Festa dei Sette Pesci {Feast of the Seven Fishes}

Mussels with Tomato and White Wine
Mussels with Tomato and White Wine

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas ; ) But before we can get to Christmas, there is Christmas EVE. With that, a very special feast comes.The Feast of the Seven Fishes. Festa dei Sette Pesci is celebrated on Christmas Eve and it is indeed a FEAST! It can also be referred to as La Viglia, La Viglia di Natale, {The Vigil}. Have you heard of this tradition? The feast is a meatless meal that consists of {you guessed it} SEVEN different seafood dishes (a combination of fish and shellfish). The meal is celebrated as a commemoration of the wait, The Vigil, for the midnight birth of baby Jesus! Happy Birthday JESUS! Although SEVEN is just the minimum number, some families go wild with up to 13 different dishes, my kind of people.

Balsamic and Raisin Glazed Salmon www.bellalimento.com
Balsamic Glazed Salmon


Jumbo Lump Crab CakesJumbo Lump Crab Cakes

Herb Crusted Baked Cod www.bellalimento.com
Herb Crusted Baked Cod

Why the magic number of SEVEN dishes? Who knows, but here are a few hypothesis: Some say the number seven represents the number of Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Others say that seven is for the number which represents perfection. Lucky number seven ; )

Lobster Risotto www.bellalimento.com
Lobster Risotto

Eating seafood on Christmas Eve dates back to well forever , yes that is a technical term. Roman Catholics refrained from the consumption of meat on Fridays and especially on holy days. SO in comes seafood. Lots and lots of seafood. Swoon! I’ve put together a compilation of some of seafood dishes here on bell’alimento that would be fantastic additions to any Feast of the Seven Fishes Menu! I had high hopes of preparing my salted cod for this post but alas time has escaped me so it will have to be for another day.

Lobster Spaghetti www.bellalimento.com
Lobster Spaghetti

Seared Scallops with Creamy Bacon Vinaigrette www.bellalimento.com
Seared Scallops with Creamy Bacon Vinaigrette

I hope that your Christmas eve is filled with an abundance of food and is enjoyed with the people that you love!



  1. 1

    Wow, I’d heard about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but leave it to you to actually make it, shoot it, write it and post it!
    I have no idea which one I want to eat first which I think is an indication of how amazing each one looks! If I start driving now, can I make it to NC by Christmas eve? hmmm;)
    Happy holidays Paula!

  2. 2

    i think i would be in fish foodie heaven if i ever got to experience the feast of the seven fishes! it all looks and sounds so incredible!

    • 2.1

      It’s definitely a seafood lovers dream menu! Merry Christmas Heather!

  3. 3

    One of these days I will have to convince my family to celebrate Christmas con Festa dei Sette Pesci. These dishes look beautiful!

    • 3.1

      I don’t think you’d have to twist their arms to much ; ) Merry Merry Christmas Christine!

  4. 4

    My favorite part of Natale is all the wonderful seafood:) I’m sure your dinner will be amazing! Buon Natale cara amica mia. un bacione!

    • 4.1

      Grazie Cara! Sono proprio felice che ci siamo incontrati sta anno! Auguri a te e la tua famiglia! xoxo

  5. 5

    Forget Christmas dinner. This is the meal we all look forward to. Any of your dishes would be scrumptious, but that capesanto al forno is going to be in my future.

    • 5.1

      Thanks Linda! It comes together in a snap! Scallops are just scrumptious aren’t they! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  6. 6
    lisa bailey /

    I am of Italian heritage but have not celebrated the Natale. Oddly enough I spoke with someone about it yesterday and began to think I should really begin something like this with my own family. I think I will plan this for next year but making each of these dishes this year for practice.

    Merry Christmas to Paula, her family and all of the friends of Bell’alimento.

    The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

    • 6.1

      So I’m thinking next year we should just celebrate together, what say you ; ) Merry CHRISTmas to the Baileys, lurve you ALL!xoxo

  7. 7

    Ok, I’ve heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but didn’t really know what it was about. Love this post–not only did I learn a lot, but what a lineup of fabulous looking food! Merry Christmas my friend! XOXO

    • 7.1

      Mwah! Merry Christmas to you my sweet friend and of course to the rest of the Fuji Family! xoxo

  8. 8

    Oh thanks for this. While I always mention it at this time of year, its usually in passing. Reading this makes me reminisce & miss the days of old when my grandparents, great aunts, and everyone else would get together for Natale. My only regret from that time was that I shunned fish as a kid. Silly me. If only…

    Thanks again! Happy, happy holidays to you!!

    • 8.1

      I think we all shunned things as as kid that we ended up adoring later on! So true, “if we only knew then what we know now”… Buon Natale Cara!

  9. 9

    Wow, this is the ultimate post! I’ll be trying ALL!

  10. 10

    Fish is the traditional food of the dinner of La Vigilia di Natale here in Rome. I’m going to do octopus with wine tonight with Polenta from Friuli.
    Merry Xmas Paola

  11. 11

    Paula, not only do you cook up the most amazing dishes – but you teach me so much too (and you keep it brief which I love 😉
    Seafood is my favorite choice for protein – all of these dishes look like masterpieces that I must try.
    Think I might be meeting you for reals at BlogHer Food in May!! Happy Holidays to you and your family. XO

  12. 12

    I want to be Italian on Christmas Eve…just once! I guess I’ll have to settle for traveling to Italy some year soon.

  13. 13

    che meraviglia (soprattutto le capesante al forno!)… noi abbiamo mangiato linguine con le vongole (una tradizione della vigilia a casa mia)…e tantissimi dolci 🙂
    Buon Natale Paula!

  14. 14

    feast of seven fishes? i got to say that this is the first time i am hearing of it. it is surely worth trying out. thanks and Merry Christmas!

  15. 15

    It’s been some years since I walked down the stairs of the University of Belgrade language Department with my diploma in Italian Language and Literature. And it has been some years since I wanted to go all the way for the Festa dei Sette Pesci.
    We are traditionally Orthodox Christans, and Christmas Eve is supposed to be meat and dairy-free.
    I have missed the opportunity this year (again!!!), but you have inspired me to strive for the next year. The Italian in me must prevail:) And we love seafood so much.
    All of your dishes look fantastic. I have read that there is a dish of salted cod that is a must in this feast. How “cemented” in the tradition would it be?

  16. 16

    Paula, what beautiful, mouth-watering photographs! Lobster spaghetti is my favorite.

    I found you on my Google+ feed-this is my first visit to your site and I’m not disappointed.

    Happy Christmas Eve and The Feast of The Seven Fishes to you and your seafood-loving family.

    • 16.1

      Hi Maureen! So glad you found us. Welcome and Merry Christmas to you!


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