Spicy Seafood Cioppino

RECIPE BY Emma Teal Laukitis & Claire Neaton, The Salmon Sisters

PHOTOS BY Brian Grobleski & Dawn Huemann

Experience the ocean’s freshest delicacies with our mom’s favorite fish stew. Originating in San Francisco, this Italian American dish was traditionally made from the cold and salty Pacific Ocean’s catch of the day stewed with juicy fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce. Our mom’s recipe pulls in Alaska’s seasonal shellfish, halibut, crab, and shrimp. The beau- tiful thing about it is seafood can be substituted according to seasonal availability. This dish calls for store-bought arrabbiata pasta sauce as the base, which is typically made with tomatoes, garlic, and spicy red peppers cooked in olive oil. Serve the stew with crusty, buttery, toasted sourdough bread for dipping and prolonging the rich flavors of the sea. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion (or 3 shallots), diced

1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, roughly 

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground 
black pepper

1 (24-ounce) jar arrabbiata 

1 1/2 cups dry white wine

6 cups fish or chicken stock

1 bay leaf

Fish sauce, clam juice, or anchovy paste, for seasoning (optional) 

1 pound manila clams, scrubbed 

1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded 

1 pound firm fish, such as halibut or salmon, skin removed, cut into bite-size pieces 

1/2 pound scallops or large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

1/2 pound crab legs or prawns (optional)

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 


1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and fennel and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the celery, carrots, and garlic and continue sautéing for 5 more minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Add the arrabbiata and wine. Bring the liquid to a simmer and allow it to reduce by half before adding the stock and bay leaf. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you would like to create more depth in the broth (especially if using chicken stock), add a splash of fish sauce, a small bottle of clam juice, or even a few teaspoons of anchovy paste. 

2. Once the carrots are tender, the broth is ready. It will take about 10 minutes to cook the seafood, so the broth can rest on the stovetop until just before serving. You could also make it ahead of time, refrigerate it, and reheat at mealtime. 

3. Add the clams, mussels, fish, scallops, and any other seafood to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the clams and mussels have opened and the fish is cooked through. Ladle the stew into bowls, garnish with the parsley, and serve with crusty buttered bread.

©2020 by Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton. Excerpted from The Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska by permission of Sasquatch Books.

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