Let Our Easy, Abridged Take on the Feast of the Seven Fishes Inspire Your Christmas Eve Dinner Menu

This simple menu has one amazing pasta, a salad, and a luxurious dessert.

frutti di mare linguine
Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

The classic Italian-American Feast of the Seven Fishes is a hit parade of seafood dishes served on Christmas Eve. The tradition is said to draw on the Roman Catholic custom of abstinence from meat and dairy products on the eve of certain holidays, including Christmas. And the number seven? It comes up frequently, from the seven days of creation to the seven deadly sins. Plus seven courses makes for a special celebration. It is truly a feast—but it requires a lot of prep.

If you're willing to play fast and loose with the details, we've got an inspired, albeit nontraditional menu. It comes together in a flash and gives you a feast of fishes spread over two courses—dessert, of course, is seafood free! For those tallying at home, this meal has only six varieties of seafood. But no matter: What you lose in fish and fuss, you gain in relaxed time with family.

Entrée: Frutti di Mare Linguine

This Fruitti di Mare Linguine, above, is a celebratory pasta worthy of any holiday. Briny shellfish (clams and mussels) and tender squid balance out sweet shrimp and buttery scallops, and the sauce comes together in a single pot. (That's five fishes in case you're counting!)

escarole salad
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Side: Escarole Salad with Lemon-and-Anchovy Dressing

Serve a hearty, refreshing Escarole Salad with lemon zest and slivered olives on the side (or afterward, European-style). The anchovies in the dressing are our sixth fish on the menu.

espresso budini
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Dessert: Espresso Budini

Ending a pasta dinner with a cake or cookie plate might feel like carbo-loading. For a welcome contrast, offer a cool, creamy confection, like these espresso-infused budini. The amaretto macaroons lining the bottom of each pudding retain a bit of crunch when soaked in brandy, and best of all, they can be made in advance and chilled. Before serving, add a dollop of mascarpone and a flurry of shaved chocolate.

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