Here at Roma, as much as we love the occasional break from the norm, we love tradition just as well. One of our favorites is the Feast of the Seven Fishes— a grandiose meal that many Italian-American families serve as part of their Christmas Eve celebration.
How It Began:
Though the history of the Feast of the Seven Fishes (called La Festa dei Sette Pesci in Italy) is shrouded in mystery, it is believed that it began in Southern Italy with Catholic Italians who were abstaining from consuming meat and dairy on Christmas Eve. Many cultures throughout Europe have similar traditions that are observed for the holiday.
What It Is:
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a large meal comprised of several different kinds of fish and other seafood. While seven is the traditional number, many families like to incorporate even more different kinds of fish into their dishes— sometimes upwards of 13. These various different kinds of “Frutti di Mar” can be incorporated in any number of ways— baked, fried, stewed, you name it. They can be consumed in separate dishes or courses, but many find it easier to make one dish that includes all of them!
Feast on the Seven Fishes: Cioppino!
No matter what your culture or religious affiliation, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is a unique (and delicious) experience. Taste for yourself— we’ve provided a recipe for cioppino (seafood stew) that incorporates seven delicious seafood options.
- 3 tbsp EVOO
- 1 bulb of fennel, sliced thin
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ c Pernod
- ¼ c tomato paste
- 28 oz diced tomatoes + juice
- 1 ½ c dry white wine
- 2 c clam juice
- 5 c fish stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ lbs littleneck clams (scrubbed)
- 1 lb mussels (scrubbed and debearded)
- 1 lb King crab leg (scrubbed)
- 1 lb scallops, abductor muscle removed
- 1 lb assorted white-fleshed fish fillets (such as tilapia or cod) cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 1 lb medium shrimp (deveined with shells intact)
- Fresh bread
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add onion, fennel, shallot and garlic. Sauté until translucent (10 minutes or so). Add in red pepper flakes, tomato paste, Pernod and white wine, and bring to a boil. Let simmer about 5 minutes to cook off alcohol.
- Add diced tomatoes + juice, clam juice, fish stock, and the bay leaf. Allow to return to a simmer, then reduce to low. Allow to simmer, covered, about 30 minutes; then taste and adjust seasonings.
- Add in clams, mussels, and crab. Cover and cook about 5 minutes, until mussels start to open.
- Season the remaining seafood (scallops, fish, shrimp) with salt and add into the stew. Cover and cook until fish and scallops begin to look opaque and the shrimp looks pink (an additional 5 minutes or so). Carefully stir and check seasonings.
For serving (this recipe serves 6):
Portion the seafood into bowls and then add equal portions of vegetables and broth into each bowl. Serve with a side of fresh bread.