Plates of food for Feast of the Seven Fishes

Feast of the Seven Fishes

What holiday dinner traditions do you keep alive? Are there recipes that if they weren’t included would be considered heresy? Or maybe you just wing it from year to year – that’s also a form of tradition.

Many Italian Americans with roots in the Riverside section of Paterson, NJ, will be serving their families’ versions of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is a vigil or fasting day and the abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself.

The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it’s known as La Vigilia (The Vigil) and commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. Southern Italian immigrants in New York City’s Little Italy brought the grand meal to the U.S. in the late 1800s.

The seven courses vary from family to family, with some common foods including baccalà (salt cod), clams casino, shrimp and of course, pasta. Dessert can also be counted as course seven.

The 12 Days of Christmas Zoom class giveaway begins Friday and recipients will be notified via email. We’ll get ready to bid adieu to 2020 on Dec. 29 with the Gourmet Girls, Chef Mary Steiger and Susan Fulton, cooking delicious gluten free New Year’s Eve appetizers.

Wishing you holiday joy in the kitchen,


Clams Casino

Serves 4

24 large clams
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup onion, minced
¼ cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
4 slices bacon
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried parsley
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp over medium heat. Crumble and set aside.
3. Wash clams. Place on a baking sheet. Heat in oven 1-2 minutes or until clams open. Discard any that don’t open. Remove meat from shells. Chop and set aside.
3. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons oil and the butter, then add onion, pepper and garlic; sauté until tender. Remove from heat and cool.
4. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, bacon, oregano, cheese, vegetables and chopped clams. Mix well. Fill clam shells and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with parsley and paprika. Drizzle with olive oil.
5. Bake at 450° F for 7 minutes. Serve.

Photo credit: Trevor Dixon


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