Cioppino, Calabrese

"This recipe comes from my maternal Calabrese grandmother. It was traditionally served on Christmas eve and contains only shellfish. Some cioppino recipes include calamari (squid), mussels, and/or chunks of solid bodied fish that holds together during cooking. The two essential ingredients are Dungeness crab and garlic. Note: Live Dungeness crabs are preferred for this dish. If they are not available in your area, cooked and cracked crab may be substituted. If they are, add them after the prawns. You only want to re-heat the crab, not overcook it. Tip: Supply each guest with ample napkins, a bib, and a nutcracker and pick to get at all of the sweet Dungeness crab."
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Ready In:


  • Sauce Base

  • 2 -3 onions, medium chopped
  • 1 -2 garlic clove
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans tomato sauce or (4 ounce) cans puree
  • red wine (Chianti, Burgundy, Merlot)
  • Italian spices
  • olive oil
  • water
  • Seafood

  • 7 large dungeness crabs, cleaned and cracked just before addition to the sauce (live if possible)
  • 10 lbs clams, scrubbed clean. (Discard any that are open)
  • 2 lbs mussels (optional)
  • 5 lbs prawns, rinsed (in shells)
  • 1 lb oyster, fresh with liquor (optional)


  • Sauce Base:

  • Chop or mince onions and garlic. Saute' in olive oil until translucent.
  • Add diced tomatoes and 2 14oz cans water.
  • Add tomato sauce or puree plus two 4oz cans water.
  • Add 1 14oz can red wine.
  • Add Italian seasoning to taste.
  • Adj1ust amount of sauce depending on quantity and size of seafood.
  • Seafood:

  • About 30 minutes before serving, add clams and mussels.
  • 10 minutes later, add cracked and cleaned live crabs. (See note above regarding live vs cooked crab).
  • 5 minutes later, add prawns and oysters.
  • When crab and prawn shells turn red and the clams open the dish is ready to serve.
  • Serve with lots of garlic bread made with real crusty sour-dough bread and lots and lots of garlic and butter. Wash everything down with a hearty red wine.

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Retired computer programmer/analyst, now compiling a cookbook of recipes handed down from my family members. I hope, eventually, to distribute the cookbook as my gift to all family members to preserve part of our family history.
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