Nothing says Christmas Eve to me like the Feast of the Seven Fishes. This Italian-American tradition is something I look forward to every year because it means that all of my family gathers around one table to crack shellfish, drink wine and laugh until Santa comes to town. My Nonna Marianna would spend days preparing for this meal, all the while teaching me to make her shellfish pasta, olive salads with calamari, stuffed squid, fried fish, and baccala folded into creamy risotto. While all of these dishes are incredible, I wanted to create a scaled-down version of this meal that still honors the Seven Fishes tradition. My family loves to spice it up, hence the inclusion of crushed red pepper to make this fra diavolo in style. Feel free to mix up the seafood to your family’s favorites!
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and heat until fragrant. Pour in the panko and shake into an even layer. Sprinkle in the lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape the breadcrumbs into a bowl. Stir in the parsley and set aside for plating. Reserve the skillet.
While the breadcrumbs are cooking, place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil and heat until fragrant. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the anchovy paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute more. Increase the heat to medium high. Add 1 cup of the white wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the clams, cover and steam for 2 minutes. Add the mussels, cover again and steam just until the shellfish open, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cooked shellfish to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside for plating. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomato puree to the pan. Use the remaining 1/4 cup white wine to swish around any tomato puree clinging to the can (just like Nonna would). Add it to the sauce, along with the dried oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions for al dente.
While the pasta cooks, sprinkle salt and black pepper on all sides of the scallops, shrimp and halibut. Place the reserved skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the halibut and scallops, spacing them apart (so they sear, rather than steam). Cook, without disturbing, until deeply golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove to a plate and set aside. Flip the halibut and cook until seared on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp to the skillet, spacing them around the halibut, and cook until the shrimp are opaque and lightly seared, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the skillet from the heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the shrimp and halibut. Remove to the plate and set aside.
To finish the sauce, add the calamari and simmer for 1 minute over medium heat. Lift the pasta with tongs from the boiling water into the sauce. Toss until evenly coated. Add the cooked shellfish and any liquid that collected in the bowl. Toss to thoroughly combine.
To serve, plate the pasta first. Sprinkle generously with the breadcrumbs. Top with the seared scallops, shrimp and halibut. Serve immediately.
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