Italian fish soup : a hearty winter warmer.

This authentic recipe for Italian fish soup is the original basis for the American ‘Cioppino’ (sometimes ‘Ciopino’) recipe.

It's a delicious, healthy, low-fat addition to our virtual Italian cook-book.

Italian fish soup

Is Italian fish soup ‘Cioppino’?

Cioppino’ (sometimes mis-spelled as ‘Ciopino’) is actually more like a thick fish stew.

It was made popular in San Francisco when Italian immigrants used the recipes they’d brought from their homeland to cook the abundant local seafood.

In Italy the dish varies from region to region. In Basilicata, for example, chilli is added; in Abruzzo and Le Marche they add nothing to distract from the delicious taste of fresh fish.

This particular recipe for Italian fish soup provides a very filling meal for 6 people. Use the freshest ingredients you can and try it with some lovely tomato bread.


✱  3 lb (1.5 kilos) of mixed fresh fish of your choice - include shellfish if you like it

✱  0.5 lbs (250 grammes) squid. If you don’t like squid just leave it out, or use something like cuttlefish instead.

Italian fish soup

✱  1 lb (0.5 kilo) onions

✱  1 lb (0.5 kilo) fresh tomatoes

✱  1 glass white wine (optional)

✱  0.5 cup chopped parsley (try to use flat leaf - curly leaf tends to be bitter)

✱  Pinch oregano; salt and pepper

✱  Olive oil

How to make it.

✱  Cut all the fish (including the squid) into bite-sized chunks, removing any bones you may find.

✱  Peel the onions and cut into thin slices (rings).

✱  Cut the tomatoes into chunks similar in size to the fish. Some people blanch and peel the tomatoes but we never bother.

✱  Into a large pot which can be used on a hob, pour a small amount of olive oil - just enough to grease the bottom of the dish.

✱  Divide the onions and tomatoes into two, and put one half in the bottom of the pot. Season to taste.

Italian fish soup

✱  Divide the fish in two and spread one half over the vegetables.  If using chillis, put half those in now.

✱  Add another onion and tomato layer and a final fish layer, and season again on top of the fish.

✱  Sprinkle the herbs on top, pour the wine over (if not using wine, add half a cup of fish stock) and drizzle with a little olive oil.

✱  You don’t need to add any other liquid. The stock from the fish and vegetables is enough - if you add more, it will turn to mush!

✱  Cover and cook over a very low light on the hob for about an hour.  Whatever you do, don’t stir it - you’ll break the fish up. If you feel the need to move it around just shake it gently.

✱  When the soup has thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated, it’s time to eat!

✱  This recipe is particularly popular on Christmas Eve, when traditionally only fish courses are served in the evening meal.



Traditionally, only fish courses are eaten in Italy on Christmas Eve.  If you want to follow that custom, this main course fish dish could be one of the tastiest Italian Christmas recipes you’ve ever had.

If you love warming winter recipes, have a look at this one about how to cook Italian sausage soup. It’s so scrummy!