To celebrate the upcoming festivities, we would like to share some suggestions from our Cesarine, as we did for last Christmas and Easter, to create delicious and original menus that transport you in both heart and mind back to the family lunches of your childhood.
Every region of Italy boasts numerous traditional recipes that are prepared during the Christmas season.
This year we will try to surprise you with some very special dishes.
To get Christmas lunch off to a good start, we decided to begin in Campania, a region that, thanks to its climate, produces the highest quality vegetables all year round. That’s why Cesarina Annunziata suggests starting with a bracing salad of cauliflower, mixed pickled vegetables, peppers (or papacelle), Gaeta olives and salted anchovies.
As an appetizer for the more delicate stomach and less voracious appetite, Cesarina Paola suggests a dish which originated in Lombardy that is light enough to keep you from saying no to the following courses on the menu: capon in aspic. This dish is especially ideal for those who have prepared stuffed capon as a second course. You will avoid wasting any part of this fine poultry.
The appetizer is a bit lighter even in Val d’Aosta. Cesarina Marina, in fact, starts off the festivities with Mocetta in crostini al miele (lean beef, sheep or goat meat that have been cured and seasoned with mountain herbs, juniper and garlic and served on slices of grilled bread with honey).
At least for one day out of the year, give up your usual bread! Whether you prefer bread from Altamura, casereccio, or one with fennel seeds and others type, Cesarina Lucia Elisabetta, originally from Basilicata, suggests accompanying the appetizer and main course with Piccilatiedd, a type of bread-sweet bread made with almonds, another typically southern ingredient.
For those who want to keep as much as possible to the Italian Christmas tradition par excellence, surely they will choose to prepare a first course with broth. Both the outdoor temperature and the holiday atmosphere, especially for those who enjoy lunch seated by the warmth of a glowing fire. In that case, we encourage you to rely on the advice of Cesarina Anna who after preparing a brodo di terza (broth made with beef, chicken and pork), slowly prepares the cappelletti ripieni di piccione (pasta stuffed with pigeon) for her large Umbrian family, which invades her home on the 25th.
In Molise, too, they have the tradition of serving a first dish based on broth. Their traditional dish, however, has a really deceiving name. La pizza di Franz in brodo caldo (Franz’s pizza in hot broth) consists of small pieces of previously baked egg-based pizza crust, with grated parmesan and parsley.
With intention of warming up your guests, instead of broth, why not a soup? In Abruzzo, Cesarina NIcoletta prepares hers with creamed chestnuts and chickpeas following her grandmother’s recipe. Last but not least of our Cesarine suggestions is Genovese ravioli, which Anna prepares using traditional fresh Ligurian pasta dough that has been made really special by veal, sweetbreads, eggs, herbs, breadcrumbs and parmesan.
For those palates that are still tempted by the idea of eating fish – we all know that the culinary tradition surrounding Christmas Eve favours seafood dishes – the regions of southern Italy are expert.
For example, the Stocco di Cittanova, made with stoccafisso (dried codfish), the main ingredient of many Calabrian and Sicilian traditional dishes, respectively widespread in the provinces of Reggio Calabria and Messina, is served with la ‘ghiotta, a sauce made of olive oil, onion, tomatoes, olives, capers and raisins.
For a more classic dish, Cesarina Chiara from Velletri (Lazio) offers fried baccalà (salted codfish) or a lighter capitone (eel), a regional dish prepared only at Christmas.
Those who prefer meat might consider preparing an indispensable dish of the Sardinian culinary tradition, il porcetto al mirto (pork with Myrtle) Cesarina Maria Rita serves hers with roasted potatoes, but it can also be accompanied by a side of sparacelli, also known as broccoletti (turnip greens), or a caponata of eggplant. Both side dishes are typical of Sicilian cuisine, as Cesarina Cinzia teaches us.
Moving more to the north into the region of Veneto, Cesarina Patrizia tantalizes us with her suggestion of “cren” with boiled beef. For those of you who aren’t familiar with cren, it is basically a slightly spicy horseradish sauce that goes very well with this type of meat.
You could accompany the dish with a sformato di gobbi (a vegetable flan), a simple to prepare traditional dish from Tuscany, which Cesarino Maurizio has suggested, or tomatoes au gratin from Puglia, a local and rustic dish that holds a particular meaning for Cesarina Concetta, as her mother always cooked this dish for the holidays…
As we all know, dried fruit is an absolute must at the end of the meal at Christmas time. True
enthusiasts use the excuse of Christmas to start indulging themselves starting from December 8th, the day of the Immaculata.
In Friuli, for example, they prepare Gubana, which Cesarina Alessandra explains is prepared with walnuts, almonds, raisins, honey, wine and rum, all rolled in pastry. Dried fruit is also the main ingredient of two Christmas cakes from the region of Marche: la pizza de Nata’, a bread dough filled with various types of dried fruit, raisins, chocolate powder, grated lemon and orange zest, figs and sugar, – a caloric bomb that Cesarina Roberta loves to prepare in the winter – and il fristingo, a mixture of figs, chocolate, candied fruit and dried fruit.
Lo Zelten from Trentino, as Cesarino Flavio teaches us, is also based on dried fruit and dried figs.
Obviously, at least two desserts must be included on this list for those who don’t like dried and candied fruit. In Piedmont, for example, Cesarina Giovanna will prepare a mousse of red apples PGI for her family, wonderful thanks to the excellent cultivation of this fruit in the region, while Cesarina Maria has planned an excellent Panone di Natale (Christmas sweet bread) typical of Bologna, made with flour, quince mostarda (spicy jam), honey, cocoa, dark chocolate and dried figs.
FOR A PERFECT END:
In our opinion, no matter the dishes you decide to prepare, at the end of Christmas lunch you will need at least one almond coffee from Valle d’Aosta, very robust and sweetened by ground almonds, along with one bitter almond. You could also try a Calabrian chilli pepper grappa, vino di visciole marchigiano (sour cherry wine from the Marche region) or one of the many homemade Apulian liqueurs made with lemon or mandarin orange.
Enjoy your Christmas lunch!