What does Italy eat at Christmas?

Roast Turkey, potatoes and those dreaded sprouts, followed by Christmas pudding and trifle are pretty much the norm across UK tables at Christmas time. In Germany people go for goose and along the coast of Spain it’s fish.

But what about Italy where regional dishes abound? The Bellavita team reveals what they and their families enjoy over the Christmas period.

The first difference between the UK and Italy is the Italian tradition to gather the family for a meal on the evening of 24th December. In the UK it’s lunch on 25th that’s the most important.

Typical Apulian orecchiette

Typical Apulian orecchiette

Christmas in Puglia – Giovanna

The first course is usually “orecchiette con le cime di rapa” or little ear-shaped pasta (An Apulian speciality), along with a sauce made from ‘cime di rapa’ – literally ‘turnip tops’ – sprinkled with grated bread. This is normally followed by baccalà (salted coldfish) and lentil soup.

And for dessert – Panettone or Pandoro with chocolate cream or custard.


Christmas in Lombardy – Stefano

Lunch is usually enjoyed on the 25th with his family and although the menu changes slightly, it usually includes:

Chocolate and vanilla yule log

Chocolate and vanilla yule log

Starters of salmon, cold cuts and homemade ‘insalata russa’ (Olivier salad, which is made with diced boiled potatoes, carrots, brined dill pickles, green peas, eggs, celeriac, onions, diced boiled chicken and dressed in mayonnaise) according to ‘Nonna’s’ recipe. This is followed by lasagne, “crespelle” (very light crepes) in a triangular shape and filled with mushrooms or anything else you fancy.  Otherwise a risotto. The main course is fish or an ‘arrosto’ (a roast).

And for dessert – Again, it’s the age-old argument between Panettone and Pandoro lovers. Stefano prefers Panettone with Mascarpone cream, or a tronchetto al cioccolato, a kind of chocolate swiss roll, made by his sister.

Christmas in Naples, Campania – Daria

Daria with her family on both the evening of 24th and lunch on 25th.

On 24th, for a starter, she typically has salmon on morsels of bread or prawns in salsa rosé. This is followed by a first course of ‘spaghetti alle vongole’ (with clams), roast potatoes and ‘insalata russa’ (see above)

And for dessert – Typical desserts in Naples are roccoco, struffoli, mustacciuoli, cassata siciliana (get images) and lots of types of nuts.

Struffoli from Naples

Struffoli from Naples

On 25th Daria has something called an ‘insalata di rinforzo’, a salad made with cauliflower, anchovies, green and black olives, and peppers, ‘capitone’ or eel – fried and then tossed in a tomato sauce with capers and black olives. Then there’ll be goat and roast potatoes as a main.

Christmas in Campania – Fenisio

This region eats much the same, so fish based dishes on the evening of 24th and on 25th at lunch, he’ll maybe have ‘agnello’ (lamb) or ‘capretto’ (goat).

Christmas in Cremona, in Lombardy – Elisa

Elisa never eats meat on Christmas Eve as it’s a religious tradition not to. So the menu on the 24th is:

First course, usually pumpkin ravioli or ‘i blisgón’ in dialect, and these are cooked in either a tomato sauce or butter. Main course is pickled eel or ‘al bisén’, in dialect, with seafood salad and potatoes.

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