2021 Festival Cucina Recipes

chopped onions, garlic, celery and tomatoes on a cutting board

The Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival is a reunion of sorts. Italian or not, everyone is treated like family. And like any good family, food is a way to show love.

Think about it. Some of your fondest memories and funniest stories happen around food. That’s why the annual Festival of the Seven Fishes Festival and Festival Cucina cooking school is highly anticipated.

We love getting a glimpse into other people’s lives. Or in this case their kitchens. So not only do you get to see how some family favorites are prepared, the chefs talk about their family traditions (and sometimes dysfunction) around celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes during Christmas Eve.

Here are the recipes featured during this year’s Festival Cucina.

Italian Salad Presented by Shannon Tinnell 

A mix of salad greens (Romaine, Endive, Leaf, and Radicchio)
Black Olives
Grape Tomatoes
Cucumbers, chopped
Artichoke Hearts

1 cup of olive oil
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
1 cloves mashed garlic
½ teaspoon Oregano

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. In a large bowl add the cleaned and chopped salad greens. Top with other ingredients. Toss with dressing.

Bread topped with anchovy, cheese and parsley

Cheesy Anchovy Bread Presented by Robert Tinnell

1 stick of butter
1 tin of anchovies
Chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves minced garlic
Zest of a lemon
Red pepper flakes
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 pack of shredded provolone or mozzarella

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees

Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the anchovies and stir until they dissolve about 3-4 minutes. Add herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and crushed red pepper.

Arrange the bread on a baking sheet. Brush with anchovy mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until it melts. Around 10 minutes


Fish Stew presented by MK Ohlinger

1 lb. fish scraps (heads, tails)
1 onion, cut in half
1 carrot, cut in half
6 peppercorns
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups cold water
1 lb. freshwater fish of your choice, cut into pieces
1 lb. rutabaga, diced
1 turnip, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 leek, diced
3 potatoes, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1 celery root, diced

~ Place the fish scraps in a saucepan, add the cold water over them, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, skim and reduce the heat.

~ Add the onion and carrot, continue cooking over low to medium heat for 30 minutes, skimming occasionally if necessary.

~ Remove the onion, carrot, and fish scraps, finely strain the broth.

~In a saucepot, sauté the diced root vegetables until soft, add broth, and bring to a boil again.

~Add the potatoes to the broth and cook for 20 minutes.

~Stir in the diced fish. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes. Stir well before serving.


Eel with Mint and Capers Presented by Elizabeth Opyoke


Serves 4

2 cups basic tomato sauce
1 cup dry red wine
12 caper berries
12 Gaeta olives
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 pounds eel, (from the sea or river), skinned and gutted by your fishmonger, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into 4-inch-long pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Step 2
In a large saucepan, combine the tomato sauce, red wine, caper berries, olives, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Step 3
Meanwhile, season the eel with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish.

Step 4
Pour the sauce over the eel, put the dish in the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the eel is cooked through. Transfer to a warmed platter, sprinkle with the chopped fennel and serve immediately.

man with white apron and black hat holding a small octopus

Strozzapreti Pasta with Octopus Sauce Presented by Robert Germano

Strozzapreti pasta with octopus sauce is a flavorful seafood first course that’s great on its own or as the main course for a fish-based lunch, dinner, or Christmas Eve.  Get yourself a really fresh octopus and use it to make the sauce we’ve got for you today, with an aroma that will take you straight to the beach. The softness of the octopus pairs perfectly with the tomato passata (salsa di Pomodoro) delicately scented with thyme, which will combine with this special fresh pasta to release unique flavors. Strozzapreti pasta with octopus sauce is a totally Mediterranean recipe inspired by classic octopus stew, since fishing and eating octopus is so common around all the seas encircling Italy – the Ionian, Tyrrhenian, and Adriatic.


Strozzapreti pasta  ½ lb.
Celery  1 cup
Carrots  ¾ cup
Onion  ¾ cup
Garlic  1 clove (unless you like more)
Cherry tomatoes 7 oz.
Tomato puree 1 ¼ cup
Extra virgin olive oil2 ½ Tbsp.
Fine salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Parsley to taste


1) Start by preparing the octopus by cleaning it and heating up a  pot full of salted water.  Identify the octopus’  beak and,  using a  small knife with a  sharp blade,  make an incision around it so that you can scoop it out.

2) Rinse the octopus well under plenty of fresh water,  taking care to rub all over its skin,  including the tentacles,  using your hands,  to remove the sticky part.

3) Holding the octopus by the head,  dip the tentacles into the boiling water.  Repeat this step 4-5  times this way,  the tentacles will curl up and make your dish look nicer.

4) Next, immerse the octopus completely.  Add the bay leaf,  juniper berries,  garlic clove  (slightly crushed),  and the pink peppercorns and cover with a  lid.  Leave to cook over medium heat for 35-40 minutes.

5) When it’s almost done,  you can check the consistency and doneness of the octopus using a  toothpick or the prongs of a  fork.  Once cooked, drain using a skimmer.

6)  Transfer to a  strainer to drain the excess water and let it cool.

7) Cut the ends off the tentacles to keep the curled shape,  then chop the rest of the tentacles into equal-sized pieces. Set aside.

8) Wash the cherry tomatoes well and cut them into four wedges,  then set aside.  Then finely dice the celery,  carrot,  and onion,  peel the garlic and cut it in half.

9) Once the garlic has turned golden, take it out.

10) Now brown the celery, carrot, and onion.  Stir the ingredients to keep them from sticking to the pan.

11) Add the chopped octopus and cook for 2-3 min over moderate heat.  Be sure to keep stirring to keep everything from sticking.

12)Next,  add the cherry tomatoes and the tomato puree and leave to cook over very low heat for  10- In 15  minutes.

13)In the meantime,  boil the pasta in a  pot full of salted water.  By the time the pasta is done,  the octopi’s sauce will be ready,  too.

14)    Drain the al dente pasta and pour straight into the pot with the sauce,  mixing everything well so the pasta absorbs the sauce.

Fried Baccala on a plate with lettuce leaves


Fried Baccala Presented by Mike Biafore     

I’ve taken my grandmother’s recipe and manipulated it over the years.  It’s never consistent and you can tweak the below to your liking.  One thing that she never did was to add sugar, grated cheese or seafood breading to the breading mix.  So, see below and modify to taste.


3lbs dried Bacalla soaked in water. I always do a minimum of 3 days and change the water 2-3 times a day. Some recipes say you can soak it for 24 hours, but I find it too salty at that length.

Other ingredients.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1cup Seafood breading

1/8 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

1 TBS granular sugar

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 eggs

2 cups milk

Olive oil (not EVOO)


Mix dry ingredients and place in a large Ziploc bag.

Drain the Bacalla and thoroughly rinse (many times). Dry with paper towels. Cut into 3”x3” pieces.

Mix milk and eggs thoroughly with a fork

Dip Bacalla into egg/milk mix and place a few pieces in a zip lock bag.  Make sure pieces are coated well.

Place on a baking rack to dry for 5-8 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet or electric frying pan to medium.  Add ½ stick butter.

Place Bacalla pieces in oil and fry until one side is golden brown then turn and brown the other side.  The second side will not take as long. Test with a fork to make sure it flakes. Remove from oil and place on a clean rack (not paper towel) to cool and dry for 2-3 minutes.

tongs scooping linguine on a paper plate


Clam Linguine presented by Shannon Colaianni Tinnell

1 pound dry linguine pasta

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons of butter

3 large garlic cloves sliced thin

A big pinch of red pepper flakes

3 anchovy fillets

½ teaspoon dry oregano

Fresh parsley and basil, chopped

3 cans of clams and clam liquid

½ to 1 cup white wine

Juice and zest of one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta water

Place a large pot of water on to boil. Add salt. Once boiling add the linguine and stir. While the pasta is cooking, in a 12-14 inch skillet, heat the ¼ cup of olive oil over medium-high heat and once hot, add the garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes or just before the garlic starts to brown. Then add the butter and anchovies and cook for another minute. The anchovies will disintegrate. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, parsley, and clams along with the white wine. Let the alcohol cook off the wine for a minute.  Cover and cook over medium to medium-high to control the heat so that the mixture bubbles but not at a full boil. Add the cooked al dente pasta and some pasta water to the clam sauce and cook for a few minutes until the pasta is tender and has absorbed a little of the liquid. If you need a little more liquid, add a small amount of pasta water. Salt and pepper to taste.


Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake presented by Jay Mahoney


For the crust:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

4 oz. Unsalted butter (1 stick) melted

For the filling:

16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1 – 1/4 c. sugar

1 – 1/2 c. whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Italian Limoncello, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest

6 large eggs, room temperature

Extra zest for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Spray a 9 x 13 x2 inch baking pan or a 9-inch springform pan.
  • For the crust: combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Press the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and ¼ inch up the sides. Bake on the center rack for 8 minutes and set aside to cool.
  • For the filling: place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl, add the ricotta, and beat for another minute, stop the mixer, and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, beat for another 30 seconds.
  • With the mixer on low, add the Limoncello, vanilla, lemon zest, and beat for one minute. With the mixer on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix until the batter is smooth. Do not overmix. Pour over the cooled crust
  • Place the baking pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold the baking pan with the mixture completely flat. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come up the sides of the cheesecake pan ½ way. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until almost set in the center. The mixture will jiggle just a little in the center when the pan is shaken slightly. Turn off the heat and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  • Carefully take the cheesecake out of the water bath and place it on a rack to cool completely. Wrap the entire pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  • Slice into desired size pieces and garnish each with a small dollop of whipped cream and a piece or two of lemon zest.

Note: If using a springform pan you must cover the bottom of the pan ½ way up the sides prior to filling with aluminum foil to prevent water from leaking into the cake.

bowls of biscotti with chocolate dip


Chocolate Dipped Biscotti Presented by Scott Frederick

2 cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup of slivered almonds

¾ cup of sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp baking powder

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the dipping chocolate:

4 oz bittersweet baking chocolate,

1 tablespoon of butter 

For the biscotti:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nuts together.

In a small bowl combine the egg, butter, and vanilla and whisk to fully combine.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix to combine until a rough dough forms.

Dump the dough onto a work surface and knead a couple of times until the dough comes together, adding extra flour sparingly and only if needed.

Start to form the dough into a big fat cigar and cut it in half. Form each half into a cigar about one inch thick, 2 inches wide, and 12 inches long. Place them onto the cookie sheet and lightly press with fingers to slightly flat cigars.

Bake for 25 minutes reversing the pan halfway through. The bars will be firm to the touch and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

Remove cookies to a cutting board using two spatulas. Using a serrated knife, slice the bars on an angle about ½ inch thick to form the biscotti. Lay them back on the cookie sheet with either cut side down or place back into the oven for another 15 min. Let cool. Dip in melted chocolate.

For the dipping chocolate:

In a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, stir and melt the chocolate and butter together until melted and combined.

When the biscotti have cooled, dip the bottoms in the melted chocolate, and then allow to set, lying on their sides on baking paper.

Bon Natale!

Which Festival Cucina dish are you most excited to try?


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