Are you ready to create a Feast of the Seven Fishes extravaganza this year? Here's your handy recipe guide to building an unforgettable seafood spread at home.
Whether you're going old-school and aiming for a menu of all Italian dishes, or customizing your holiday seafood feast with recipes from around the world, I have 45 festive dishes to close out your holiday season with joy.
The History of the Feast of the Seven Fishes
The Feast of the Seven Fishes, known as "La Vigilia" or "Festa dei Sette Pesci" in Italian, is a Christmas Eve celebration for Italian Americans. The origins of this feasting event are not clear. Some say it symbolizes the seven days of creation, while others claim it represents the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, or perhaps symbolic of the seven deadly sins, or even the seven hills of Rome.
While the origin story may not be obvious, one thing is clear: it's the seven courses of seafood that will steal the show, and we're here to savor every bite.
In modern times, many households focus less on serving seven courses, while still enjoying a seafood dinner on Christmas Eve. This is my preferred method for celebrating. A simple but memorable spread of seafood charcuterie, followed by a savory seafood pasta or stew, then a whole fish with olives for the main course. No stress about hitting 7 separate fish dishes - just delicious and impressive seafood on the table!
The beauty of food-based traditions is our ability to adapt them with the passing of time, while honoring their spirit. So this year, we have an entirely new lineup of recipe options for your Feast of the Seven Fishes event. From classic preparations to contemporary twists, we'll explore dishes that will build an unforgettable experience for your family and friends.
Seafood Appetizers and Starters
These Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers are a savory, seafood-filled twist on a classic. Plump shrimp are mixed with a flavorful stuffing, then baked in banana peppers, or Hungarian wax peppers. Serve this eye-catching appetizer with savory tomato sauce or smoky Romesco (recipe included). They make for a delightful addition to your holiday seafood spread.
For a full Mediterranean experience at your Feast of the Seven Fishes, build an irresistable Mediterranean Charcuterie Board. Pair a variety of seafood and skewers with classics like marinated olives, anchovies, stuffed pickled peppers and feta cheese. Add fresh pita bread or baguette and you have an ultra-satisfying grazing experience.
Celebrate the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay - or your nearest crab shack - with a bowl of Maryland Crab Soup. Packed with sweet crab meat and vegetables, this light, tomato-based soup is a comforting and flavorful choice for your holiday table.
These Crawfish Hand Pies offer a taste of Louisiana's legendary culinary heritage. The savory pastry is filled with a creamy mixture of seasoned crawfish and veggies, creating a delicious handheld treat that's perfect for your seafood-centric holiday menu.
Start your seafood journey with a refreshing Octopus Ceviche, where tender octopus is marinated in zesty citrus juices, combined with vibrant vegetables, and a hint of cilantro. This appetizer brings a burst of flavor to your Feast of the Seven Fishes celebration. Substitute shrimp or calamari rings for octopus, if you prefer.
Bring a taste of the South to your celebration with Crispy Southern Fried Oysters. These golden-brown gems are shucked, breaded in seasoned cornmeal, and fried to perfection. Plating these nuggets with Spicy Aioli makes this dish a great way to welcome your guests.
Warm your guests' hearts and bellies with a rich and velvety Crawfish Bisque. This comforting soup combines the deep flavors of crawfish, aromatic spices, and cream for a bowl of Southern comfort that's ideal for the holiday season.
Create a festive and whimsical display with a seafood-focused Christmas Tree Charcuterie Board. Incorporate a variety of your favorite seafood items, from smoked salmon to shrimp cocktail, to trendy tinned fish. This is the board everyone will go home talking about.
Warm your soul with a comforting Maine Lobster Chowder. It's a creamy, indulgent soup that features the sweet and succulent meat of Maine lobster, making it a luxurious addition to your holiday menu. Serve it with oyster crackers or an Italian loaf of bread. Substitute shrimp or your favorite white fish for a more budget-friendly chowder!
Add a spicy kick to your seafood lineup with Hot Honey Lemon Pepper Shrimp. These shrimp are flash-fried, then coated in a fiery glaze, balancing the heat with the brightness of lemon and the sticky sweetness of honey. A mouthwatering appetizer that's perfect for a festive gathering.
If you're passionate about seafood, build a Holiday Charcuterie spread that caters to your love of the ocean's bounty. Include shellfish, smoked fish, and seafood-inspired spreads and dips. Be sure to add cheese and vegetarian options so all your guests find something they love.
Throw all tradition to the wind and serve this crave-worthy Clam Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella for Christmas Eve. The tender clams, briny and aromatic, pair perfectly with the creaminess of fresh mozzarella, bright lemon zest and savory garlic sauce. Served on a crispy, thin crust lavash, it's the recipe you'll carry with you to pizza Fridays all year!
Experience the flavors of the Big Easy with New Orleans' Style Grilled Oysters. These oysters are char-grilled to perfection and then topped with garlic butter, cheese and fresh herbs. It's a delectable appetizer that's quintessentially New Orleans.
Savory Seafood Pasta Dishes
Succulent scallops and plump shrimp are sautéed to perfection and then tossed in a luscious garlic wine sauce. Substitute your favorite seafood, but keep the sauce! It's a symphony of flavors that will make your Feast of the 7 Fishes a memorable one.
A classic with a twist, this Shrimp Scampi Pasta is a true crowd-pleaser. Tender shrimp are bathed in a spicy lemon-garlic sauce and topped with crispy, olive oil breadcrumbs, adding a savory crunch to your seafood feast.
These cheese and spinach-stuffed cannelloni are baked to a bubbly golden brown, then covered in creamy shrimp sauce. It's festive, comforting and feeds a crowd. The perfect holiday seafood pasta dish!
Add a little heat to your Feast of the 7 Fishes with this spicy rigatoni in vodka sauce. The marriage of spicy Italian peppers, tomatoes, and cream creates a rich and fiery sauce that beautifully complements your choice of seafood. I like adding grilled shrimp to the final dish, but you can serve skewers on the side if you're looking for a vegetarian dish to break up the evening.
Embrace the simple elegance of this one-pan Lemon Ricotta Pasta. Delicate orecchiette pasta is drenched with a creamy ricotta sauce and brightened with lemon zest and juice. To add a rich crunch, the dish is garnished with toasted herb and lemon walnuts, creating a beautifully balanced dish for your festive seafood celebration.
For an easy orzo pasta dish, bring holiday colors and flavors to your Christmas Eve table with this Italian orzo dish. Sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy goat cheese bathe tender orzo in flavor. Add seared scallops or shrimp, or keep this dish vegetarian.
Need a quick-but-fancy dish for your holiday table? This creamy tomato sauce with shrimp is the perfect addition to a package of store-bought seafood ravioli. Add a serving bowl of Mediterranean Tossed Salad and Garlic Bread Baguette and your holiday will be a delicious success.
Luxurious Main Courses
Indulge in the simplicity of a perfectly grilled whole fish, smothered in a briny olive and herb sauce that balances the richness of seafood with a burst of Mediterranean flavors. Check your fish market for the best whole fish options. This recipe works well with several types of fish including branzino, red snapper, tilapia and sea bream. Serve with Lemon Dill Basmati Rice or Garlic Roasted Baby Potatoes.
Tender calamari stuffed with Italian seasoned bread and seafood then braised in a flavorful red sauce. This is a classic Italian dish that's delicious served over creamy polenta or fresh pasta. Serve with a large bowl of Mediterranean Tossed Salad and your holiday tradition will be sealed.
Succulent shrimp, baked with a savory crab cake mixture until golden brown and buttery. Garnished with fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice, this is a luxurious dish that brings seafood elegance to your Feast of Seven Fishes table.
Grilled shrimp served alongside a vibrant pistachio chimichurri, offer a colorful and fresh profile to your seafood experience. This dish is equally delicious on the outdoor grill and in a stovetop grill pan or skillet. Shrimp skewers are a versatile option and can be served as an appetizer or a main course for your seafood dinner.
Elevate your Feast of the Seven Fishes with a sumptuous roasted salmon. A luscious butter, garlic and fresh herb crust is reminiscent of old-school prime rib roasts from your favorite steakhouse in New York City. Slice your salmon into pieces or flake it up and serve with a dish of Duchess Potato Casserole.
Delicate broiled scallops are paired with a zesty Italian salsa verde, creating a plate that is both elegant and bursting with robust flavors. This is one of the easiest, fail-proof, last-minute recipes to add to your Christmas Eve dinner, leaving you with plenty of spare time to party!
Flounder fillets take on a Mediterranean twist as they're cooked piccata-style, with a zingy lemon and caper sauce that enhances the the light and flaky texture. Serve with pasta or potatoes and Fancy Green Beans for a meal that makes Italian grandmothers proud!
Transport your taste buds to France with this classic scallop dish, bathed in a velvety sherry and mushroom cream sauce, and topped with crunchy herb and lemon topping. It's an impressive dish to bring to the dinner table on Christmas Eve.
Savory seafood stews are a great option for Christmas Eve. Warm, cozy and sophisticated, plus they can feed a crowd! The delicate, lobster-like texture of monkfish is the perfect star for this hearty stew infused with aromatic herbs and vegetables. If cod, shrimp or crab are easier to find in your local market, substitute what you have and enjoy!
These tasty, garlic-infused shrimp pack a fiery punch, tempered by fresh lemon juice and bright cilantro. This Portuguese-inspired recipe makes a bold and flavorful statement on your Feast of the Seven Fishes table.
Pasta with white clam sauce may be the tradition in Italian households, but these Buttery Herb Clams are an update on the classic! Steamed clams bathed in a luxurious herb and butter sauce offer a taste of the ocean in every bite, perfect for dipping crusty bread into the irresistible juices. Serve with baguette or a bowl of pasta for a lovely main course.
These simple crab cakes, broiled to golden perfection, make for an irresistible main course. Or form the mixture into mini-cakes for a memorable appetizer. Serve with a fresh Gazpacho Salad with juicy tomatoes for a taste of the Mediterranean seaside.
Grouper fillets are sealed in flavorful packets with green olives and pistachios, creating a unique and gorgeous seafood experience. Nothing is so impressive as bringing these parchment packets to the table and watching your guests unwrap them before dinner.
A true seafood extravaganza, this dish combines crab and shrimp to create a delectable stuffing for tender salmon, ensuring an explosion of flavors in every bite. Serve with Creamy Parmesan Sauce for a rich and flavorful main course.
Transport your guests to the Mediterranean with tender, char-grilled octopus seasoned with Greek herbs and a squeeze of lemon – a dish that embodies the taste of the sea.
A fun seafood dish for your holiday event! Coat flaky white fish in seasoned cornflake crumbs then bake them up to buttery perfection. It's nostalgic and comforting and will have everyone asking for seconds. Use walleye, haddock, cod, or your favorite white fish fillets!
This luxurious lobster casserole combines sweet lobster meat with lemon garlic butter, then topped with a buttery crunchy topping. It's an effortless yet indulgent main course for your Feast of the Seven Fishes. It's lazy because the lobster is baked in casserole dishes already cracked open and ready to enjoy. No fuss, no muss!
Chilean sea bass, crusted with golden-brown potatoes and drizzled with a fragrant herb butter sauce, brings together textures and flavors that are both comforting and impressive. The perfect show-stopping main course to a spectacular seafood feast. (Based on French chef Paul Bucose classic technique, so you know it's going to be fabulous!)
Choose your favorite white fish fillets, then cover them with a rich and crunchy macadamia nut crust. The coating adds a delightful richness to the dish, complemented by a burst of fresh scallion and lemon flavor in every bite.
One of the easiest, most impressive recipes of the year! Flaky baked cod topped with a cheesy Parmesan and almond crust. This is an elegant and flavorsome main course. This recipe is endlessly customizable and works well with many different types of fish.
Treat yourself to the king of all crabs for your Christmas eve dinner! King crab legs drenched in a silky lemon butter sauce, make for an opulent and utterly satisfying dish. Substitute snow crab legs for a more budget-friendly big family feast.
Calamari shines in this sautéed dish, accompanied by a flavorful supporting cast of garlic, chilis, and creamy feta. It's a unique and memorable seafood experience that works well on toast points for an appetizer, or with a baguette for the main event.
Dive into the world of mussels paired with sweet and savory caramelized fennel and shallots, swimming in a creamy seafood broth. Use gorgeous green mussels or grab whatever variety is fresh at your local market.
Wrap delicate flounder fillets around a creamy garlic spinach mixture and create this elegant dish perfect for a festive occasion. Sprinkled with savory seasoned panko, you'll get a satisfying crunch in every bite.
Luxurious langoustine lobster elevates a rich and creamy risotto in a dish that marries the ocean's treasures with the familiarity of Italian cuisine. The perfect fancy-but-simple recipe for your Italian-American Christmas eve tradition.
Merry Christmas and Happy Eating to us all!