian Seafood Stew
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cloves garlic in their peels, lightly smashed
- 1 small white onion peeled and diced
- 2 shallots peeled and diced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups DaVinci Chianti
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes in juices 14.5 ounce
- 4 cups fish stock homemade or purchased
- 2 stems fresh parsley plus extra for serving
- 2 stems fresh basil plus extra for serving
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound Littleneck Clams scrubbed
- 1 pound mussels scrubbed and debeared
- 1 pound large shrimp 32 count per pound, peeled and deveined
- 1 ½ pounds fresh boneless skinless salmon filets, cut into 2-inch chunks
Heat the olive oil in a large pot like a braiser over medium heat. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds and toast until fragrant. Add the garlic cloves, onions, shallots, and kosher salt to the pan. Sautee gently, stirring frequently, until the onions are semi-translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Raise the heat to high and pour in the Chianti. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the wine reduces slightly. Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and juices, and the fish stock. Drop the fresh herbs and bay leaf into the pot and return the contents of the pot to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
At this point, you can remove the soup base from the heat and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
About 30 to 45 minutes before you wish to serve the Cioppino, bring the soup base back to a simmer. Add the clams and mussels to the soup base and stir well. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels start opening. Add the shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until the shrimp and fish are just barely cooked through. Pick out any mussels and clams that did not open and discard. Taste the soup and season, if desired, with more salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
Be sure to check back in to DaVinci’s Facebook page and website, and here on Foodie with Family for the rest of the Feast of the Seven Fishes recipes that I’ve developed for DaVinci. All of the dishes are wonderful individually, but are designed to be served as a feast in its entirety! Buon Appetito!