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Wow Your Holiday Guests with Delicious Pasta with Seafood

It's time for holiday-worthy cioppino pasta, sustainable seafood and wine.

You’ve probably already made steps to eat (and drink) more sustainably – like choosing California-grown produce and wines when you shop and dine out. But how much consideration have you given to the seafood you’re eating? Thankfully, with 840 miles of gorgeous coastline, California is no slouch when it comes to both amazing scenery and sustainable seafood. The recipe for Cioppino Pasta shared below highlights some of the best seafood the Golden State has to offer. Not surprisingly, this pasta with seafood is also a perfect way to impress your holiday guests.

Supporting California’s Fishermen and Women by Choosing Sustainable Seafood


Americans are eating more seafood than ever before (about 19 pounds per person each year). That said, it’s still less than the USDA recommendation of two four-ounce servings a week. If you’re like a lot of people who want to eat more seafood but are concerned about overfishing and other environmental impacts, you’ll be happy to know that like farming, California is at the forefront of sustainability with fishing practices.

When it comes to seafood, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch reigns supreme.  As in the wine industry, sustainability encompasses a lot of different factors such as preserving the environment, protecting workers and ensuring that folks in the entire seafood supply chain actually make a buck or two.

Thankfully it’s easy to find sustainable seafood in the Golden State. A great place to start is by using Seafood Watch’s website for recommendations on which seafood gets a big thumbs up and which is a no-go. Its team makes science-based recommendations on which seafood is the most sustainable. They break it down into four easy-to-understand categories: Best Choice (buy first), Certified (equivalent to a Seafood Watch Good Alternative or better), Good Alternative (yellow light – there may be concerns with how its caught, farmed or managed) and Avoid (overfished or caught in a way that harms the environment). And yes, there’s an app for that. Add it to your phone so you have easy access to the list whether you’re ordering in a restaurant or buying seafood at a market near you.

Beyond that, you already know the drill – the best way you can support California fishing families is to buy local. There are several websites that can help you find sustainable seafood near you including LocalCatch and Get Hooked Seafood. In addition, many communities have markets and farmers’ markets that feature locally caught fish and seafood. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make special requests, especially if you’re shopping in your local supermarket. Pro tip – if seafood’s the star of your holiday show, order ahead so you don’t have to scramble for a new recipe when that Dungeness crab (or oysters or halibut) is sold out.

5 Sustainable Holiday Gifts That Support California Farmers, Winemakers and Fishermen and Women

women at restaurant

Giving holiday gifts that don’t end up in a landfill and that also support California farmers, winemakers and fishermen and women is something we can all get behind! Did you know that over 90% of California farms are family owned – and many of those are multigenerational? That’s true for winemakers and fishermen as well. This holiday season, consider ways to support your farming, winemaking and fishing neighbors by choosing sustainable gifts for your family and friends. Here are a few of our top ideas:


  1. Subscription boxes – who doesn’t love getting a monthly gift of California wines, fresh produce, cheese, flowers or seafood?
  2. DIY gift basket with CA GROWN goods and wines – California grows over 400 commodities so you’ll have no shortage of delicious options when it comes to filling a basket. Choose in-season fresh fruit or veggies or, if you prefer, something that has a longer shelf life – think gourmet olive oils, ripe olives, artisanal jams, dried fruits and nuts. Round it out with a bottle of your favorite California wine and some fresh California-grown flowers.
  3. Restaurant gift certificates – supporting chefs who are committed to sourcing their produce, meats, dairy, wine and seafood locally is a win-win.
  4. Cooking classes – Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime…as long as he knows how to cook it. Most Americans eat their seafood in restaurants rather than at home. A cooking class or two will help with kitchen confidence (and who knows, you might reap the reward with an invitation to dinner).
  5. Wine Country Table Cookbook – speaking of cooking, our beautiful cookbook has stories, recipes and gorgeous photography from 23 of California’s wineries and farms. It’s a great gift for anyone and everyone who loves food and wine from the Golden State.

A Holiday-Worthy Cioppino Recipe

Cioppino is a fish stew that became popular in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1930s. Its origin is suspected to stem from when Italian-American fishermen added something from the day’s catch to a large, communal soup kettle on the dock. Though it seems to be related to a few other fish stew recipes from Italy, the name “cioppino” remains a bit of a mystery, but some historians have suggested that it’s Italian-American slang for “chip in.” However the dish got its name, there is one thing you can definitely call it – delicious. The recipe is very versatile – swap whatever fish or shellfish to ensure you always have the freshest catch available. As a general rule of thumb, shellfish is one of the most sustainable types of seafood! Pair this cioppino with California Chardonnay or California Dolcetto.

Cioppino over Pasta

  • ¼ cup (113g) extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced 
  • 2 shallots, diced 
  • 1 fennel head, trimmed (reserve fronds), finely diced 
  • 2 (4g) teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the pasta 
  • ½ teaspoon (.8g) red pepper or Calabrian chili flakes 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) tomato paste 
  • 1 28-oz. (794g) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand or using a potato masher 
  • 6 cups (1,464g) seafood stock  
  • 1 ½ cups (359g) dry white wine 
  • 2 fresh bay leaves 
  • 1 lb (454g) mussels, de-bearded and rinsed 
  • 1 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned 
  • 12 oz. (340g) cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut crosswise into 1/2-inch rings 
  • 1 lb. (454g) halibut or similar firm-fleshed fish, cut into 2-inch pieces 
  • 1 lb. (454g) 16-20 count shrimp, shelled and deveined  
  • 8 oz. (227g) lump crabmeat 
  • 1 lb. (454g) dried fettuccine 
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges 
  • Sourdough bread to serve 


In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, warm the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, shallots, and fennel for 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Season with salt and chili flakes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes.  

Next, stir in the tomato paste until it’s incorporated, then add the tomatoes with their juices. Add the seafood stock, wine, and bay leaves, then bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the flavors blend. Season with additional salt to taste.  

Meanwhile, heavily salt a large, separate pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the dried fettuccine and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes or as directed on the packaging. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside. 

Once the cioppino broth is ready, add the mussels and clams. Cover and cook until they begin to open, about 5 minutes. Next add the squid, fish and shrimp. Simmer and stir gently until the fish is just cooked through, another 5 minutes or so. The clams and mussels should be completely open (discard any that haven’t opened). Season again with salt and chili flakes to taste. 

Serve the cioppino in bowls over the cooked fettuccine and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, a wedge of lemon and a piece of sourdough. 

NOTE: Clams and mussels often release grit and sand during the cooking process, especially if they are very fresh. One easy way to avoid gritty cioppino is to submerge the clams and mussels in a large bowl with plenty of water and a generous amount of kosher salt. Let sit for about 1 hour, or while you are preparing the cioppino broth. The saltwater allows them to purge the sand and grit. When it’s time to add them to the pot, drain and rinse well under fresh water. 

Recommended Pairings

California Chardonnay or California Dolcetto
wine and seafood

White Wines Rule When it Comes to Seafood, But…

Though many wine lovers now subscribe to the “drink what you like, eat what you like” philosophy, white wine is still overwhelmingly paired with seafood. Why? Just like you may like squirting a bit of lemon juice on your fish, the acidity in white wine helps to brighten the flavors of many seafood dishes, especially buttery and creamy ones. That said, bold, tomato-based seafood dishes like cioppino can also work well with reds. Here, we give you a pairing recommendation for one of each; California Chardonnay and California Dolcetto.

Chardonnay is a classic seafood pairing and can play well with bigger flavors, especially if you choose one that is crisp, clean, acidic and fermented in stainless. Dolcetto is an easy-drinking red often enjoyed on the young side like Beaujolais. Though its name translates to “little sweet one,” it’s kind of a misnomer. Rather, Dolcetto can be juicy, earthy and slightly tannic and it holds up well to the tomato-based cioppino.

Alison Needham

About the Author

From an early age, Alison Needham has been pondering life's one big question - what's for dinner? She's been a content creator, recipe developer and food photographer for more than two decades. Alison lives in Southern California with her husband, an assortment of quirky pets and occasionally one (or all three) of her young adult children.