Feast of the Seven Fishes

December 11, 2018 09:11 AM

The Feast of the Seven Fishes


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Maria Papa from MORE Perreca’s Italian Kitchen 

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian: Festa dei sette pesci), also known as The Vigil (Italian: La Vigilia), is an Italian-American celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood.  This menu is comprised of an appetizer of fried smelts (fish #1) and an entree of fritti di mare over linguini (fishes # 2-7)



2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 Tbsp. granulated garlic

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

pinch cayenne pepper 

2 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

3 lbs. frozen, headless smelts

Place under cold running water 1/2 hour before cooking to thaw.

Gently blot fish dry with paper towel. And have a serving dish ready lined with several more layers of dry paper towel to arrange fish after frying.

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and use as a dry batter. Roll fish in seasoned flour making certain to coat all surfaces.

Heat oil in frying pan and gently lay down floured fish. Let brown each side (about 5 mins) before turning. Tip: using kitchen tongs is much easier than a fork. But use what you have.

Place on paper-lined serving dish and enjoy. 

Flouring fish before frying is an age-old procedure, but don’t be afraid to season that flour with your favorite flavors to add some zip and pizzazz to your dish. We add the garlic powder and a bit of cayenne to this dish to do just that! Serves 4 or more.



1 1/2 lb. baccala (salted cod)

1 lb. small clams

1 lb. mussels

1 lb. 16/20 sized shrimp – this size means that you are getting 16/20 shrimp per pound. You can use any sized shrimp you like, but we like a medium size so that the shrimp complements the dish without taking it over;

1 lb. haddock fillet (or any white fish)

3 lbs. calamari (tubes & tentacles)

1 qt. marinara sauce

1 bay leaf

pinch hot pepper flakes

1 tsp. black pepper

5 cloves fresh garlic – peeled and bruised with the flat side of a knife

1/2 extra virgin olive oil

1 c dry white wine

1.5 lbs. fresh linguini

5 or 6 leaves of fresh basil, gently torn

8 qts. salted water for boiling pasta (we throw in a palm full of salt, but you can use less, or none at all since there is going to be sodium in this dish anyway from the olives, and baccala)

Run baccala (salted cod) under cold running water for at least 1/2 hour beginning two DAYS before making the rest of the meal. Once bacalla has been rinsed, place in a bowl with cold water covering the entirety of the fish, cover, and place in refrigerator – changing water at least three times a day. Baccala is salty! And if you skip this step, your wonderful dish will be ruined by too much salt in the baccala.

The day of your feast:

Rinse calamari (squid) tubes & tentacles under cool running water. This fish usually comes frozen, so you’ll want to at least partially defrost under the water. We purchase the “cleaned” variety. But you may have to remove the mouth and the plastic-like cartilage if you haven’t purchased it already cleaned. Slice the “tube” or body of the squid into rings and set aside.

Wash the remainder of fish, making certain to scrub the outer shells of the mussels and clams. Pat dry all fish with paper towels and set aside.

In a stockpot 8 qts or bigger, pour in extra virgin olive oil and place on LOW heat. And here, without further ado, is a Perreca’s family cooking secret – place the 5 cloves of garlic in the olive oil and put on the absolute lowest heat your stove can manage. If it takes half an hour to lightly brown your garlic, that is GREAT. You will taste the difference in the end!

When garlic is lightly browned (a dark brown garlic will make your dish bitter), pour in the marinara sauce and turn up heat to med.

Add bay leaf, hot pepper flakes to taste, black pepper, Mediterranean olives and wine. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors combine and marinate.  Don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before serving.

Cube baccala and haddock fillets into desired sizes (we cut them into a little bit bigger than bite-size pieces).

Add baccala and haddock fillet chunks and calamari (squid) to simmering sauce mixture – cook 5-7 minutes before adding clams & mussels. Then cover to allow shellfish to open – another 5 minutes and then finish off by adding shrimp to the mixture and cooking just long enough to see shrimp cooked through.

Toss over cooked and drained fresh linguini and sprinkle with fresh basil. Let stand about 3-4 minutes to allow pasta to absorb flavors of the fruitti di mare mixture.  Serves 4 or more


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