Cappon magro, the mysterious winter holiday dish :)

This is a typical Christmas and New Year Eve period dish. Very Ligurian and very mysterious dish. Nobody knows who invented it neither why its called in this way. The only one thing is sure – it is delicious!

Cappon magro is an elaborate genoa’s salad of seafood and vegetables dressed with a rich sauce. A similar but much less elaborate dish is called capponadda.

Cappon magro means ‘fast-day capon’. It doesn’t contain any meat ingredients so it can be eaten during Catholic fasting or the Christmas Eve. It is prepared also for the New Year Eve dinner. ‘Capon’ could be a reference to the poultry capon, enjoyed by better off people for Christmas, that this fish dish substitutes. Maybe it could also refer to its biscuit base. Comparable to the French ‘chapon‘, a slice of bread that is placed at the bottom of a salad bowl. It may also refer to one of the fish called ‘cappone’ (perhaps a  gurnard or red mullet).

The base of a cappon magro is a layer of hard biscuits (“gallette”) rubbed with garlic and soaked in vinegar. Then another layer is added. Each layer may consist of many vegetables, fishes, or seafood. All recipes include boiled white fish, a lobster, green beans, celery, carrots, beets and potatoes. Other seafood or vegetables can be added. Each ingredient is boiled separately, cut up, and seasoned with oil and vinegar. Each layer is dressed with a salsa verde which is made of parsley, garlic, capers, anchovies, the yolks of hard-boiled eggs, and green olives ground together in a mortar with olive oil and vinegar.


  • In the past, it was a poor dish of sailors and servants because it consisted of leftovers from the master’s tables! In Baroque age, it changed and became an aristocratical dish.
  • The recipe of Cappon Magro is very precise. Each vegetable has to be cooked separately. And the recipe indicates the cooking time very precisely …. for each vegetable in minutes! It means that you need a whole day to prepare a real Cappon Magro!




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