Come Christmas Eve, Italians everywhere will be celebrating with the Feast of the Seven Fishes — a meal that'll involve lots of seafood (and even possibly a few local, fresh crabs). But if the table's set by an Italian purist, don't expect to see any parmesan. Among classic Italian cuisine experts, there's no greater sacrilege than sprinkling cheese on top of linguine con vongole, squid in risotto, or any seafood dish, for that matter. But what's the reasoning behind that? Find out after the jump.
There are several explanations for this belief, but perhaps the most prominent is the fact that traditionalists feel the delicate taste of seafood would be overwhelmed by the more aggressive flavors of Italian cheeses such as parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano. Others believe it's the mar e monte (mountain and sea) divide. Cheese-making regions such as Piedmont and Lombardy have been historically landlocked from coastal, seafood-eating areas like Puglia and Liguria.
Many, however, have proven that a marriage of two wonderful food groups — cheese and seafood — can be successful, as long as they're executed the right way, pairing, say, a weighty shellfish like lobster with a milder cheese like burrata, as Michael White does at his New York restaurant Marea, or Lidia Bastianich does with her Winter squash and shrimp risotto with parmesan.