Inspirational menus for a traditional Italian Christmas
’Tis the season to be merry, jolly and dive your fork into a delicious Italian dish!
Traditions vary from region to region but here we offer you a snapshot of the 5 top Christmas menus from the Italian peninsula that will make your mouth sound very Italian while sitting at the Christmas table.
Christmas dishes from Piedmont
There are many traditional dishes in the region of Piedmont during the Christmas holidays. What’s unmissable is the vitello tonnato (soft veal in a velvety tuna sauce), the so-called insalata russa (Russian salad – boiled vegetables mixed with mayo and a splash of vinegar), agnolotti del plin, mixed boiled meat, brasato al Barolo and, to top it up, as a dessert you can have a handful of bignole (miniature pastries filled with a variety of flavoured custards).
Christmas customs in Lombardy
To kick off the dinner party, in Lombardy, cold cuts are served as starters alongside the famous Cremona mustard. Amongst the many primi (first courses) you may have the pumpkin tortelli alla mantovana, seasoned with butter and sage; the casoncelli alla Bergamo are preferred for the Christmas lunch. The dessert is the one and only panettone, known as panetùn.
Traditional Venetian Christmas
The Venetian pantry is undoubtedly more “aquatic.” One of my favourite appetizers is baccalà mantecato (a spreadable creamy cod), and sarde in saor, saor being the Venetian word for sapore (flavour), in this specific case a mixture of onions, raisins, pine nuts and wine vinegar in which you marinate the sardines. Some most popular first courses are the bigoli and risotto coe cappe (rice and clams). On your table the red radicchio from Treviso, duly grilled, cannot go missing. For dessert? Pandoro, Pandoro and more Pandoro, typical of Verona.
Emilia-Romagna’s Christmas recipes
When travelling across Emilia-Romagna, tortelli, tortellini and cappelletti are an irreplaceable dish on the Christmas table. They are usually served in a meat or chicken broth. Besides panettone and pandoro, you can enjoy some Christmas Bread, a beautiful shiny dark-colored bread that should be served cut into rectangles measuring slightly larger than a biscuit, and the typical Christmas Tortelli, baked or fried, filled with cream or Christmas pesto.
Christmas traditions in Naples
In Naples, a way of saying goes: Christmas with your family (and Easter with whomever you wish.) Family in the region is crucial, not to say vital: every municipality has different traditions and signature dishes. Christmas Eve dinner is a stately meal that lasts for hours and hours. To kick off the occasion you have to start with the scarola pizza. Delicious filling of vegetables, pine nuts, raisins (and some anchovies), the scarola pizza is a must of the Neapolitan winter. Spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) is another staple dish on Neapolitan tables. Capitone and fried cod may be part of the second courses. Desserts abound: struffoli, roccocò, mostacciuoli, susamielli and many more.
Sicilian Christmas food
When it comes to food, rarely anything is light on Sicilian soil. Your Christmas menu should entail the Crispelle “c’angiova” (with fresh ricotta), pasta cresciuta (literally, grown) fried and fragrant, which is practically impossible to resist. Followed by pasta ‘ncasciata, a baked pasta made with ragù, eggs, aubergines and cheese. The roundup of Christmas continues with the falsomagro (a false skinny): an apparently simple meat roll that conceals a stuffing made of sausage, cheese, parsley and spring onions, all set on a nice slice of mortadella or pancetta.