Italian Christmas Eve recipes

Dec 17, 2008 at 2:49 p.m. ET

A traditional Christmas Eve dinner for many people of Italian heritage around the world is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It is a tradition that goes back thousands of years and consists of at least seven seafood dishes and no meat. These days, the classic Italian Christmas recipes can be changed for your own tastes and styles - though a few fish dishes are mainstays. Here is a classic menu for an Italian Christmas eve dinner celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Frying Cod

Classic Italian Christmas Eve Menu

Italian Christmas Appetizers

Raw Oysters and Raw Clams
Fried Sardines
Smelts (small fishes that can be fried) (recipe below)
Fried Calamari
Cocktail Shrimp
*Updated appetizers: Crabcakes or Oyster Shooters (recipe below)

Italian Christmas Entrees

Mussels and Macaroni
Baccala or dried salt cod (recipe below)
Stuffed Calamari
Linguini and Clams
*Updates entrees: Lobster Ravioli, Fried Shrimp, or Octopus Salad

Serving suggestions for Italian Christmas Eve dinner

Round the meal out with a classic antipasto of cheeses, olives, red peppers, anchovies, marinated artichoke hearts, and canned tuna.

On the side, serve sauteed spinach or escarole along with a great wine. For dessert, enjoy a classic Italian Panattone, biscotti, or cannoli with an after dinner drink such as Sambuca or Anisette.

You can easily pick and choose the Italian Christmas recipes that sound good to you. Create your own Italian style Christmas Eve dinner and make it a deliciously new family tradition.

Italian Christmas Recipes

Fried Smelts

Makes 6 servings

All-purpose flour
2 eggs
2 to 3 pounds of smelts, with heads removed, washed, dried
Olive oil

1. Combine about a cup of flour with some salt and pepper in a large bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together milk and both eggs. Dip smelts in milk mixture and then dredge in flour mixture. Lay battered smelts on a plate until oil is hot.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet until hot but not boiling. Place battered smelts in skillet in batches and cook until golden, flipping if necessary. Smelts cook quickly so keep an eye on them.

3. Remove smelts with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. Heat more oil until all smelts are cooked. Serve warm.


Makes 8 servings

1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod, rinsed well
1 quart vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Place cod in a large bowl and fill with water. Soak at least 24 hours or up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Change water 2 or 3 times a day. The saltier the cod, the longer it should soak

2. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot until it reaches about 390 degrees F. Combine flour, salt, olive oil, water and parsley in a large bowl. Drain and dry cod and slice into thin strips.

3. Dip cod in flour mixture and then move to oil. Fry in batches until lightly browned, flipping if necessary. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve warm.

Oyster Shooters

Makes 12 servings

Oyster ShooterIngredients:
12 lime wedges
12 large oysters, in the shell
12 drops Tabasco sauce
12 drops Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
4 to 6 teaspoons prepared horseradish
12 drops cocktail sauce

1. Squeeze lime juice into a shot glass. Remove oyster from shell and place it in the shot glass with the oyster juices.

2. Add Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, horseradish and cocktail sauce. "Drink" oyster shooter as you would take a shot.

More delicious Christmas recipes

Classic English Christmas dinner
Stollen recipes: How to make a Christmas stollen
Top 10 Christmas food and drinks