Feast Of The Seven Fishes

Some of the most delicious traditions come from Italian homes during the holidays. Although Italians always seem to take an interest in food particularly during the numerous holidays throughout the year, at Christmas, food always seems to become a priority. Apart from the many religious traditions, this is the time each year when celebration foods are prepared and families gather together to enjoy this special season. One of the most famous traditions followed each Christmas is the one for La Vigilia, or the Feast Of Seven Fishes which is celebrated on Christmas Eve. This year we are in our new home close to family so I am very excited to be able to host my own Feast of The Seven Fishes this Christmas Eve. I am going to be working on a few new seafood recipes to use in my menu over the next few weeks and I will share them with you soon!

The tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates from the medieval Catholic tradition of abstinence, or in this case, refraining from the consumption of meat or milk products on Fridays and specific holy days. As no meat or butter could be used, observant Catholics would instead eat fish, often fried in olive oil. The type of seafood prepared for this feast is similar for most families as there are always seven combinations of anchovies, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and clams. Spaghetti with Sardines is a very typical pasta served for this meal, while a number of other seafood selections are often combined in a seafood salad eaten as a first course, or appetizer.

While researching the background of this tradition I was surprised to find out that it is not always simply seven seafood dishes prepared. Some feel there must be seven different types of seafood served, while others traditionally serve ten or thirteen fish dishes each Christmas Eve. It is thought that the seven fishes represent the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, while others celebrate the Stations of the Cross. Thirteen dishes are said to represent the twelve apostles plus Jesus. Whatever your beliefs are, plan a wonderful seafood feast this year, gather round your friends and family and enjoy the season. Here is my suggestions for seven seafood dishes for your Italian Christmas Eve menu. Add a few vegetable side dishes, and a tasty dessert, and enjoy!

Feast of Seven Fishes



Breaded Mussels

Seafood Salad

Cured Salmon

Scallops With Tomatoes & Breadcrumbs

Octopus With White Beans

Fried Sardines With Parsley Sauce

Crab Poppers With Horseradish Sauce

Calamari with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Olives

Baked Scallops With Tomato Sauce



Lemon Pasta With Shrimp

Seafood Soup Trieste Style

Spaghetti With Clams & Cherry Tomatoes

Pasta With Shrimp & Artichokes

Pasta With Shrimp & Clams

Almafi Lemon Risotto With Shrimp

Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Spaghetti With Shrimp In Creamy Tomato Sauce



Grilled Octopus

Whole Fish Baked In Salt

Sicilian Swordfish With Tomato Relish

Baccala Stew

Italian Seafood Stew

Grouper Puttanesca

Grilled Swordfish with Oregano

Calabrian Chili Shrimp

Deborah Mele
Revised December 2020