Michael Mina's favorite winter warm up: Dungeness crab cioppino

December 11, 2015                 3m read time
Michael Mina

For Christmas Eve dinner my mother-in-law, Judith Tirado, always prepared cioppino—the San Francisco seafood stew that owes its origins to fishermen from Italy's Ligurian coast. She'd spend the entire day infusing the broth with basil and tomatoes. The whole house would smell amazing. Though she’s no longer here with us, we carry on the tradition by making her hearty, briny recipe, full of crab, shrimp, and clams. It’s exactly the kind of dish I’d want to come home to after a long, exciting day outside in the winter—hearty, but not heavy.

Judith's Dungeness Crab Cioppino


  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves—6 finely chopped, 2 whole
  • 3 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
  • Four 8-ounce bottles clam broth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 steamed Dungeness crabs, about 2 pounds each (see Note)
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 pounds firm, white-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut, skinned and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
  • 1 pound sea scallops, halved vertically if large
  • Crusty bread, for serving
It’s exactly the kind of dish I’d want to come home to after a long, exciting day outside in the winter—hearty, but not heavy.
— ZOZI Guru Michael Mina


1. In a very large soup pot, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped garlic, jalapeños, bell peppers, onion, and bay leaf. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, over moderately high heat until softened and beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute longer. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and cook over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the clam broth and water, season lightly with salt and generously with pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat for about 20 minutes until the broth is reduced to about 8 cups.

2. Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, combine the basil leaves with the whole garlic and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil and the crushed red pepper, and process the basil puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Working over the sink, pull off the flap on the undersides of the crabs. Remove the top shells and discard. Pry out the brownish insides and pull off the feathery lungs and discard. Rinse the crab bodies in cold water and quarter them so that each piece has body and leg.

4. Add the crabs and clams to the pot. Cover and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the clams begin to open. Using tongs, transfer the crabs to a large platter. Add the fish, shrimp, mussels and scallops to the pot, pushing them into the broth. Return the crabs to the pot, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the clams and mussels are fully open and the fish, shrimp, and scallops are cooked through, about 8 minutes longer.

5. Ladle the cioppino into deep bowls and drizzle each serving with some of the basil puree. Serve with crusty bread and pass the remaining basil puree separately.

Make ahead: The Dungeness crab cioppino can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 3 days. 

Note: Have the fishmonger steam the crabs.

Michael Mina

Born in Egypt, Michael Mina showed an unrelenting passion for cooking and entrepreneurship at a young age. One of the most decorated chefs of all time, his many accolades include 2013 James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage” inductee, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year, Food Arts Silver Spoon Award Winner, San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year, and International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year. Michael currently owns 26 concept restaurants, including the Michelin-rated Michael Mina in San Francisco and Michael Mina Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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