The Feast of the Seven Fishes




La Vigilia

La Vigilia is the night Italians and Italian-Americans celebrate Christmas Eve with “The Feast of the Seven Fishes“. It is one of Italy’s most celebrated traditions which began as a southern Italian custom and grew in popularity through other regions of Italy. This tradition is now currently celebrated by Italians throughout the world.


On this special night while waiting for the birth of baby Jesus at midnight, we feast on a seven fish dishes. Some say they represent the seven days in the week other state that they represent the seven sacraments. Some families prepare three fish dishes which represents the three wise men others prepare thirteen which represents the twelve apostles plus Jesus. All these things depend on the individual families tradition but all agree that fish is the only dish to be served. Along with a nice antipasti at the beginning and plenty of desserts at the end..

There are no requirements as to what types of fish are served. Traditionally baccala must be on the menu. The other dishes can be left to your imagination. Here I will give you some simple traditional fish recipes that you can prepare to carry on this great Italian tradition. Enjoy!


Frutti di Mare

INGREDIENTS

Court Bouillon

  • 3 quarts of water
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup of fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup of fresh basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp of black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ cup of white wine

    Seafood

  • 1 lb baby octopus, cut into pieces
  • 1 lb. of shrimp, peeled and deviened
  • 1 lb. of bay scallops
  • 1 lb of calamari, cleaned and cut into pieces
  • 1 lb of mussels
  • 1 lb of littleneck clams

    Dressing

  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup of celery with leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup of mixed greens

    PREPARATION

  • In a large pot, bring the water, celery, carrots, onions, bay leaf, thyme, basil, garlic, peppercorns, salt and white wine to a boil.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes, strain and reserve the broth.
  • Bring the broth back up to a boil and cook the octopus for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.
  • Remove the octopus and plunge into a cold ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Cook the shrimp in the water 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp are pink and firm. Remove and place in an ice bath.
  • Poach the scallops in the water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove and plunge in an ice bath.
  • Poach the calamari for 1 to minutes. Remove and plunge in an ice bath.
  • Place 2 cups of broth in another pot and steam the clams and mussels until they open. Discard any clam or mussel that did not open.
  • Rinse the clams and mussels under cold water.
  • In a large bowl whisk together the oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and celery.
  • Place all the seafood in the bowl and toss to coat.
  • Marinade in the fridge for around 2 hours until chilled.
  • Plate the greens and serve with the seafood on top.

    Serves 6 to 8 people


    Baccala

    INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds of prepared salt cod cut into 3 inch pieces.
  • 2 15oz. cans of tomato puree.
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped
  • 1 bunch of long green onions chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 Tbls of capers
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of flour for dredging

    PREPARATION

  • Dredge the fish in flour. Shake off excess and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the cod on both sides until brown. About 1 minute on each side.
  • Remove cod from the pan and drain on a paper towel.
  • Add onions, celery, garlic and capers and sauté for about 1 minute.
  • Add Tomatoes, red pepper, oregano and sugar and cook for about 30 minutes.
  • Return cod to the frying pan and cook covered about another 20 minutes.
  • Place fish topped with sauce on a plate and sprinkle with parsley.


    Tuna with Tuscan Beans

    INGREDIENTS

  • 4 fresh or frozen tuna steaks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 bunch of long green onions, chopped
  • 4 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of ground sage
  • 1 15 oz can of Cannellini beans. Rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley

    PREPARATION

  • In a large skillet sauté the garlic and onions in 2 Tbls of olive oil for 3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and sage and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the beans and cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Rinse the fish and pat dry.
  • Brush with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Season both sides with pepper.
  • Place the fish on a broiling pan and broil for about 3 minutes on each side.
  • Spoon the beans and tomato mixture onto a plate and top with the fish steaks.
  • Serve with extra lemon and garnish with parsley.

    Serves 4 people.


    Snails in Marinara

    INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cans of snails
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small green pepper, chopped
  • 2 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 2 15oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp of dried basil
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper or crushed red pepper

    PREPARATION

  • In a large frying pan sauté the onions, garlic, carrot and green pepper in the olive oil until tender.
  • Add the tomato paste and cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the red wine and cook until the wine is reduced in half.
  • Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, sugar, salt, pepper and snails.
  • Cover and simmer for about an hour stirring occasionally.

    Serves 4 people


    Tuscan Salmon

    INGREDIENTS

  • 4 6oz. salmon fillets
  • 1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • 1 bulb of fennel chopped1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes chopped
  • 1 pound of fresh spinach3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 5 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp fresh dill chopped
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp of salt1 tsp of fresh ground black pepper.

    PREPARATION

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a shallow baking dish, lightly coat the bottom with
  • 1 Tbls of olive oil.
  • Place salmon, skin side down, in baking dish an sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle 2 Tbls of olive oil over salmon and set aside.
  • In a frying pan heat the remaining oil and add fennel, garlic and as many artichoke heart as you like. (Drain and pat dry the artichokes before adding them.)
  • Sauté for about five minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in sun-dried tomatoes, dill and lemon juice.
  • Pour over salmon and bake 15 to 20 minutes until fish flakes with a fork.
  • Thoroughly wash spinach and steam until wilted.
  • Place salmon on a plate of spinach, top with mixture.

    Serves 4 people


    Shrimp Scampi

    INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds of medium sized shrimp peeled and deveined.
  • Leave the tails on for added flavor.
  • 1 bunch of long green onions chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2 Tbls of butter
  • 1 Tbls extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of parsley
  • 2 lemons quartered

    PREPARATION

  • Heat butter and oil in a large skillet.
  • Add onions and shrimp for 1 minute.
  • Add garlic for another minute.
  • Turn shrimp over and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Cook for one minute.
  • Add wine and broth and reduce for about 1 minute.
  • Finish with the whipping cream if desired.(It's delicious)
  • Serve sprinkled with parsley with lemon wedges on the side.


    Broiled Halibut

    INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of fresh or frozen halibut filets
  • 3/4 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tbls of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons

    PREPARATION

  • Rinse fish off and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Combine the oil, garlic and the juice from 1/2 a lemon.
  • In a small dish combine breadcrumbs and rosemary.
  • Brush the fish on both side with the oil mixture and dredge through the breadcrumbs until lightly coated.
  • Cover and refrigerate for about 1 to 2 hours.
  • Place the fish on a greased broiler pan and broil for 5 minute on each side.
  • Plate and serve with the remaining lemons.



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