One of the themes I have seen over the last year or so is that even when I have not been actively posting blogs, people have sought out certain blog posts. This time of the year I am always very pleased to see just how many people have navigated their way to the week long series on the Feast of the Seven Fishes. While they all exist in the background and the annals of the blog, because it was years ago I wanted to make another post and collect the links again to those pages.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition and it has served my family well as a way to affirm that part of our identity each year. It is the only non-negotiable night of the year. This is the original write up I did for the history and importance of the Feast. The short summary is that it is a feast associated with the breaking of the Advent fast which is why it is all fish derived from a more solemn Italian tradition but filtered through the immigrant Italian tendency towards abbondanza in the New World. The following posts that came went through the different courses of the evening and what they tended to have with recipes and links included.
Antipasti – How to Evening Starts
For an Italian style meal, there is an antipasti, or before the pasta, setting. This is the spread of appetizers and hors d’ouvre that great the diners and are there to be nibbled and enjoyed to start the evening. This will also include potential appertivo beverages such as an Aperol spritz or something light to wet the appetite. This is the most impressive spread every year so I commend to you to click through and read for yourself.
I Primi – The Pastas’ Time to Shine
The Primi course is where the pastas live and our family usually uses three of them, including the white clam sauce on spaghettini recipe that my grandfather passed down to my father that formed the basis for my recipe and the baked stuffed shells. The third pasta will rotate at times, but usually has a tomato base in some way. Read on about the pastas and how they are chosen for the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
You may have realized some of the genius of this meal structure by now – when you finally get to the “main course”, you are alreayd pretty full so you don’t need a huge piece of fish or other expensive protein. While many families use bacala, or salt cod, we will broil or pouch steam the fish normally. This is partially because of the difficulty in acquiring the bacala here when we were setting up these traditions. Read on about the ‘main course’ and the sides that go with it.
By now it is time to relax into a dessert, which is the traditional Italian pitzelle waffle cookies and coffee. I may add a little bit of a bitter and herbal digestivi like a Fernet but that may not be needed at all. Its a quiet way to close the evening with an understated dessert for sure.
Thank you for going through and rereading some of these descriptions. It may be a little redundant from the original post but that was 2015 so I may as well recap it again. Maybe I’ll even update some recipes and photos this year.