The Italian Christmas dinner table
By Marco Giovanetti
When it comes to an Italian Christmas, food and wine are as important as tradition. But what exactly do Italians eat and drink for their Christmas meals? If you want tips on how to host a christmas lunch, you can look into a site like https://www.ezibuy.com/shop/au/hosting-the-ultimate-christmas-lunch to get the best tips on making your christmas lunch one not to be missed.
Like everything else in Italy, of course, exact Christmas foods depend on the region. But here are some of their favorite food traditions.
According to tradition, the meal for Christmas Eve, La Vigilia, doesn’t have any meat. It’s all fish and vegetables. That’s in keeping with most meals served on the eve before a religious festival in Italy: You’re supposed to have a giorno di magro, eating lean to help purify your body for the holiday. Whether the fish dishes that are actually served qualify as “lean,” of course, is another story
A traditional Christmas Eve dish is capitone (eel), although it’s becoming less and less popular. These days, more common fish include dry cod, octopus, and shellfish. In Rome, a favorite local dish is the pezzetti, which are fried cubes of ricotta or pieces of artichokes, zucchini, or broccoli; in Naples, a starter is a sautéed mix of broccoli and seafood.
Then, of course, come the pasta dishes. These also vary. In the north, especially Lombardy and Piedmont, lasagna is covered with anchovies, parmesan, and seasonings. In Naples, it’s vermicelli with clams or mussels.
If you think I am talking about a 3-course meal here, by the way, think again. It’s traditionally way much more. There’s a theological reason behind all of that indulgence! Seven courses might be served for the 7 sacraments, 9 for the Trinity , 12 for the apostles, 13 for the disciples with Jesus, or 21 for the Trinity times the 7 sacraments.
After you’ve (really…?) restrained yourself from indulging on Christmas Eve, you’re allowed to really let yourself go on Christmas Day. Lunch is the main meal. Pasta in brodo—pasta in broth—is a common kickoff to the meal across Italy, but particularly in the north. In Bologna, it’s all about meat-filled tortellini in capon broth; in Ferrara, the pasta’s stuffed with pumpkin filling. However, before the soup, Italians start their meal with Antipasti. They vary from region to region. They can range from coldcuts such as Sopressata, Prosciutto di Parma to specialties such as Involtini di peperoni al forno ( Oven Baked Pepper Rolls), Bruschette con funghi trifolati ( Bruschetta with mixed mushrooms) or Vitello Tonnato ( Veal with Tuna sauce).
Then there is the first and second course ( primo e secondo piatto). The primo usually consist of a pasta course. In the central and southern Italian region such as Abruzzo and Campania, they serve a Pasticcio al forno—a baked pasta full of surprises. In the north such as the region of Emilia-Romagna, specialties such as Lasagne verdi alla Bolognese reigns supreme, along with a huge variety of filled pastas. Cannelloni with different fillings, baked with beschamel sauce and a meat sauce are very popular. Though today’s young families have their own alternatives to these classic choices, most Italians prefer the traditional to the new for the holidays.
As a second course, meat is de rigueur: roasted veal, braised beef or roasted chicken with potatoes which in my childhood was really something sepcial. In Italy, there is a saying that court birds and little animals are the sacrificial victims of our lust for meat at Christmas.
Then, of course, there’s the dessert. Italians aren’t generally big on desserts, but when it comes to sweets and the Christmas season, everything is possible. Of course, sweet breads and cakes, like panettone and pandoro, are popular across Italy. Other desserts include cavallucci, cookies with the image of a horse (from, of course, Siena); dita degli apostoli (“fingers of the apostles”), chocolate- or coffee-flavored ricotta-filled omelettes, a Puglian tradition; and mostaccioli, spiced nut pastries gobbled up by Romans.
As much delicious food as that is, though, Italians aren’t done! The Christmas season in Italy continues all the way until January 6, the day of the Epiphany.
Many thanks for my sponsors for this week article. Theo Diamantis ( Oenopole). Jacques Bélec ( Mark Anthony Brands). Julie Masson ( Société Commerciale Clément Internationale). Alain Bélanger ( Les Vins Alain Belanger). Without your help this article would not have been possible. I wish you a nice holidays to you and your loved ones.
For you my readers, many thanks for your support and taking the time to read my columns. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Buon Natale!
Italian wine Reccomendations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Lunch:
Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni 2011. Price: $29.40. SAQ Code: Code SAQ : 11580004
Amazing nose. It pleases me a lot. Aromas of apples, dry apricots, flowers and herbs with a very earthy minerality. In the mouth, medium body with a great harmony and fantastic acidity. This wine wine brings peace to my inner self. Terrific finale that reminds me of ripe grapefruit, tofee with a beautiful streak of minerality. 95\100. Note: There is very little left for this wine. SAQ.Com has some left online as well as some SAQ branches for those that are interested.
Food Match Idea: Linguine with seafood. Risotto alla Pescatore.
Fratteli Allessandria Verduno Pelaverga Speziale 2012 ( Red Wine). Price : $24.80. SAQ Code : 11863021.
Lovely wine. Peppery nose with aromas of celeriac, tomato leaf, ripe strawberry and raspberry with violets and mineral nuances. In the mouth, medium body with a fresh mouthfeel. Tannis are quite round with a slight abstringency in the finale. Retronasal reminds of floral, vegetal and red fruit flavors. 96\100. QPR
Food Match idea : Antipasti, seafood and fish dishes with tomato sauce.
La Spinetta Bionzo 2009. ( Red wine). Price: $48.00. SAQ Code: 10783168.
Amazing ripe and concentrated aromas of cassis, black cherry with nuances of bay leave and tomatoes. In the mouth, full body with rich layers of decadent black fruit. Modern with a rigid structure. Tannins are silky cut but they need some time to come together. Oak well integrated with a good balance between acidity and concentration. Good clean and long finish. 95\100
Food Match Idea: Lasagna ( Primo Piatto). Roasted Meat. ( Veal, Lamb, etc). ( Secondo Piatto)
Guado al Tasso 2009. ( Red Wine). Price; $94.50. SAQ Code: 00977256
In the nose, stunning aromas of cedar, expresso, cassis, cherry with a earthy minerality. In the mouth, the wine is medium body, on the elegant side, with firm texture and excellent balance. On the palate the wine shows , ripe cherry, blackberry, currant, and spices such as clove and a hint of dark chocolate, paired with medium-plus tannin and acidity.Tremendous length and an almost endless finale. It is just an incredible bottle of wine. 98\100.
Food Match Idea: Definitely red meat. Try it with a stuffed veal roast with dry fruits and chesnut and halzenut filling. ( Secondo Piatto)
Rocca delle Macìe Roccato 2008. ( Red Wine). Price: $42.75. SAQ Code: 10254514
On the nose, a rich and persistent bouquet with hints of red berries and spices like cocoa, vanilla and coffee. On the palate full body with warm fruit, well-balanced with a consistent structure of tannins and a long caressing finish.
Food Match Idea: Roasted Rack of Lamb ( Second Plate. Secondo Piatto)
Poderi Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2007. ( Les Vins Alain Belanger-Contact : Alexandre Dupuis 514-9668585)
In the nose aromas that reminds of sweet cherry, violets, ripe plums with Havana tobacco notes and mint vanilla. In the mouth, the wine is full body with a good acidity and structure. The tannins have quite grip and tension so should decant for 1-2 hour. Although, the wine has a beautiful long and smooth finish. 91\100
Food Match Idea: Roasted deer loin or roasted goat with vegetables and mashed potatoes.