2023 Festival Cucina Recipes

man with white apron and black hat holding a small octopus

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.

woman wearing a black top with floral apron demonstrating an Italian recipe during a cooking show.Spicy Mussels with Grilled Bread presented by Elizabeth Opyoke 

4 thick slices of white peasant bread

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

2 garlic cloves, peeled (1 left whole, 1 thinly sliced)

1 medium shallot, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds mussels, scrubbed

1 1/2 cups Sauvignon Blanc or other dry white wine

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Step 1 

Preheat the broiler. Brush the bread with olive oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Broil the bread a few inches from the heat, turning once, for 2 minutes, until golden and toasted. Lightly rub the whole garlic clove over the toasts.

Step 2

In a large, deep pot, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the shallot and sliced garlic, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Step 3

Add the mussels and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, cover, and steam the mussels until they open, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Step 4

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to four deep bowls, discarding any mussels that do not open.

Step 5

Add the butter and parsley to the broth, swirling and shaking the pot until the butter melts.

Step 6

Slowly pour the broth over the mussels, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom of the pot.

Step 7
Serve the mussels with the garlic toasts.


Anchovy Lemon Salad presented by Denise Roncone 

5 flat anchovy filets, finely chopped  

 2 small cloves garlic minced 

  2 Tbl fresh lemon juice          

  1 teas. white wine vinegar    

  1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil   

  1/8 teas. black pepper        

  3 hearts romaine (20-22 oz) torn into pieces                      

  6 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved with vegetable peeler  

   Whisk anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar &  black pepper. 

   Toss lettuce with dressing, then with cheese. Serve with additional whole anchovies


a man wearing a black top holding a bottle of wine while demonstrating a recipe during an Italian cooking class

Fonduta Della Trota Affumicato presented by MK Ohlinger

2 lb cream cheese or Neufchâtel 

1 lb sour cream 

Heat in a double-boiler until soft, then whip with 1 tbsp sea salt, 1 tbsp white pepper, and 1 tbsp garlic powder until well blended. Crumble 4 oz smoked trout on top, and use a spatula to gently fold into the warm cheese mixture. 

Serve with any crunchy dipping cracker or other that you like.


Oyster Stew presented by Robert Germano 


 2 cups heavy cream

 2 cups whole milk

 1 pint oysters and liquor

 4 tablespoon unsalted butter

 2 stalks celery, finely chopped

 1 medium onion, finely chopped

 3 cloves garlic, minced

 1 teaspoon celery salt

 1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay seasoning

 1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce

 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 1 tablespoon dried parsley

 Salt and pepper


Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and sweat until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add celery salt, Bay seasoning, and hot pepper sauce. Add the cream, milk and bring to a simmer. Do not let it boil. Add the oysters, lemon juice, and parsley and simmer until the oysters start to curl, about 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty bread

a man and a woman both dressed in black standing at a long table demonstrating how to make an Italian dish during a cooking class

Seafood Lasagna –  presented by Shannon Colaianni Tinnell

1 box high quality Italian lasagna or fresh lasagna sheets

Seafood mixture: 

3 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of butter 

1 carrot 

1 celery stalk and leaves  

Anchovy paste or chopped canned anchovies 

1 package fresh spinach or frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry

1 bunch of fresh parsley and basil  

Hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper to taste 

1/4 cup white wine (or chicken stock)

1 pound mini shrimp

1 pound crab or imitation crab

1 pound small scallops

Bechamel or white sauce :

5 tablespoons of butter 

5 tablespoons of  flour

3 cups milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Cheese mixture: 

1 cup of  Parmesan cheese 

salt and pepper to taste

1 (16 ounce) container ricotta cheese or homemade ricotta 

1 egg

1 package shredded mozzarella 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees 

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse under cool water . Toss in olive oil and lay flat on a cookie sheet. 

Make the Seafood Mixture: 

Using a food processor , mix up the carrots , garlic, celery, herbs and spinach . In a medium skillet, heat olive oil and 3 tablespoons of butter  on medium . Add the minced garlic ,carrot celery and  spinach mixture being careful not to burn the garlic.Add some anchovy paste. Add a pinch of hot pepper flakes , salt and pepper. If using larger pieces of seafood chop them into small pieces.  Add thawed seafood to the savory mix. Cook until the seafood is warmed through and fully cooked. Add white wine and lemon juice and let cook down. 

Make the Bechamel sauce : 

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and stir until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened.Add the nutmeg. Finally, stir in the parmesan cheese and set aside

Make the Ricotta Mixture : 

Combine the ricotta, shredded mozzarella, egg, dried parsley, spinach and salt in a bowl and stir until well combined. Set aside.

Start assembling the lasagna : 

Cover the bottom of a baking dish of the bechamel sauce. Be sure to reserve enough to cover the top of the lasagna. Add a layer of noodles. Add a layer of the seafood . Add a layer of the ricotta mixture.  Sprinkle it with mozzarella . Repeat these steps until the pan is full.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 45-60 minutes.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese 

8 ½ cups whole milk
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt 

Pour milk into a saucepan set over medium heat. Heat milk until it registers 194 degrees F (90 degrees C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir lemon juice and salt slowly into warmed milk. Let stand until milk curdles, 10 to 15 minutes.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour milk mixture carefully into the lined strainer. Let stand until most of the liquid has drained off the ricotta, about 15 minutes. Discard drained liquid.


 Quick Seafood Pasta presented by Benjamin and Kiristy Martin

1 lb pasta
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 lb fresh or frozen seafood mix of choice
2 tablespoons of  olive oil
zest of half a lemon
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste


 Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. In the meantime, heat a large pan with the olive oil, over medium heat.
Add in onion and tomatoes and cook, stirring often, for about 5 mins. Season to taste.

 Fold in the seafood mix and continue to cook for a further 5-6 mins, or until the seafood are cooked through.Season with salt and pepper to taste
When the water boils, drop the pasta in and cook as directed.
Transfer the pasta into the pot with the seafood sauce and stir all ingredients together. Sprinkle lemon zest, freshly chopped basil and parsley on top, and drizzle with a little bit of extra olive oil if you like. Serve immediately, family-style directly from the pot.


Fried Calamari Steaks presented by Michael Biafore 

 Calamari Steaks can be purchased online from Wholey’s in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, or other places online. 


1 5 lb Box Calamari Steaks (frozen)

2 eggs 

½  cup milk 

1 cup flour 

1  cup plain breadcrumbs (or seafood breading)

1 stick  butter

2 lemons wedged

Olive oil



Thaw calamari steaks . When thawed, rinse and dry thoroughly. Lightly pound with a tenderizing mallet.

Mix eggs and milk with a fork. Dredge steaks in flour, dip in egg/milk mixture, dredge in breading.  Firmly press breading into steaks. Place breaded steaks on a drying rack and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.Heat 1/2” olive oil in an electric skillet (350 degrees) or cast iron skillet (medium heat) .  Melt butter in oil.

Fry calamari steaks until golden brown. Flip once. 

Serve with lemon

s woman dressed in black standing by a man wearing a hat and white apron as they demonstrate Italian family recipes during a cooking school.Limoncello Cupcakes presented by Shannon Tinnell 

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

6 large eggs

4 tablespoons Limoncello

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup lemon juice

Zest of one lemon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the Limoncello and beat an additional minute.

On low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between 24 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely 

Limoncello – originally presented by Shannon Colaianni Tinnell

11 lemons
1 bottle Everclear grain alcohol
3 cups sugar
3 cups water

Step One:
Wash lemons. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel. NOTE: Use only the outer part of the rind. The pith, the white part underneath the rind, is bitter and will spoil your Limoncello.

Step Two:

In a large glass jar (which needs to hold at least a gallon) add the vodka. As you zest the lemons, add the zest to the liquor.  Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature, in a cool dark place for at least (10) ten days and up to (40) days. The longer it rests, the better the taste. (There is no need to stir – all you have to do is wait.) As the Limoncello steeps it develops a bright sunny color. Remember the longer it sits the better, but, if you are short on time, a decent Limoncello can be made in a week or two.

Step Three:

After the lemon zest/alcohol mix has steeped in a cool dark place for the allocated time, it’s time to make the simple syrup mixture. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water (usually 1:1 ratio); cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. Let sit for at least another week in a cool, dark space.

Step Four:

After the rest period, strain and put into sterile bottles, discarding the lemon zest. Keep Limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. Limoncello is great by itself or mixed in lemonade, iced tea, cranberry juice or champagne. I also use it to make a glaze  or icing for doughnuts, angel food or pound cake. Great Christmas presents.

Bon Natale!

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