Like a lot of other Italian-Americans, and like a lot of Italians, it’s traditional in our family to serve a special fish dinner on Christmas Eve. My family has never used the term “Feast of the Seven Fishes” for the Christmas Eve dinner, but that seems to be the common phrase for it. I actually hadn’t heard that particular phrase before this year.
There are several dishes we make. Cuduridi are an Italian fried bread dough, made with potatoes and yeast, and sometimes stuffed with anchovies. Anchovies are “alici”. We do a special pasta with a breadcrumb-and-anchovy sauce: “alici pasta”. We also do pasta with a red sauce with dried cod (“baccalá”), though given how hard it is to find baccalá these days, we usually use fresh cod now. For vegetables, we always have a green salad simply made with sliced or chopped olives, garlic, and olive oil. We also make my Nana’s recipe for marinated broccoli and marinated cauliflower. My Grandma makes cannoli for dessert. (And she makes the best cannoli — homemade cannoli shells, homemade ricotta … my goodness, you have never had anything so amazing.)
The food’s fantastic. But the best part is being with the family, making the things we always make, telling the same jokes we always tell, and just having a good time.
We’re having Christmas Eve at my house this year. There’ll be pictures coming tomorrow, most likely. We’re doing things a little differently, but just a little. We’re skipping the red sauce because there’ll only be six of us, and Uncle Pasto is making smoked fish to go along with it all. (He’s a diabetic; alternatives to pasta are much easier on him, too.) I’m not sure what fish it’ll be; we’re picking up whatever looks freshest and best today. I might add a little hot pepper to the lettuce-and-olive salad; I tried that earlier in the year and it was awesome. There will be cuduridi. There will be alici pasta. There will be broccoli and cauliflower and cannoli, and it will be wonderful. Like always.
I can’t wait. (: