Cioppino On The Cheap

Cioppino is one of my favorite foods. But until recently I only made it on special occasions. That’s because this delicious main dish fish soup was just too expensive for everyday meals.  However, on a recent ordinary cold spring Sunday, I was craving something warm and just couldn’t get Cioppino out of my head. So I set out to find the best ingredients for an awesome Cioppino on the cheap.

To save some cash, I didn’t include lobster, crab legs, or clams.But I used lots of mussels.  In place of  fish fillets, I used Trader Joe’s frozen boneless and skinless Mahi Mahi  Pieces, for which I paid only $4.49 per pound.

My Cioppino On The Cheap turned out absolutely great! A keeper! Hope you like it too!

Recipe notes:
This recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Cioppino recipe. Her recipe was a great guide to ingredients and timings.

When I made this dish recently (about a year after creating it), I thought it had too little broth. So next time, I plan to use more wine and clam juice (for a total of about 1 cup of wine and 3 cups of clam juice). This may make it a little less spicy, so I may need to adjust the red pepper by taste as I cook. After I try increasing the liquid, I’ll come back here and let you know how it worked out. 


1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced organic tomatoes in juice
3/4 cup dry white wine  (See recipe note above.)
2 cups clam juice (See recipe note above.)
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 pound wild caught mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/2 pound uncooked shell-on very large shrimp
3/4 pound Mahi Mahi, cut into large bite-size chunks
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, and shallots, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, clam juice, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 20 minutes.

Add the mussels to the pot. Cover and cook until the mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and mahi mahi. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, about 5 more minutes. Stir gently. Discard any mussels that do not open. Season the soup, to taste, with salt, if desired.

Ladle the soup into individual bowls and top each bowl of steaming Cioppino On The Cheap with chopped parsley.

Food shopping note:
Clam juice: I really  like Bar Harbor Clam Juice. It is not too salty, like many of the other brands of clam juice.

Food storage note:
Mussels need to breathe. When you get them home, take them out of the bag if they came in one (they suffocate in plastic)and put them in a bowl cover with a wet towel. Refrigerate. They will keep this way for up to two days. 

Enjoy and be healthy!



6 thoughts on “CIOPPINO On The Cheap

  1. Leni….WOW! Debra and Maddie made this last night. It was fantastic with toasted and sliced baguette….the broth was wonderful. Thanks

  2. Leni,
    To elaborate on Bruce’s toasted/sliced baguette comment, we made a butter and garlic paste spread for the baguette (using garlic puree from a tube) and topped each slice with microplaned parmesan before broiling them. It was absolute heaven when we poured the broth over garlic cheese toasts! Maddie’s beau Jon now requests this every Friday night!! A real hit with the guys.

    1. I love to hear how people serve a dish and add their own flair to it. I’m thrilled that you all enjoy this Cioppino so much – as we do at my house! I think I’m going to put it on the menu home this week, too!

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