The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American tradition that is celebrated on Christmas Eve. For the gathering, dishes made using seven different types of seafood are passed around the table for guests to enjoy. The tradition likely developed from Roman Catholics, some of whom refrain from eating meat leading up to the holiday. Therefore, fish and seafood became a large part of the diet and a logical way to celebrate the day leading up to Christmas.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is often thought of as a grand affair, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating small. Nonetheless, it’s called a feast for a reason: the holiday dinner traditionally has many dishes, from bite-size starters to meaty main courses. Whether you’re serving your family of four or having the whole extended bunch over for the holidays, you can make as many or as few seafood dishes as you’d like — seven isn’t necessarily a steadfast rule.
Whether you go big or small, we’ve included a mix of recipes: some, like honey-baked salmon and oysters on the half shell are simple, while others like olive oil-poached halibut are more elaborate. Many can be made hours ahead of time while some should be cooked and served as close to dinner time as possible. They all share one thing — they’re delicious! Get ready to celebrate a traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes with these worthy seafood recipes.
Baked Clams Oreganata by Elaina Scotto and Anthony Scotto
Start your feast off with this simple appetizer of baked clams. A buttery breadcrumb mixture flavored with lemon zest, garlic and fresh parsley is spooned over clams on the half shell. As the clams steam in white wine, the topping becomes golden brown and fragrant.
Fritto Misto (Fried Seafood and Vegetables) by Anthony Scotto and Marion Scotto and Elaina Scotto
A towering platter of fried seafood and vegetables is a surefire way to get any festive party started. Be sure to serve these straight out of the fryer and sprinkle with salt while they’re still warm. Bring the fresh flavor of the fish and vegetables back to life by squeezing some lemon juice over the top before popping the bite-size pieces into your mouth.
Baked Oysters Au Camembert by Nico Romo
Oysters on the half shell are always a simple way to start a Feast of the Seven Fishes, but these baked oysters take it up a notch. Each oyster is coated in a rich and buttery Camembert and white wine sauce before they’re baked in the oven. The oyster meat becomes tender and the cheese sauce thickens and bubbles, practically melting in your mouth.
Italian Marinated Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare) by Anthony Scotto and Elaina Scotto
This impressive seafood salad is easy to prepare and can be a welcome addition if you’re including heavier winter dishes on your holiday menu. The perfectly cooked pieces of lobster, shrimp, calamari and cod soak up all of the flavors of a simple citrus and garlic vinaigrette. You can cook the fish a few hours ahead of time and keep the dish cold until it’s time to serve.
Baked Clams by Anthony Contrino
These baked clams are the best example of how the simplest recipes are usually the best. Littleneck clams are steamed in a garlic and herb-infused white wine bath until each shell pops open. The meaty insides are topped with an equally simple herbed pecorino breadcrumb mixture. The texture of the buttery breadcrumbs complements the tender clams.
Fish Salad by Anthony Contrino
To allow the fresh flavors of the shrimp, scallops and calamari to stand out, sauté the aromatics (shallots, fennel and garlic) to temper their flavor ever so slightly. Since the anise-like aroma of fennel pairs so well with citrus, this salad is tossed with a honey-orange vinaigrette. A finish of chopped parsley adds some freshness and cracked green olives add a briny bite.
Manhattan Clam Chowder by Mike Price
The creamy white New England chowder usually gets all the credit, but there’s a place for Manhattan clam chowder on your holiday menu. This variation is made with tomatoes, clam juice and bits of smoky bacon. It’s not as thick and creamy as the more popular version, but it’s just as satisfying. The clam meat is cooked in a garlic, brown butter and white wine mixture before it’s stirred into the broth.
Siri's Oysters on the Half-Shell by Siri Daly
Serve these oysters over ice with a few flavorful sauces and toppings on the side. To keep things simple, buy your favorite store-bought cocktail sauce and prepared horseradish, then whip up a quick mignonette by letting finely chopped shallots soak in red wine vinegar. Let your guests pick and choose what they want to serve their oysters with.
Serving soup or chowder in mini bread bowls is a fun way to riff on a traditional serving method. The rich and creamy chowder is packed with potatoes, bacon, sweet corn and (of course) clams. The thick texture soaks into the crusty sourdough, so it’s perfectly soft once you’ve finished the soup.
New England Clam Chowder by Will Gilson
This version of creamy clam chowder includes mussels for a greater depth of flavor. Otherwise, this recipe is simple and straight-forward — onion, carrots, celery and garlic create a base of flavor, while potatoes add heft and heavy cream makes the soup thick and creamy. Oyster crackers are essential for soaking up the smoky liquid.
Giada's Slow-Cooker Cioppino by Giada De Laurentiis
With so many dishes to prepare on the stovetop and in the oven, you need to do some planning for the Feast of Seven Fishes. This stewed seafood cioppino is made in the slow-cooker, leaving your other kitchen appliances free to cook all of the other dishes. Clams, mussels, shrimp and salmon simmer slowly in a brothy tomato, fennel and white wine mixture. Make it hours in advance, so you can spend more time with your loved ones on Christmas Eve.
Italian Seafood Stew (Zuppa di Pesce) by Anthony Scotto and Elaina Scotto
Every Italian-American household has their own recipe for seafood stew. This recipe adds leeks and fennel to the soup, which is made with a brothy mixture of canned tomatoes, white wine and clam juice. Sea bass, shrimp, clams, mussels and calamari are all cooked in the broth with white beans (another Italian classic) until tender.
Risotto with Shrimp, Butternut Squash and Sage by Ben Pollinger
This simple risotto incorporates seafood into your holiday feast while embracing other seasonal ingredients. Sweet winter squash is sautéed and puréed before being stirred into the risotto. Earthy sage lends its woodsy aroma to the finished dish. We add quick-cooking plump shrimp, but feel free to add other varieties of seafood such as lobster or calamari.
Baccalà alla Livornese (Braised Salt Cod) by Elaina Scotto and Anthony Scotto
Baccalá is a classic Italian dish made by soaking dried salt cod, then braising it in a sauce of tomatoes, potatoes, white wine and olives. The dish originated in the port city of Livorno in western Tuscany. Soaking the salt cod in a mixture of milk and water helps tenderize the fish before it’s gently cooked with the other ingredients. Serve the baccalá as it is, or spoon it over slices of bread or bowls of creamy polenta.
Spicy Chorizo Seafood Stew by Romel Bruno
This seafood stew is similar to cioppino, but meaty crumbles of chorizo add the perfect amount of smokiness. In addition to the spicy sausage, the bulk of this stew comes from a medley of seafood — we use mussels, shrimp and crabmeat, but you can use other things like clams, scallops or white fish. This recipe comes together in under an hour, so it’s the perfect choice if you need one more dish to add to your feast.
Honey-Baked Salmon by Will Coleman
While some fish can be divisive, pretty much everybody loves salmon. Not only is it filled with vitamin D and essential Omega-3 fatty acids, it also has a buttery flavor and tender, flaky texture. The fish fillets are brushed with a spiced brown sugar-honey glaze and baked just until cooked through.
Salmon with Herb-Infused Olive Oil by Eric Ripert
Lemon and fresh dill are salmon’s best friend. As the salmon cooks low and slow in the oven, the citrus and herbs infuse into the tender fillets. Depending on the thickness of the fish, this recipe can take under 20 minutes to bake, so we recommend putting this in the oven last so it’s ready to serve while warm.
Grilled Salmon with White Bean and Spinach Salad by Elaina Scotto and Anthony Scotto
Grilling is one of our favorite ways to prepare salmon — it’s quick, easy and imparts a lovely lightly smoked flavor. The fish fillets are marinated with citrus and fresh basil before they’re cooked on the grill until charred. Serve them with a fresh salad of baby spinach, sweet bell pepper and balsamic-glazed white beans.
Valerie Bertinelli's Sheet-Pan Baked Salmon by Valerie Bertinelli
Just because a recipe is easy and quick enough for a weeknight meal doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong on your holiday menu — quite the opposite, actually! A whole side of salmon will feed a crowd, and your guests will love the delicate flavor of the fresh herbs and Dijon mustard. You will love how easy it is to clean up after cooking.
Sautéed Salmon, Mulled Wine Beurre Rouge and Baby Vegetables by Eric Ripert
This recipe turns a simple piece of salmon into a dish that’s d worthy of a Christmas celebration. Celery root is cooked in milk and water and blended into a creamy purée. Meanwhile, baby vegetables (use whatever is in season) are gently blanched and thick salmon fillets are quickly seared in a skillet. The star of the show is the buttery mulled red wine reduction — it gives each plate a restaurant-worthy finish.
Roasted Faroe Island Salmon by Ed Brown
Fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, cucumbers, ginger and mint bring the meaty roasted salmon back to life. The salmon itself is seasoned simply with olive oil, salt and pepper — if you can find salmon that comes from the Faroe Islands, it has one of the best flavors and texture you can get. If you have fresh herbs leftover from any of your other seafood dishes, scatter a handful or two on top before serving.
Melissa Clark's Salmon With Anchovy-Garlic Butter by Melissa Clark
Save yourself one step and make the easy anchovy-garlic compound butter a few days ahead of time. This recipe uses the flavored butter to cook the salmon fillets, while the rest is spooned over the top and melts into the fish. Capers and a fresh squeeze of lemon add a briny bite to the rich dish.
Shrimp with Sizzling Garlic and Chiles by Jean-Georges Vongerichten
This recipe requires some prep work, but it’s so worth it. Start by making a homemade chile oil with pasilla chiles, annato seeds and cumin — this can be made a day or two before you plan to use it and stored at room temperature. It’s then sautéed with tail-on shrimp and garlic, which cooks in mere minutes.
One-Pan Shrimp Fra Diavolo by Riley Wofford
Fra diavolo is loosely translated to “among the devil,” so this dish is for the spice-lovers at the dinner table. This quick one-pot shrimp dish can be made in under an hour. The shrimp remain juicy as they simmer in a garlicky tomato and clam juice broth. Serve the saucy shrimp over cooked pasta or pass around thick slices of crusty bread to sop up all of the broth.
Mussels and clams
Mussels with White Wine and Shallots by Katie Lee
Mussels cook quickly, so they’re the perfect dish to make when you have other holiday prep to do. There’s no better way to prepare mussels than with shallots, garlic and a few glugs of white wine. Pair this dish with the same wine you used to cook with, and serve a baguette on the side for dipping.
Tom Colicchio's Steamed Mussels with Chorizo by Tom Colicchio
The delicate flavor of mussels and sweet fennel is amped up with the addition of thin rounds of smoky chorizo sausage. The mussels cook in a brothy white wine that’s flavored with orange and garlic. You could use clams instead of mussels if you prefer, or go half and half.
Easy Pan-Seared Scallops by Ali Rosen
Scallops are one of those dishes that seem difficult to execute, but in reality, they’re not too hard to perfect. Make sure your pan is ripping hot and any excess moisture is blotted off of the scallops before they hit the pan. Add a few tablespoons of butter and sprigs of thyme to the pan in the last minute or two and use the infused fat to baste the tender scallops.
Valerie Bertinelli's Lemon-Butter Seared Scallops by Valerie Bertinelli
Searing scallops in butter helps the delicate mollusks develop a nice golden brown crust. And we don’t use just any butter — make a quick compound butter using both the zest and juice of fresh lemons. The acid cuts through the fattiness of the buttery scallops and adds brightness.
Cioppino with Roasted Garlic Bread by Ryan Scott
This cioppino recipe has a few secret ingredients. Jalapeño adds a unique level of spice, while ground anise seeds and Pernod (an anise-flavored spirit) hammer home the delicate fennel flavor. The great part about this stew is that you can use whatever fish is your favorite — here, we use a combination of clams, mussels, shrimp, cod and crab legs.
Bring a taste of summer to your wintery holiday gathering this year. The sweet, spicy and smoky seared scallops that sit atop bite-sized tortilla chips are joined by a spoonful of avocado and sweet corn relish. Pass these around with drinks before the main courses start flowing.
Al Roker's Grilled Scallops by Al Roker
If you’re grilling for your feast, add these charred scallops to the list. They’re as simple as can be — just drizzle them with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before tossing them onto the grill. They cook more quickly than you might expect — just a minute or two on each side.
Sea Scallops with Crushed Peanuts and Cucumber Relish by Padma Lakshmi
A fresh vegetal relish is just the thing to accompany rich, buttery scallops. A light and bright cucumber, tomato and dill salad rests on top of the scallops, so you get a little bit of everything in each bite. The scallops are coated in a flour mixture before they’re seared — this mixture includes dried mango powder (also known as amchoor), which adds a little bit of tartness.
Spicy Italian Mackerel Spaghetti by Stephanie Harris-Uyidi
We like to think of mackerel as tuna’s seriously underrated cousin. You can buy it tinned like tuna, and it adds a lot of the same fatty texture without being too overwhelming in flavor. This is a satisfying pasta dish (you have to have at least one at the Feast of Seven Fishes!) that’s full of fresh flavors like tomatoes, capers, olives and arugula.
Seafood Stuffed Shells by Reed Alexander
Stuffed shells are another Italian-American classic, so it only makes sense that they make an appearance at the holidays. These shells are filled with flavors you might find in traditional seafood pasta such as tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Each bite has a generous amount of bay scallops and mini shrimp. If you can’t find bay scallops or bite-size shrimp, regular scallops and shrimp will be fine — just cut them up into more manageable pieces before filling the shells.
Spaghetti with Shrimp Fra Diavolo by Elaina Scotto and Anthony Scotto and Marion Scotto
Fresh garlic and dried red pepper flakes add a huge boost of flavor to this pasta dish, which is super simple in nature. The quick saucy tomato mixture comes together in one skillet — just add your cooked pasta of choice (long noodles are the way to go) and toss to combine. Some herbs are added to the sauce to melt, but sprinkle more fresh parsley on top just before serving.
Maine-Style Lobster Roll by Scott Conant
Lobster rolls might not be the most traditional recipe on the holiday menu, but if you’re looking for a simple yet decadent dish, this might be the one for you. Make a flavorful lobster salad with mayonnaise, lemon, fresh parsley and a few dashes of hot sauce, then pile the mixture into warm buttered buns.
Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll by Scott Conant
This version of a lobster roll is a little bit lighter than you’ll find elsewhere, even though there is plenty of butter to go around. Lobster meat is cut into more substantial, meaty pieces before it’s warmed in butter, spooned into toasted rolls and topped with seasoned cracker crumbs.
Spicy Lobster with Linguine and Mint by Martha Stewart
What makes this pasta dish special isn’t just the lobster, but also how the crustaceans are cooked. You’d normally steam lobsters in water, but Martha adds some vodka to the steam bath — those lobsters deserve a drink. The fun part is removing the lobster meat from the shells to serve over spicy tomato linguine.
Lobster Tacos by Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac
There’s something about tacos that makes any meal more enjoyable. This recipe is simple enough that you can set up a taco station for guests to build their own, making it a fun and interactive holiday dinner. Warm up lobster meat with some butter, toast the corn tortillas and set out some cabbage slaw and sauces for filling.
Lobster Mac and Cheese by David Rose
This recipe is the epitome of indulgence. Three kinds of cheese — Parmesan, sharp cheddar, and pepper jack mingle with rich lobster meat and a creamy bechamel sauce. The pasta is finished on the grill, but you can keep it in the oven until it’s warm and bubbling.
White fish recipes
Natalie Morales' Bahian Cod Fillet with Coconut Milk, Peppers & Onions by Natalie Morales
This warm-braised white fish stew is inspired by the flavors of Brazil. It’s made with cod fillets (but you can use any hearty white fish you like), fresh vegetables and a handful of basic pantry spices. As the fish stews, it mingles with the coconut to create a lovely sauce.
Poaching fish in olive oil is a great technique, especially for thick cuts like halibut or cod, because it keeps the meat moist. Make this dish worthy of a holiday feast by pairing it with a simple couscous salad, braised vegetables and homemade beurre blanc.
Grilled Branzino with Anchovies and Rosemary Pesto by Seamus Mullen
When a pesto sauce like this is so full of flavor, you can keep the preparation of the fish simple. These branzino fillets are seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon zest and fresh rosemary before they take a quick turn on the grill. The pesto is made with a medley of fresh herbs, nutty Pecorino cheese, pine nuts and tinned anchovies for an extra-salty bite.
Grilled Halibut with Cherry Tomato Chimichurri by Seamus Mullen
Juicy cherry tomatoes can be found year-round — they lend their sweetness to the sauce that is drizzled on top of these grilled halibut fillets. Fresh basil, chives, mint and parsley are blended into a chimichurri with lots of lemon, which packs a bright, acidic punch to contrast the smoky grilled fish.
Valerie Bertinelli's Roasted Cod with Cashew-Coconut Topping by Valerie Bertinelli
Since white fish like cod has a naturally mild flavor, it can stand up to the bold flavors in this recipe. The fish itself is cooked with coriander and curry powder, which become nutty and fragrant when warmed in the oven. Combine roasted cashews, coconut, lime and cilantro to make a fresh, sweet and salty topping to sprinkle over the fish.
Swordfish is one of the meatier types of white fish, so it makes for a substantial and filling meal. It’s found a lot in Italian cuisine, so it’s only natural that we pair it with a warm Mediterranean-style quinoa salad. Two kinds of sauces are available for drizzling — choose between a vinegary, cumin-scented tomato dressing or a citrus-infused fresh herb sauce.
Lacquered Halibut with Charred Eggplant and Spinach by Marcus Samuelsson
Cooking halibut on the bone helps the fish retain moisture and keeps the fillets from drying out. The surface of each piece of halibut develops a lacquered texture as the acid from the lime juice reacts to the other seasonings. Serve the fish over a super simple eggplant purée and wilted spinach (or your favorite leafy greens).
Citrus Baked Cod by Will Gilson
For such a low-effort dish, this baked cod has so much flavor. Coriander, parsley and three kinds of citrus (lemons, limes and oranges) flavor the cod fillets as they bake. If you’re feeding a larger group, this recipe is easy enough to double, no problem.
Swordfish with Caponata by Michael White
Two Italian classics — swordfish and the eggplant dish known as caponata — come together to create a special, yet simple dish for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. The key to a good caponata (besides the flavorful ingredients like anchovies, capers and garlic) is to salt the eggplant. Salt will draw out the excess moisture from the vegetable so the caponata won’t be watered down as it cooks.
Potato Chip Crusted Cod with Mustard Sauce by Ed Brown
If the thought of fish sticks makes you feel nostalgic, this recipe will appeal to your grown-up palette. Fresh tarragon and parsley season the crumbled potato chips that coat these crispy baked cod fillets. A sharp homemade mustard sauce is perfect for smearing onto each bite.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com