An Italian Christmas Eve dinner, otherwise known as The Feast of the Seven Fishes, is a wonderful way to celebrate with loved ones, no matter what your heritage.
The fish and seafood we’ve chosen for our family celebration include mussels, clams, shrimp, squid, scallops, cod, and scungilli (whelk). Read on to learn a bit about the tradition and our favorite recipes for the occasion.
A Brief History of The Feast of the Seven Fishes
Although gathering friends and family together for a meatless meal on Christmas Eve is common throughout Italy, The Feast of the Seven Fishes is actually an Italian-American tradition. Why the feast includes exactly seven types of seafood remains a bit of a mystery as some say it honors the seven holy sacraments of the Catholic Church, while others say it marks the seven days of creation.
The idea of a multi-course seafood dinner on Christmas Eve (La Vigilia) began in Southern Italy, an area surrounded by the sea and known for its bountiful fresh fish and seafood. Immigrants from this area brought the tradition to America, and hence, the Feast of the Seven Fishes began its rise in popularity.
Even if you’re not of Italian heritage (and we are not), an Italian Christmas Eve dinner is a deliciously special way to celebrate with loved ones during the holiday season. Buon Natale!
About Our Menu
We have a number of Italian-inspired fish and seafood recipes, but this is by far our favorite combination of dishes for a Christmas Eve feast.
- Appetizers (Antipasti): To start the meal, we like to serve an assortment of light dishes so that our guests can leave some room for the pasta and main dishes to come. Our Steamed Mussel Italian-Style, Clams Casino, and a garlicky Scungilli Salad fit that plan perfectly.
- First course (Primi): The first course in an Italian meal is usually a pasta course. For this meal we’ve chosen one with a light red sauce, Squid in Marinara Sauce over linguine, and a Sicilian-style dish of Citrus-Glazed Scallops over angel hair or spaghetti.
- Main course (Secondi): Our second, or entrée course consists of two dishes filled with Italian-inspired flavors, Baked Stuffed Shrimp and Baked Stuffed Cod.
- Dessert course (Dolci): To finish the meal, we like to serve a small assortment of cookies that includes Orange Rosemary Biscotti, soft Ricotta Cookies, and Wine Biscuits along with cups of espresso.
You can get more details on all these recipes below or, if you’re entertaining a smaller crowd, try our Linguine with Seafood (Linguine ai Frutti di Mare). It includes shrimp, scallops, squid, fish, mussels, and clams – six of your seven fishes. Add in one more dish (perhaps the Scungilli Salad) and you have your feast!