Italian Christmas Eve Dinner

It is a tradition with many Southern Italian families to celebrate Christmas Eve with an elaborate fish banquet, Il Cenone di Vigilia. Sometimes referred to as The Feast of the Seven Fishes, not everybody sticks to exactly seven; some go up to 11 or 12, predominantly shellfish. This tradition actually started out as a gesture of abstinence, not eating meat, but over the years it took on a life of it’s own, and morphed into something quite the opposite. Many people eat better this night than they do all year long.

My own Christmas Eve dinner is pretty scaled down compared to most. Not because I am trying to stick to the original ideal of abstinence or anything like that. Rather, my allergy to shellfish cuts down on my options, and I usually have a feast of one fish, Red Snapper Livornese. So, for this menu, I decided to consult with a family member who still goes all out for Christmas Eve, my cousin Sal.

Sal was very excited to discuss his feast with me and got right into the menu. “I start off with Fried Calamari,” he detailed. “My trick is mixing equal parts all purpose and semolina flour for the batter. The semolina gives it a really nice texture.” In addition to the calamari, his menu includes shrimp, clams, mussels, crab and his show-stopping main course, Stuffed Lobster. Enjoy and have a happy and healthy Holiday season.

Italian Christmas Eve Dinner Menu


Fried Calamari
Clams and Mussels Posillipo
Shrimp Scampi
Clams Oreganato
Insalata Frutta di Mare


Linguini White Clam Sauce
Linguini with Blue Crab Sauce
Spaghetti Alla Rosinella


Red Snapper Livornese
Stuffed Lobster
Seafood Risotto

27 Responses

        1. I’ve never boiled the baccala, i add it about the last 10 minutes to the meatless spaghetti sauce. I cook it to taste. In thinking of trying boiling some this year then just topping my pasta with it.

    1. we have spaghetti and baccala every year at our house and some of my kids, and grandkids like it and some don’t….Oh well! I grew up with Feast of Seven Fishes- no meat. Mix of seafood- fried sunfish, shrimp cocktail, oysters Rockefeller, oysters on the 1/2 shell, Spaghetti and baccala (and some with no baccala), clam chowder, deep fried shrimp(my kids like shrimp), Crab meat, salmon, smoked salmon. Salad, broccoli, and other extras the grandkids want like a mac and cheese

  1. Looks Great! Thanks for sharing!! My wife and I were just considering Feast of the Fishes approach to Xmas Eve and pulling together menu…..and then your message showed up…perfect timing.

  2. Thanks for sharing that! Sounds wonderful! It brought back a lot of fond memories. Miss my grandmas fried dough with cheese, non of us have the recipe

    1. Thanks Gloria. It might not be the exactly same as your grandmother’s fried dough but have you checked out my Zeppole and Ricotta Zeppole recipes? One of them might be something you could tweak.

  3. Soooo missing home after this…NYC. Relocated to FL where my brother and I do the Feast each year. Your menu is perfect! And now, want to try the Ricotta Zeppole which are making me think of Sfingi San Giuseppe…nearly impossible to get here where we are.

  4. I host Christmas Eve at my house every year. Each year (for the past few years) I go on your website and browse through your Christmas Eve dinner recipes. Your website always brings me joy during the holiday season. Thanks for sharing your recipes!!

  5. I have served La Vigilia (feast of the seven fishes) at my restaurants since the mid-80s. They were extremely popular, probably one of the three busiest nights of the year for me. Now that I have sold my restaurants, I still come out of retirement to cook the Feast for a nearby country club. And the menu is very similar to this one, serving only shellfish.

      1. We love the baccala cold salad style with parsley, lemon, oil, and some peperoncino. But, my father loved it hot in tomato sauce with black olives and capers. I think this might be Livornese style but I’m not sure. I’ve tried making it without a recipe since both my dad and his mother (the one who made it) have passed. Does this style sound familiar to you? And can you pass a recipe to me??

        1. Jay,

          I know exactly what you’re talking about. I made it in 2011 after my mother and father had passed but I didn’t have a recipe either.
          I used fresh Cod rather than the salted Bacala. I used tomato puree, black olives, capers and let the Cod simmer/cook in a covered pan until it was done. I browned a little fresh garlic in EVOO to start then seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Then when it was served I used some red pepper flakes on my plate since I was the only one who likes it a little hot. It was great. I hope this is helpful.
          Merry Christmas.

          1. Thank you for your recipe. Unfortunately I didn’t get back here on time to see it. So I winged it. It came out okay…but still not what I remember. I’m going to try your recipe with the fresh cod…because it just sounds sooo good. Thanks again…Hey we can eat fish after Christmas too…lol

  6. my Christmas Eve sauce was olive oil garlic anchoves pinole olives capers basil oregano salt pepper owe and garlic and plum tomatoes and cook all day don’t forget garlic at the start.

  7. I made the snapper Livornese last night for dinner. It was like eating in a restaurant. Love it and will definitely make it again. Tonight and one of the appetizers will be the calamari! Merry Christmas

  8. I have always celebrated the Eve & Day. The eve I did 7 fish. I love that tradition. One year I went easy & did a 7 fish supa de Pece & the broth was my sauce for the Angel Hair.

  9. we use Baccala / salt cod fish, in several ways.. its very hard to get here in the Southwest Fla. We make the Pizza Fritte with a small piece of Baccala or Anchovies inside and then Fry them. also we make the Pizza Fritte plain and they eat them with the Baccala Livornese. the kids like them dipped in sugar..

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