Are you dreaming of a Traditional Italian Christmas this year?

December 18, 2016

Are you dreaming of a Traditional Italian Christmas this year?

What do the Italians prepare for Christmas?  Learn more about the delicious broths, pastas, roasted meats and, of course, Panettone prepared for this special feast!

Italian Holiday Traditions

In Italy, there is an expression that perfectly explains the approach to the holiday season: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” (literally means, “Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you wish”). Considering the cardinal importance of the family within the Italian tradition, as a value, a cultural reference and a social safe-net.  It is of no surprise that Christmas has surged as the most intimate festivity.  The holiday par excellence throughout the most famous boot on Earth!

Christmas In An Italian Kitchen

The best of the Italian Christmas is the rich, diverse and delicious sequence of dishes, ideas, food and sweets. Each region has hundreds of recipes dedicated to the most beloved holiday in the country. Segments of history mixed within a vivacious cultural exchange, creating the widest choice of goodies you can imagine.  It is impossible to remember all the dishes.

The most famous is undoubtedly the panettone, which you can now find in every supermarket around the globe. It is just as well known as the pizza and was born in Milan around the 15th century.  Its creation is a succession of legends, with a common thread: it surely comes from a poor household, maybe it was a sweet focaccia to which eggs and a long, long, rising process was added. This is not simple to cook! You need high quality, fresh ingredients, a succession of mixing and rising, a lot of time and even more patience because its preparation has to be carried out for days until the dough reaches a perfect and wonderfully light & airy consistency.  The feature that makes it unique.  It is a dessert that you could only prepare for the holiday season, when there are many people gathered around in the kitchen with time to spare.  The end result takes awhile, but it is well worth every second of the wait.  In fact, baked panettone delivers an aroma that permeates the air and can be smelt from afar.

In the past the Italians sacrificed animals especially for the Christmas holiday.  These were extremely precious in a rural society, and the tough cuts that require a long cooking process were put in pot, with celery, carrots and onions (and a variety of ingredients depending on the region) to be boiled for a substantial amount of time. Even today, the fragrant broth that results from this tradition is used to serve the first dish, usually stuffed pasta. A great example is the famous tortellino emiliano, which contains a rich and luscious mixture of mortadella, pork, cheese, sausage, ham, salt, pepper, egg, butter, nutmeg and bread crumbs. The typical "navel" shape is handmade using fresh egg pasta. Despite a first dish so flavourful and often accompanied by more pasta (cannelloni and lasagne are ubiquitous on Christmas day), the main courses are just as delicious: stuffed capponi, glazed chicken, roasted duck or faraona (guinea fowl) served with an embrace of baked vegetables.

In Southern Italy, there is also a special place for fish: pasta con le sarde, fried or baked fish, capitone, cod and eel.

The universal dessert remains the panettone, but there is always a place for torroni (nougat), pandori (sponge cake), panpepati (panforte) and struffoli (deep fried balls of dough)

A meal of this kind can take hours, but the time of conviviality spent around the table is an opportunity to meet the whole family, listen to their stories and share experiences that would otherwise flow away lost in routines, whilst the children play, distracted by the new gifts.  The richness of Christmas was once a way to forget the hardships of a rural life.  Today it continues to be a day to enjoy all the pleasures of the palate without restrictions, a ritual repeated religiously every year.

We at Tuscookany would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope your table is filled with delicious flavours along with laughter and good cheer. 
Happy New Year and see you in Tuscany in 2017!


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