Every year on Christmas Eve, Italian-Americans across this great country known as America get together and deprive themselves of meat the day before Christmas—but they don't really deprive themselves of much else.
Even though Christmas Eve is technically a vigil in the Catholic Church—meaning that fasting is required—it's not exactly surprising that Italians have found a loophole is this Canonic obligation; one that allows them to eat. A lot.
Instead of meat, most families rejoice and prepare the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a lavish dinner centered around seafood in all of its beautiful forms, from baccala (salted cod) to clams casino to shrimp cocktails and anchovy pasta.
MAKE IT: Feast of the Seven Fishes
In the Pinello household, The Pizza Show host Frank Pinello lends a hand and puts his own spin on these Christmas Eve classics. Not only did Frank let us into his family's home to document the Pinello fish fest, but he even shared his very own Seven Fishes recipes with us.
The Pinello crew whipped up about a dozen dishes—all seafood or vegetable-based. Oysters, mussels, clams, and crabs were just some of the offerings, and we even put all the recipes up on one page so you can make it at home for yourself.
These are all deeply satisfying recipes; honed over generations and fine-tuned by the mastermind behind Best Pizza. Like a lot of Pinello's food, this is a fresh take on a cornerstone of the Italian-American diet. Be warned, however, if you eat like this on the 24th, it's going to make turkey seem pretty boring.
You're going to need a crew of your own to put this much food together and you'll probably have to bribe them with booze. But also, forget everything you know about seafood and white wine pairings; these recipes call for homemade red wine, if you can get your hands on some.
Finally, the real point of this seafood feast—beyond the seafood and beyond the religious rituals—is family, however broadly you define it. So don't cheap out on seafood, be merry, and get your grandmother some lottery tickets. She deserves it.