Italy: the country of histories, artefacts, museums, vespas, good food, and… well, very good food!
While white Christmas and various other scenes that we might label ‘Christmassy’ is not very common in the vast majority of the country (due to climate – we love a warm beach day, but for Christmas day it’s just not it!), Italians definitely make up for the lack of natural festiveness on their dinner tables.
You’ve surely had Carbonara, Bolognese, Lasagna, Cannelloni, or any other traditional Italian food, whether you’ve visited the country before or not. Now, imagine all of the traditional Christmas spices – like sage, onions, and cranberry – and combine them with one of the best cuisines the world has seen.
Cristina, who is from a small Sicilian town called Castelvetrano, decided to share her usual festive dinner menu with us and the reason it stands out so much compared to other meals, whilst explaining what makes it special for her.
“Christmas Eve in Italy is not a very big celebratory night, we usually have just fish, as the tradition dictates that we should eat as Jesus did, so essentially it’s a ‘poor day’. But, we definitely make up for the lack of special food the next day”, she explains, as she turns her camera over to show all the ingredients her parents have already prepared for this year.
“We always start out with a cheeseboard, which usually contains parmigiano (parmesan), pecorino, gorgonzola, and various others, and also some charcuterie with it such as mortadella, prosciutto, salame, with some puff pastries filled with spinach and ricotta. And of course the essentials, such as homegrown olives, bread, and vinegar.”
If all of this isn’t enough to make you drool, then just wait.
“As a main course traditionally we have Tortellini in Brodo (tortellini with broth), but my mum likes to make it a bit more special, so she usually just bakes Anellini al Forno, which is a typical Sicilian, small doughnut-shaped pasta with tomato sauce and sausages. We also put some eggs and aubergine to spice it up a bit, then after it’s cooked in the oven, it’s ready to eat, crispy and creamy.”
“For the second course we usually have sausages with some potatoes, or pork with veggies, we usually mix this up, one year, the other next year. And of course, we can’t leave out Pandoro and Panettone, the highlights of the whole dinner. We have those every year because it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them”
Being honest, even hearing the word Pandoro and Panettone got me hungry and ready to bite.
“On New Year’s Eve, it’s a tradition to eat lentils with pork foot, which essentially represents you trying to, telepathically I guess, dig up a lot of ‘money’ for next year, the lentils being the money. I personally don’t like lentils anymore, this tradition never brought me any luck so I usually go for some ravioli with spinach and cheese, but each to their own.”
These recipes are sure to add some freshness and creativity to this year’s dinner table should you decide to go ahead with them. What are you cooking for this Christmas dinner? Let us know!
Words: Istvan Botond Beres|Subbing: Aleksandra Martynow