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Crab Cioppino

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Crab Cioppino

Time: 60-75 minutes

Serves: 4  – just the two of us had this tonight with fresh whole grain bread and roasted brussel sprouts. We could have easily had two more people join us – we ate way too much and we’ll still have awesome leftovers for tomorrow.

Inspired by: It’s the end of December and for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing Dungeness crab at the fish counter. I’ve been thinking that I must get some of these before the season is over! I LOVE crab and it brings with it a lot of memories for me – mainly related to my dad. I remember as a child going out for crab with my family, and my brother and I would leave the restaurants still playing with the claws. I also think of my dad ordering crab cioppino at restaurants and wearing a bib because it was so messy. When I started thinking about what I wanted to have for dinner tonight, crab and tomatoes came to mind… and that got me googling crab cioppino recipes. The first one I found was “Judith’s Dungeness Crab Cioppino Recipe” from Food and Wine (Judith was chef Michael Mina’s late mother-in-law who apparently used to make it for Christmas Eve dinner). It looked great and easy, but I had to make a few modifications based on ingredient availability and the fact that I was cooking for 2, but it turned out so amazing, I’ll do it exactly the same way next time! This recipe makes a very thick soup with a LOT of kick! Yum.


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red bell pepper – chopped
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 large jalapeno – minced
  • 4 medium garlic cloves (2 minced; 2 whole)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of fire roasted organic tomatoes – diced
  • 1 10 oz can of whole baby clams
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 – 1 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 steamed Dungeness crab
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 littleneck clams
  • 12 shrimp – shelled and deveined
  • some small scallops or halibut pieces (optional)


  • In a large soup pot, sauté the onion for about 2 minutes on high heat. Add the red bell pepper and sauté for about 2 more minutes. Add the minced garlic and jalapeno and sauté for another 6 minutes or until it is all very soft and beginning to brown.
  • Add the tomato paste, stir well, and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, wine and bay leaf and cook for another 5-10 minutes – until thickened.
  • Add the can of clams with their broth and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile – in a food processor – combine the basil leaves, whole garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes – chop well. Add 1/8 cup of olive oil and puree until smooth. Then prepare the crab by removing the top shells and the flap on the undersides – pry out any brownish insides and feathery lungs and discard. Rinse the crab bodies in cold water and break them up into pieces that are a few inches in length – or however you’d like to see them presented in your dish when serving.
  • Now it’s time to add the clams, mussels and shrimp to the pot – be sure to push them into the hot broth. Once the shells of the clams and the mussels open (about 2 minutes), add the crab pieces and push into the broth as much as possible – put the lid on the pot and continue to cook for another 2-4 minutes until everything is hot.
  • Use tongs to take out all the shellfish and distribute evenly into bowls – then scoop out broth evenly into bowls.
  • Drizzle/spread the basil puree over the top of each and serve with fresh bread.


Notes: I would have liked including some scallops, but they weren’t available. White fish, such as Halibut, would have been good too. If you like your broth thinner – replace the can of clams with 16 oz of clam broth (I wasn’t able to find it – the stores were probably sold out from Christmas, but it’s what the original recipe called for). I’m sure you could also double the diced tomatoes without losing flavor – this is a VERY flavorful and spicy dish! It can also be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Wine Suggestions: We drank this with a 2003 La Spinetta Barbera d’ Asti Superiore. It needed some decanting, but it was a fabulous pairing with the rich tomato and spice of the dish.

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