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cheese on seafood pasta?

I thought the Italian custom was never to add cheese to seafood pastas. However, at a friend's Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes that I was lucky enough to be invited to, the hosts of Sicilian descent eagerly added grated cheese to capellini with calamari in a tomato sauce.

So: is no-cheese-with-seafood-pasta not as strict a rule as I thought? Or is cheese sometimes served with certain seafoods, or in certain regions of Italy, or in certain contexts?

I appreciate that a totally valid response is to do what you think tastes best, but I'm asking the question in order to understand what people's traditions are.

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  1. we never add cheese to seafood. there are people in my family who think tuna melts shouldn't even have cheese! lol

    2 Replies
    1. re: eLizard

      It's not a Tuna Melt with out the cheese! The cheese is what makes a Tuna Melt a Tuna *Melt* because you melt the cheese on the tuna... A Tuna Melt without the cheese is just a warmed tuna fish sandwich! lol.

      1. re: AlexandriaSteelheart

        correction....there are people in my family who think tuna melts should not exist! and the idea of warm mayonaise sends them over the edge.

    2. I'm not Italian for starters, but here's my thought. Hard cheese tends to be strongly flavored, of course. The thought is (as you know) seafood in it's delicate-ness is sometimes over-powered by this. As much as I love squid and octopus, etc. (it is one of my favorite seafood items), it can be rather... well, bland. Especially in a pasta dish with other flavors, I think it can benefit from a flavoring of some sort, whether that be a marinade, or just some smoky grilled flavor and salt. The cheese on the calamari dish is probably warranted and did not do too much in the way of over-powering the food. After all, we're not talking about lobster ;-)

      1. I am of Italian descent. and this Christmas Eve, a lobster w linguini dish was served. and I noticed the new-schoolers,such as myself and my parents, added Parmegian, and the Old schoolers, like my grandparents passed on the cheese.. It is an older rule not to add cheese to any seafood dish,albiet a good one..But i cant help it!

        1. My family is form Naples and Bari. Usually with a fish-tomato sauce we pass on the cheese, but we tend to like it on linguine w/clam sauce. A friend of mine from Sicily said it's not considered correct but that people use it if they like it at home.

          1. my family was very strict about the no cheese policy, and i still get a little squirmy when i see things like seafood lasagna or shrimp alfredo. any kind of cream or cheese just blows the fish out of the water, shall we say. overkill.

            1. Thanks for the responses so far. Myself, the only time I want to add cheese to a seafood pasta dish is when I toss pasta with some slowly sauteed anchovies, garlic, and hot pepper flakes in olive oil. The salty, spicy oil is plenty strong to stand up to cheese, and the saltiness of the anchovies makes me want even more saltiness in the cheese.

              Would you no-cheese-with-seafood traditionalists combine cheese with anchovies that way? Would you eat anchovies on a pizza? Or do anchovies not count as seafood since the injunction is, as others have pointed out, more about delicate shellfish like shrimp and lobster?

              1. No

                1. What would coquilles st. jacques be without gruyere? Italians may not care for cheese with seafood, but the rest of the world obviously doesn't agree.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: pikawicca

                    The further south in France you go, the more likely coquilles st jacques is made with olive oil. The more north you go, with creme fraiche. But cheese? I think that would be an oddity.

                    Cheese with any kind of seafood is very rare in Italy, France, and Spain. I can't speak for Portugal.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I've eaten CSt.J five times in France. All versions, while quite different from each other, had cheese.

                  2. One of my favorite sandwiches was the open-face crab and melted cheese that was a regular Friday offering at the Anchorage airport coffee shop 40-some years ago; it had king crab with just enough mayonnaise to hold it together set on a toasted sourdough roll, with sharp cheddar melted over the top. I still like to do a similar thing with tuna or salmon salad.

                    Though I wouldn't put a strong hard cheese on linguini with white clam sauce, I might put some on red. And I'd certainly use ricotta and mozzarella with a seafood lasagna, just as I top a tuna casserole with whatever cheese strikes my fancy. But Hey! I'm from the Midwest, not Napoli...

                    1. I come from an Italian-american family, I understand Italian food (as well as Italian-American and the differences there in), I've cooked it all my life and I get that in Italy cheese and seafood don't mix. But it seems really ridiculous to me to stand of ceremony. If you don't like it, then that's fine. But food is meant to be enjoyed. And to not have cheese on your seafood pasta or, even worse, to tell others they can't have cheese on theirs (as I've actually heard of chefs doing) based on traditions from another country is snobbish. When I make cockles and linguini with white wine and shallots? I'll grate some Asiago on top and it's fabulous. If you like it, eat it.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Tom Servo

                        On the other hand we have a friend who hates both seafood and cheese! So I know enough not to make my tuna-noodle casserole when he' coming to dinner...

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Hahaha! Exactly! You don't like it? Fine! But this idea that "It's just not done!!!" is really counter-intuitive to how I view food. It's there to be enjoyed and if it breaks tradition, so be it.

                          1. re: Tom Servo

                            There are plenty of foods I like that are not traditional. But it doesn't stop me from liking and appreciating the traditional, either. I think, in the USA, many people are developing a crutch with cheese and mayo. People who ooh and aah over a shrimp and pasta dish covered in cheese (I just saw another one on a Red Lobster commercial) are probably not doing us any favors as a whole, as we will be given more of the same, in ever-increasing amounts. All the while we allow restaurants to cheap out on the other ingredients you won't be able to taste anymore.

                            There's no doubt in my mind that restaurants are using the cheese grater as a kind of ersatz can opener.

                            But, sure, go ahead and grate away.

                            1. re: Steve

                              Be sure to tell this to the bacon crowd.

                            2. re: Tom Servo

                              Where this gets my goat is with sushi. I like trad nigiri as much as anybody, but whenever I hear from some Nihonophile, flush with the year-teaching-English stint, that I can't eat maki with avocado because "they don't do it in Japan" I want to stab him with my chopstick... which I don't use, since i've learned that it's okay to eat sushi with my fingers as a matter of Japanese etiquette I follow because it makes SENSE. Refusing to eat something delicious based on arbitrary cultural standards doesn't make sense and I refuse to kowtow to anybody's myths of cultural superiority, Italy's or otherwise.

                              1. re: John Manzo

                                What I find fascinating is that we get all of these critics in the U.S. telling us we aren't eating things the right way because we might get inventive with a sushi roll, put cheese on our seafood, or enjoy an occasional chop suey. Yet, in other countries they also tailor foreign food to their preferences and nothing gets said about that. I saw an example on here talking about how in France, they put cheese is sushi. That certainly isn't authentically Japanese.

                                I think we need to learn to cut each other some slack and realize that very few cultures are purists with food from other cultures.

                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                  Reminds me of all the crazy foreign pizza ads with interesting toppings.

                        2. I guess the fact that I LOVE cheese with some seafoods makes me a pariah, but i can live with it. I also don't give a shite if it isn't the Italian version of kosher.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: EWSflash

                            AMEN, amico. Some Italian rules are so arbitrary and stupid... I actually adhered to the one about not having a cappuccino after 10am until I realized that it's archaic nonsense.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              There is no rule about not drinking cappuccino after 10 AM. You are not supposed to drink it after a meal because it is considered deleterious to digestion (digestion being a national obsession) while black espresso is considered conducive to digestion. The cheese/seafood thing is a matter of taste and tradition, not science (or even pseudoscience).

                          2. grated cheese does not exist in our house on xmas eve. the only time we add cheese to fish is when it's a parm...shrimp parm, calmari parm...so basically anything fried.

                            1. It is customary not to put parmigiano on fish sauces. And when I say customary, I mean only eccentrics would do it. There are two main reasons. One is that certain fish sauces contain a great deal of garlic (e.g., clam sauce), which is considered even worse with parmigiano than fish is. The other is that the subtle flavor of the fish can be concealed by the parmigiano.

                              Pecorino romano is often used with anchovies, both preserved and fresh, and creative Italian cooks will sometimes use it on other kinds of seafood, but sparingly, but not even the wildest innovators seems to use parmigiano.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mbfant

                                If the "subtle flavor of the fish" isn't overwhelmed by "a great deal of garlic," a little Parm could not possibly do any harm.

                              2. I live in the Pacific Northwest, USA and I *love* cheese with my seafood... granted you have to be mindful of the flavors of the seafood and the flavors of the cheese... if it's a strong seafood (like crab/lobster) or a more mellow seafood (like tuna fish/shrimp/scallops) and knowing how to pair it with a cheese that *doesn't* overpower it... one of my favorite dishes at The Olive Garden is their Seafood Fettuccine Alfredo, and when they pull out their little cheese grater thingy (I think it's parmesan) I let them pile it on...

                                does anybody remember that commercial for the Olive Garden where the waiter is spinning the handle, grating the cheese, waiting for the person to say 'when' but they pass out, and then the next waiter takes over, and they pass out, and then the camera pans back and there's a *huge* exaggerated pile of cheese on the soup bowl and there's about 10 waiters passed out around the table? I'm like that... only much less exaggerated... lol

                                To the OP's curiosity of people's traditions... growing up, my mom was very much a 'meat and potatoes' sort of American style cooking (she grew up in Idaho) and my dad cooked with a more Italian-American style cooking (he was born in Chicago and grew up in California, but his father grew up in Chicago in an Italian neighborhood)...

                                Personally, I'm certainly not a 'traditionalist' or a 'foodie'... I'm more of a 'comfort food' eater... I like things that taste like 'home'... things like raw, undercooked beef/steak makes me queasy... I like my meat to be *well done* without *any* hint of pink, let alone red... to me that just means you didn't cook it long enough and it's still bloody and raw and nasty. As for Sushi? Forget About It! I won't touch it... any kind of raw meat is just asking for food poisoning, IMHO. My parents style of cooking has certainly shaped the flavors I like or don't like... my mom cooks with simple, mild flavors so I hate spicy foods, but with my dad's Italian-American style cooking, I love garlic and onion powder (not so much actual onions) and marinara and alfredo sauces, and all those great italian flavors... just as long as it's not *spicy* lol.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: AlexandriaSteelheart

                                  Brilliant!!!

                                2. I'm glad I found this thread! I watch Chopped on Food TV and every single time a cheftestant uses cheese with seafood, Scott Conant FLIPS! I mean, the dish could be just the tastiest thing this side of the Mississippi, but no, he's not going to enjoy it.
                                  UGH, I just want to jump through the screen and smack his ears like cymbals. Same goes for every time he kvetches about red onions. Dude, if you don't like them, pick them out like the rest of us mere mortals do.
                                  Anyway, I think of a Dr. Philism when it comes to this topic-do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? I want to be happy, so I'll keep enjoying my tuna melts and seafood alfredo.
                                  And, why does to universal reference point about seafood and cheese have to be Italy?

                                  21 Replies
                                  1. re: monavano

                                    It's not even a hard and fast rule in Italy- there are regional quirks to be taken into account as well. There was an article in the NY Times about this a little while ago. Heretics enjoy!-

                                    "According to Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, the issue is also a regional one. “Mare e monte — mountain and sea.” she says. “It wasn’t until I went south that I had even heard it was possible to work cheese into a recipe at the sauce level.”

                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/mag...

                                    1. re: TongoRad

                                      I do know that my first encounter with a no-cheese "rule" was at a trattoria in Salerno, when with the help of the very school-marmish proprietress I ordered spaghetti con vongole (she made me repeat "vongole" several times until I got the accent right)... and when I asked for cheese she almost smacked me. This is of course one sea and one land-mass west of Lidia's stomping grounds.

                                    2. re: monavano

                                      FWIW, it would be a rarity in France, Spain and many other places in the Mediterranean. It's pretty much in America where we put cheese on everything. I think it's a crutch, and perhaps like Conant, it only reinforces for me that the seafood is almost surely of poor quality.

                                      But enjoy!

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        Respectfully, I just do not get that argument. First, I'm tired of hearing how pedestrian we are as Americans. We eat like crap, we're fat Philistines yada yada. It's a generalization that surely doesn't apply to CH'ers.
                                        Also, I'm not speaking of mounting a huge pile of mozzarella on everything and melting it. Cheese is used judiciously in many dishes-are all those dishes crap without a handful of Parmesan?
                                        Is cheese a crutch only for seafood, or for all food?
                                        What's the difference other than standing on ceremony?
                                        Why are American ways of using cheese uncultured and practically xenophobic, while the provinciality of European food cultures considered sacrosanct?
                                        Thanks ;-)

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          I suppose it's not just Europe. There's no point in talking about Asia, I don't recall seeing cheese with seafood at the Peruvian restaurants that have cropped up everywhere or at the few Chilean / Venezuelan, etc places I've been. Same thing for Central American, the fish is not served with cheese AFAIK. I have never heard of any sort of ceviche / cheese combo.

                                          I didn't say it was uncultured, I wouldn't know about that. I say that the reason I suspect it is a rarity most other places is that the expectations of the seafood being fresh is undermined by the cheese. Now, I suppose I have no scientific proof of that, but the combo has those connotations for me.

                                          I think there is a problem in America with melting cheese over or into everything. Same thing for mayo and ketchup. It serves to make everything taste the same and it kills the flavor (this is a generality) of the thing you're trying to eat. So as a matter of fact I almost completely avoid melted cheese on everything, including hamburgers. I also think it serves mostly to add heft and calories, though I am not automatically opposed to either.

                                          Some foods are known flavor enhancers. Salt, alcohol, even vinegar or sichuan peppercorns. if used properly, they can actually intensify the flavor of other foods. I think cheese is the opposite. It is mostly a flavor killer. So if the dish you are trying to eat is mostly cheese (like a grilled cheese sandwich or a quiche), then I think that's great, but on so many other dishes I 'd just rather taste the main ingredient.

                                          Practically speaking, I am pretty sure that places which serve seafood alfredo, for example, are using poor quality seafood to begin with. So like I said before, it grosses me out, but that is just in practice. I understand that if a high quality seafood restaurant would serve seafood in a cheese sauce, then I suppose the quality of the seafood is the same.

                                          How about this: let's do a survey of respected American seafood. Places that pride themselves on their fresh seafood. In the DC area, I can think of Black Salt, Kinkead's, and Hook. I'm sure there are others. I wonder if any of them have a dish with cheese sauce.....

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            No cheese on hamburgers*? You are hard core and I bow to you! I appreciate your well-thought-out response because I truly do want to know the answers to my queries, and invite all to respond. Inquiring minds want to know.
                                            I'm in the DC area and will check out the websites-maybe there are ingredients listed.
                                            Hey....what about clams casino?
                                            *Yes, I defile Ray's Hell burgers with cheese!

                                            1. re: monavano

                                              I realize that for many people a cheeseburger is one of life's great pleasures. I've been To Ray's Hellburger 10 times now, and 3 times I got toppings. Each time I wished I just had the plain burger.

                                            2. re: Steve

                                              "Practically speaking, I am pretty sure that places which serve seafood alfredo, for example, are using poor quality seafood to begin with." Not if the sauce is properly done; an Alfredo that tastes of nothing but Parmesan might just as well have come from a can.

                                              Everyone's tasting equipment is tuned differently, but to mine cheese added to food, if it's done properly, enhances certain flavors rather than masking them. It definitely rounds and enriches the taste of tomato, for instance. Most fish is better off without cheese (except for the tuna variants mentioned), but a touch of good Parmesan, or another low-salt rich cheese such as Gruyere, in a sauce I think adds a nice oomph to such things as scallops, crab and shrimp. I even disagree with that woman in Salerno: I *LIKE* a bit of Parm in my white clam sauce.

                                              1. re: Will Owen

                                                I guess the question is: can anyone name a restaurant prized for it's fresh seafood that serves it in a cheese sauce? Like a great seafood alfredo? Any ethnicity.

                                                Of course, I completely l agee that everyone's tastes are different. I was pointing out that the cheese / seafood marriage is still a rarity most places outside America, not just Italy.

                                                For example, when I Google "coquilles st jacques" add 'recette' and look under sites which end in .fr I get thousands of responses. But less than 1 in 100 mention cheese. it is always creme fraiche or olive oil.

                                                There are exceptions as noted already in this thread. For France, I think Thermidor is an exception. Even then, you'll find more Thermidor recipes without cheese than there are other French seafood recipes with cheese.

                                                You could do a search the other way also. By searching "Parmesan rapé" or "Gruyere rapé" in the same fashion, you'll again find thousands of recipes, but seafood is a rarity.

                                                Anyway, the OP was asking about what people's traditions are, and I think it is a tradition to not combine seafood with cheese in or out of Italy.

                                              2. re: Steve

                                                One of the reasons we rely on cheese so much is because it is relatively inexpensive and can be used to add flavor to a bland dish. Think about the typical American casserole/hot dish. That is a food born out of necessity. You can take a very cheap starch such as noodles, use vegetables on hand (if you have them), add a spare amount of cheap meat, bind it with a white sauce, gravy, or some cheap canned soup, top it with cheese and then you can feed and fill up a huge crowd with something relatively cheap and kind of tasty. Without that cheese, a casserole wouldn't taste very edible.

                                                A lot of Americans grew up on casseroles, so dumping shredded cheese or stirring in Cheese Whiz is a part of American food culture. I think that something else you need to remember is that most Americans don't think about food the way CH folks do. Many people struggle with getting a meal on the table. They just want something that tastes okay and that will be easy and feed their family. Or, like me, they may long for the tastes of childhood.

                                                I occasionally whip out a casserole. Guess what? Those casseroles are my daughter's favorite thing. Normally, I cook delicious scratch meals. But if I say I'm making a casserole, my husband and child jump for joy.

                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                  "That is a food born out of necessity"

                                                  Necessity must be on the rise, because from 1970 to 2003, per capita cheese consumption tripled in the US. From 1986 to 2006, we are each eating another 10.5 pounds of cheese per year.

                                                  In fast food restaurants, a hamburger used to be a common menu item... now no more. Only cheeseburgers, and if you don't want the cheese, you have to ask. But you no longer get a discount. They charge you for the cheese even if you don't want it.

                                                  1. re: Steve

                                                    I don't know about the prices but McDs still sells a plain hamburger.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      I guess this just shows how little I pay attention to the menu at McDonalds!

                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                        Since McDonalds is where many Americans get their burger fix, leaving it out of your calculation kind of messes up your claim that hamburgers are no longer a common menu item. (And at the independent restaurants in my town, cheese is always an add-on.)

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          In this case, google was my friend :) So checked BK also and they too have a plain hamburger. I know White Castle has both. Time for a cocktail instead of more googling :)

                                                      2. re: Steve

                                                        countless threads on "home cooking" here start with menu-planning questions, for "special", "elegant", "romantic", etc. meals and invariably they are drowning in dairy.

                                                        americans cannot seem to get enough of the stuff.

                                                        mine was not a casserole childhood, so that kind of stuff is totally foreign and unappealing to me. trying to disguise krap food with more krap food? lipstick on a pig and all that.

                                                      3. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                        My father hated casseroles so we barely ever had a chance to eat them growing up. Now when I have made one I thoroughly enjoy it. Sadly they are often less healthy that what I should be eating.

                                                  2. re: Steve

                                                    NOT a rarity in France, necessarily: one of my favorite bistro dishes, kind of fiddly to make at home (because it's designed for mass production in a restaurant kitchen) is Morue à la Savoyarde, which is a gratin of fried potatoes, fried onion and fried salt cod, finished in a hot oven with a good grating of Comté over the top. There is also the previously mentioned Coquilles St. Jacques...

                                                  3. re: monavano

                                                    WOW! I totally agree with you on this subject! We also watch Chopped and listen to Scotts childishness.And also would love to be able to say a few words to him. Also that childish kid Andrew who needs a hair cut. He is one of the most argumentative, negative human beings.I wonder if he is trying to be like 'Simon.' He absolutely thinks he is always right.Well he is wrong! 'Chef de cuisine' is a chief cook the head cook of a kitchen. That is me. I am the head cook in my kitchen and anywhere else I cook because I love to cook and a lot of my friends hate to cook.The idea of being a 'good cook' a 'chef de cuisine' is the use of your imagination and the love of the art of pairing flavors that are enjoyed.The use of cheese is just another way of inventing the flavors that go well together.The use of strong flavors and the use of mild flavors can be wonderfully inventive, fun, imaginative etc. I am working on a cookbook with two of my grandchildren and I am teaching them NOT to allow anyone to tell them what is correct and what is not correct in cooking. Rules, customary, traditional, policy...they do not belong when you are being a 'good cook.' A chef uses his or her own mind, their own imagination.That is what makes a good cook. A good chef. In the United States, we are a melting pot of all countries.Do not ALLOW anyone to put you down for using your imagination or liking what your own tastebuds enjoy.Of course, I am not a follower or a leader. I am a wife, a mom, a daughter a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a friend and one of the best 'cooks' you will ever find coming out of a family of 62 and growing.I do have to admit that I do have some gross out times watching people put sweet sugary ketchup on tacos or eggs. But there again, tastebuds are all different. I also feel like getting sick when I see people put cilantro in their salsa or in anything.That is one of the most disgusting weeds to smell let alone eat. It is too strong a flavor. It covers the other flavors like the soft, mild flavor of an avacado and the fresh flavor of a tomato. If you want cilantro make a cilantro salad. I have for the past 2 years resorted to bringing my own salsa in my purse to restaurants because the weed has inundated the world of salsa. But there again, 'tastebuds.' Seafood and cheese can be an awesome team. Your can tell when you taste, which is the correct cheese to use so that you can still taste the seafood you put it on. Your not stupid. If they make your tastebuds happy do it. Imagine, Invent, taste! Whatever makes anyone's mouth water and tastes good to them, is the proper way to make it, no one elses 'idea' of what is in your food. You are the only important person eating that food, and of course, the people you are making it for. That is the ONLY thing that is important.
                                                    I love to cook and my favorite is international foods. But, I do not allow anyone to tell me it is not the 'correct' way if I change a recipe in anyway. If the recipe calls for something I don't like, I leave it out. I I feel another item would taste wonderful added to a recipe, I add it. That is how recipes are made. God did not make us with a cookbook already in print to follow. WE made the recipes. We used our own brains and our own tastebuds. We used what we had on hand in our cupboards, pantry, in the garden, leftovers in our fridge. Go out to your kitchen and use your imagination and invent a new recipe! Give it your own name. You don't need anyone elses tastebuds to do that, only your own.

                                                    1. re: sam849

                                                      What are some of your favorite international foods to cook? Also I'd love a list of your fish and cheese pairings please. I have three Italian cookbooks sitting by me so I went through dozens of recipes. They use every fruit,vegetable, seasoning, etc. but no cheese. You appear to have created some real success; please share.

                                                      1. re: sam849

                                                        I am working on a cookbook with two of my grandchildren and I am teaching them NOT to allow anyone to tell them what is correct and what is not correct in cooking. Rules, customary, traditional, policy...they do not belong when you are being a 'good cook.' A chef uses his or her own mind, their own imagination.That is what makes a good cook.

                                                        ~~~

                                                        i know this an old post, but my experience has shown me that what makes a good cook is learning the fundamentals and building a strong foundation before attempting to throw everything out the window.

                                                        both thomas keller and ferran adria started as dishwashers and prep cooks, ya know?

                                                        the kids fresh from culinary school who think they know better than everybody else? generally wind up washing out and switching careers.

                                                    2. I had lunch with my sister and a friend of hers the other day. We split an appetizer of mussels marinara. The friend took two or three and put them on her plate and then sprinkled cheese on them. My sister and I locked eyes and I saw her visibly shudder. Thank God the friend didn't do it to the entire dish!

                                                      1. Since I´m an avid fan of Chopped and Scott Conant is always being so strict about it, I have been perplexed by the issue for a long time. As many responders here have contested, use of cheese with seafood varies regionally, even in Italy. On many seafood dishes I wouldn´t do it, but on some the results can be heavenly. One of the best dishes I ever ate was in Epernay, France where oysters were served gratinated in the local champagne with cheese and cream.

                                                        Of course cheese can easily overpower the delicate flavour of seafood. Of course it may help to hide that the main ingredient is "off".But this does not take away the fact that you can do wonderful things if you know and respect your ingredients. For example, the great Gastón Acurio (the Peruvian chef celebré of "cocina novo andina") does killer cheese recipes with scallops, clams and mussles, as do his colleagues all around Peru and Chile. If you go to any of these "new wave" restaurants you are likely to find at least one version of "conchitas a la parmesana".

                                                        So Scott Conant may not like his cheese with seafood and I respect that (but I do hope he has at least tried it once prepared by Acurio or his posse before sticking to his guns..). Nevertheless, to say that it is a "no-no" universally, is, to my humble opinion, an incorrect statement.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: FinnFoodie

                                                          I agree FinnFoodie. Conant shows utter disrespect to the contestants when he, for not other reason than obstinence, universally dismisses a dish which combines cheese and seafood. The funny thing is to catch other Food Network chefs embracing what he eschews- like Iron Chef Bobby Flay.

                                                        2. This may be a little late. lol
                                                          Traditionally Catholics especially Italians refrain from eating flesh on Fridays during Lent or on Christmas Eve. Since cheese is from cow, goat or water buffalo milk no animal is killed to make it. Therefore , it is perfectly ok on seafood or to serve anytime. Some interpret more strictly and include any land animal based food when they refrain from eating meat. TV Chefs make it seem gauche if you sprinkle cheese on seafood. They are snobs and are clueless. BTW Cheddar Cheese in a fried flounder sandwich with tartar sauce..to die for!!

                                                          14 Replies
                                                          1. re: CaeAtPlay

                                                            It's really not a 'tradition' nor is it limited to Italians. By the book practicing Catholics are forbidden from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. It's to commemorate the fact that Christ died on Friday. (There are certain exemptions to this rule.) It has nothing to do with any animal being killed.

                                                            Isn't the sandwich you described a McD's Filet O' Fish?!?!? :)

                                                            1. re: CaeAtPlay

                                                              Many cheeses are made from animal rennet. I agree that cheese on seafood is a good thing and it's arbitrary to say cheese and seafood don't go together.

                                                              1. re: CaeAtPlay

                                                                In my Catholic family growing up, we ate NO meat on any Friday, and none at all during Lent. I never encountered any Catholic who believed there was a prohibition on dairy products.

                                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                                  Wow, that's seriously strict! I bet you've got great vegetarian recipes.

                                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                                    I think this was pretty much standard Catholic practice in the U.S. back in the 50's and 60's. (And "no meat" did not include seafood.)

                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                      And thus my Catholic confusion when confronted with people who don't eat meat...and they included seafood. That took some getting used to.

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        I know we had seafood on Fridays. In the summer, Mother would fix a "cold plate." Tuna salad, hard-boiled egg, carrot and celery sticks, slice cheese, etc.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          Add homemade tomato aspic and cottage cheese at our house.

                                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                                            Definitely cottage cheese. I know she made tomato aspic but can't remember if it was for the "cold plate" :)

                                                                    2. re: pikawicca

                                                                      No meat during the entirety of Lent? Wow I'm impressed. Sometimes it's just hard to remember to avoid meat for just those few days. Yeah, the animal products ban is not something I've ever encountered.

                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                        I gave up meat one year for Lent, and did just fine until I realized that St Patrick's day fell during Lent and that I would not be able to eat the delicious corned beef dinner I made for everyone else (and had to smell all day while the meat was cooking.). And that was the last time I gave up meat for Lent.

                                                                        The only more difficult year was the one in which I gave up wine.

                                                                        1. re: Isolda

                                                                          A friend of mine gave up meat AND wine this year. I haven't heard from her in a while :)

                                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                                            I think that the st pat's dilemma falling in the season of Lent recently occurred (in the last several years, anyway, ) and i heard that the pope gave a special dispensation to eat meat just for that day!

                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                              My vegetarian aunt usually gives up wheat. It is a tough road to Easter on that diet especially since she doesn't cook.

                                                                      2. When king crab legs are on sale at my market, I buy extra, with the specific plan of making crab alfredo and/or crab omelets- both of which include plenty of flavor - enhancing cheese.

                                                                        I live in coastal New England (read: LOTS of local seafood, and also, lots of Italians). Most restaurants have some kind of fish dish that includes cheese, even if its just a sandwich, like the frequently seen "Cod Reuben" or some version of lobster mac n' cheese. An internationally known local pizza place, Pepe's, is famous for it's white clam pizza, which includes parm, and can be ordered with or without mozz.

                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                        1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                          i have lived in new england since 1981 and never ever seen a cod reuben. russian dressing, swiss cheese and sauerkraut on fish? what fresh hell is that?

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            I have not had the pleasure of a cod Reuben, but here in the South, "grouper Reuben" is very popular at casual, waterfront places. Usual ingredients are grilled or fried fish, coleslaw, Swiss cheese on a roll or on grilled bread. Most often (at last in my experience) there is no Russian dressing as sufficient moisture is afforded by the coleslaw.

                                                                            When done well it is a delicious combination. Often done with mahi that is frequently cheaper than grouper.

                                                                            1. re: MrsPatmore

                                                                              No sauerkraut either, I guess.

                                                                              I think this sandwich has ceased being any kind of reuben.

                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                Quite true! I'm not sure how it got named as a "Reuben" in the first place. But I can only speak about the southern version. It's possible that the cod "Reuben" from New England does have sauerkraut, etc.

                                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                                  lol, so a quick google brings a bunch of results for a rachel ray version (!) and then a place called lindsey's down the cape which serves this:

                                                                                  Cape Cod Reuben $12.99 each
                                                                                  Fresh fried filet of Haddock topped with Cole slaw, Thousand Island dressing and melted Swiss cheese served on grilled rye bread with French fries

                                                                                  that sounds awful to me, sorry. all that wet, gloppy stuff on top of what might have been crispy, naturally sweet fish?

                                                                                  the cape may be the worst area for food in all of massachusetts.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    Blecch! But you have inspired me to go and get a real Reuben for lunch today, so I guess it was worth the gross-out.

                                                                              2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                Most versions I've seen have cole slaw, not sauerkraut, and include Russian or 1000 Island. I have seen it offered on everything from traditional grilled rye to rolls. A local lunch place offers it with cod or shrimp as one of their "Saints and Sinners" specials every Friday during Lent, but it is on the regular menu of a lot of local restaurants. Quite delicious, actually.

                                                                                1. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                                  am wondering if this is more of a connecticut thing rather "new england"?

                                                                                  you all down there in the south have some curious foods. ;)

                                                                                  much like poutine, i don't understand ever putting gloppy wet stuff on top of crunchy stuff.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    One of my fave go out to breakfast meals is chicken fried steak. ALWAYS with the gravy on the side.

                                                                                  2. re: JenJeninCT

                                                                                    Cole slaw is a Rachel, not a Reuben. A Reuben has sauerkraut.

                                                                                  3. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                    What fresh hell!! i love that phrase......

                                                                                2. My grandfather who was an Italian American, first generation born in US and from New Haven, CT put cheese on his seafood. His wife thought he was nuts. A few of his kids picked up the habit, including my father. Fast forward many years and I grew up not knowing it was taboo until high school or college ( we had moved away from CT and the Italians when I was young). So yes I do it, but I know it is not traditional.

                                                                                  1. Tuna melts, lobster mac and cheese, mcdonalds fish sandwiches with cheese, clam dip, shrimp dip, lobster dip, parmesan crusted fish, etc... all good

                                                                                    I don't mind cheese with fish at all.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Atomic76

                                                                                      Lobster Mac n' Cheese... I hope that is mass-produced frozen lobster from China, because what a waste of fresh, expensive lobster meat.

                                                                                      I know, I've had them, and they are a waste of both calories and quality seafood.

                                                                                      1. re: Steve

                                                                                        as a new englander AND a lobstah lovah, i agree lobster mac n cheese is utter heresy.

                                                                                      2. re: Atomic76

                                                                                        I believe OP was referring to Italian food.

                                                                                      3. For seafood pasta, I generally try to avoid adding the cheese until AFTER I've actually tasted it. Like it's been said here, seafood pastas have a delicate flavor that Parmesan cheese can overpower. This goes with the same rule that I'm not going to salt/pepper my food until I've taken a bite of it and decided it actually NEEDS it (<---can't stand people who do this!)

                                                                                        1. I eat the food combinations that I like... not ones that society, tradition, or food snobs say I can/can't have.

                                                                                          I can't imagine using fish with cheese except maybe in the case of a tuna melt (love!) or a sprinkling of parm or romano over linguine with white clam sauce. I can't imagine cooking a whole filet of fish and then covering it with cheddar cheese or something like that.

                                                                                          1. I think this writer found out that traditions, even Italian ones, are made to be broken:

                                                                                            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/30/mag...