Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve: An Italian Baccalà Recipe

January 11, 2022  |  By Liz SanFilippo Hall
Filed Under

Salt cod at market and ready for a cooking class in ItalyCodfish is a popular dish around the world come the Christmas holiday season. In Portugal, it’s a tradition that dates back centuries and is often served salted. In Mexico and Brazil, it also often has a place at the table. Codfish is also often part of Italy’s Italian Christmas Dinner known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes — a Christmas Eve meal that’s also celebrated by many Italian Americans.

See our cooking vacations in Italy.

There’s no hard and fast rule as to what Italian Christmas fish is served during the “Feast.” (Although eel was once a mainstay for many!) Some families even serve 12 types of Italian Christmas fish – in recognition of the 12 apostles – rather than “just” seven. It can often be combined or served during other courses as well; such as in a stew or in pasta.

If you’re looking for a simple but delicious fish dish to serve for your Italian Christmas dinner, try this stewed codfish “baccalà” dish from the kitchen of our Amalfi Coast cooking vacation Mediterranean Cooking Experience. Baccalà is so common in Italy to come the Christmas holiday that it’s common to see huge buckets of salted cod in the street. Often a hose will be in the bucket too, causing water to overflow into the city streets.

Check out a traditional Roman recipe for baccalà.

Before you start making this dish, it’s important to prepare the baccalà.

Preparing the Baccalà

1. Purchase a big piece of salted baccalà. Soak the fish in fresh water between 48 and 72 hours, and change the water every eight hours or so in order to clean the fish of the salt.
2. Drain the baccalà, and pat it completely dry.
3. Cut the fish into the pieces you plan to serve it.

Baccalà (Salt Cod) with Tomato Sauce Recipe

6 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cook method: simmer

IngredientsItalian baccala dish made during a cooking vacation in Italy

  • 1 large piece of salt cod, soaked and rinsed
  • Black olives, chopped
  • Capers
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bunch of cherry tomatoes, approx. 20
  • Salt
  • Fresh basil leaves


1. Wash all the cherry tomatoes, and then cut off the top and cut each of them in half.
2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
3. To the pan, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until the garlic turns fragrant (but not brown). Don’t let the olive oil burn.
4. Add in the tomatoes along with a pinch of salt and basil. Continue to cook this for about 10 minutes so the tomatoes cook and soften. Mash them with a fork.
5. Add more salt, if needed.
6. Next add in the black olives, capers, and a pinch of oregano.
7. At the end of the cooking process, add in the codfish and cook for five more minutes.
8. After it’s done cooking, sprinkle the dish with chopped parsley for some color and then serve along with some crusty bread.

Read about some of our favorite Christmas traditions.

Enjoy! If you decide to make this dish in your home kitchen, feel free to share it with us over on Facebook!

Read about Christmas in the French Alps, including Christmas Eve Dinner.

If you are looking for other traditional Italian Christmas recipes, check out our traditional Christmas Cappelletti, our Panettone recipe, or our recipe for cartellate pastries.

Want to learn even more about holiday dishes? Come visit our chefs in Italy for a taste of what Christmas is like with a cooking vacation.

By Liz Hall

Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.

Find more photos, videos, food facts, and travel stories from The International Kitchen on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Print This Page

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.