In Italy, it’s called La Vigilia di Natale, but here in the US, it’s known as no other than the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This time-honored tradition of preparing a delectable seafood banquet to commemorate Christ’s birth takes place on Christmas Eve and is heralded by Italian-Americans as one of the most important meals of the calendar year. We’re here to explore its origins and our most favorite seven fishes recipes.
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What is the Feast of the Seven Fishes?
While Italians celebrate Cenone, or La Vigilia di Natale (the Vigil of the Nativity) on Christmas Eve, Italian-Americans celebrate this night with the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
This feast is the oldest Italian-American tradition and refers to a day of fasting that culminates with a meal free from meat and typically includes 7 different types of seafood.
Some believe the 7 signifies the 7 sacraments of Roman Catholicism, or the 7 days of creation, while other theories point to the 7 hills that surround Rome.
Regardless of where the 7 came from, rest assured that for many Italian-Americans, there will be at least 7 different types of fish and seafood consumed and celebrated on Christmas Eve!
Planning a Successful Feast
There are hundreds of dishes that can be made to commemorate the birth of Christ in true-Italian-American fashion but to simplify things, we’ve selected our favorite recipes.
In this episode, we discuss some of the dishes traditionally served for the feast and provide tips on how to get the best results possible.
For example, a cheat code for the Feast of the Seven Fishes is to make a dishes that includes many different types of seafood, like Zuppa di Pesce, which includes cod, calamari, clams, mussels, and shrimp simmered in a tomato, white wine, and fennel broth.
We also talk through the process of preparing one of the most iconic 7 fishes, baccala, or salt cod so you can feel confident about using it in dishes such as Baccala alla Napoletana, or Baccala Fritters.
- Baked Clams Recipe
- Shrimp Scampi Recipe
- Shrimp Oregenata Recipe
- Cod Piccata Recipe
- Salmon Oreganata Recipe
- Mussels Marinara Recipe
- Mussels in White Wine Sauce Recipe
- Calamari Salad Recipe
- Fried Calamari Recipe
- Linguine alle Vongole Recipe
- Linguine with Canned Clams Recipe
- Paesana article – Feast of the Seven Fishes: An Italian-American Christmas Eve Legacy
- Italia Rail article – Feast of the Seven Fishes: An Italian Christmas Eve Tradition
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