Cioppino, Italian Seafood Stew for Christmas Eve

The perfect dish for a special Christmas Eve feast. 

For a special holiday meal, I will make the fennel tomato broth a day or two in advance and when time for supper, bring the broth to a simmer and toss the seafood into the super flavorful stock for a quick poach.

The broth for this dish comes together quickly in just half an hour or so. On a weeknight, I will more often make this dish with all shrimp or mussels. Yum!


  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • One medium bulb fennel or anise, outer layer peeled, center core cut out, thinly sliced, reserve a few lacy fronts for serving
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Big pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup white wine 
  • One 28 ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 pounds mixed seafood – example 1/2 pound shrimp, 1/2 pound scallops, 1 dozen cherrystone clams, 1 dozen mussels
  • Fresh basil, torn into pieces


  • Saute the garlic, fennel and shallot in the olive oil in a large deep skillet or pot over medium high heat until soft and just beginning to brown at the edges, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the crushed red pepper flakes and sauté an additional 45 seconds. 
  • Add the wine and tomatoes, bring to a boil, lower heat and barely simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • I gauge all my seafood cuts by the size of my shrimp – if the shrimp are large, I may leave large scallops whole. You want your seafood to cook to perfect doneness at about the same time.
  • Just before serving, add the seafood and poach in the simmering tomato fennel broth until just cooked through, timing depends on the size of shrimp and scallops… simmer until mussels and clams open.
  • Do NOT overcook.
  • Serve in a deep bowl with a bit of torn fresh basil leaves and reserved fennel fronds.

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