Insalata di Mare – which translates to Salad of the Sea, or Seafood Salad, is a classic Italian dish of seafood, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, and with few other ingredients aside from the fish itself. You’ll find it at any Italian restaurant, but my family enjoyed this dish only once a year, on Christmas Eve, or, La Vigilia, our largest and most abundant celebration.

Many Italian American families celebrate Christmas Eve as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes.” On many anticipatory Catholic holidays, such as Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Christmas Eve, Catholics refrain from eating meat until the feast day itself – in this case, Christmas Day. For my family, La Vigilia was a meal of never ending courses, and while we didn’t call it The Feast of the Seven Fishes, there was for sure always at least that many. This seafood salad was served as part of the third and main course of the meal, and I always looked forward to it.

Insalata di Mare | Seafood Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
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  • 1 3 lb whole octopus
  • 1 lb calamari, tubes and tentacles
  • 2 lb cleaned shrimp (21-25 ct)
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Red Pepper Flakes, to taste


  1. Fill a large, heavy bottomed and a medium, heavy bottomed pot with water and salt generously. Set on the stovetop to boil.
  2. When the large pot is boiling, prepare to cook your octopus. Grasping the octopus by the head, dip the body/tentacles into the water and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times. This will help to tenderize the meat of the octopus. Let cook for 20-25 minutes, or until fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare your shrimp and calamari. Shrimp should be shelled and deveined, and calamari tubes should be cut into rings, about 1/4 inch wide. When the medium pot of water is boiling, add your calamari, and cook quickly until opaque in color. This will take about 3-5 minutes. Remove the calamari with slotted spoon, and set in a bowl to chill.
  4. Let the water return to a boil, then add your shrimp. Cook until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set in a bowl to chill.
  5. By now, the octopus should be ready. Remove it from the pot and set aside to chill.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Chop celery by slicing them in thirds lengthwise and then chopping into small pieces. Set aside. Finely chop parsley (about 1/2 bunch)
  7. In a measuring cup, measure out 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Set a small sieve atop the measuring cup, and squeeze the juice from the lemons, allowing the strainer to catch any seeds. Add in the chopped parsley, and whisk together well.
  8. Once the fish has cooled, chop the octopus into bite sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the calamari, shrimp, and celery. Pour the dressing over the fish and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  9. Remove the Insalata di Mare from the refrigerator 20 minutes prior to serving. Toss once more, and drizzle again with olive oil. Serve at room temperature.