Have you ever spent Christmas with an Italian family? If you have, you will know what sort of feast that is.
All the family reunites together and celebrates in style: from the antipasto (which can mean quite a lot of food already and various nibbles), to the primo (first course), secondo (second course) and dessert. Of course there are often more courses in between! On Christmas eve and on Christmas day there will always be, like it is usual in Italian festive meals, lots and lots of food. In some regions they will serve up to 13 courses!
As Italy was only united 150 years ago, there are still many differences between regions and from the north to the south so many different types of food will be served. So there is not a typical Italian Christmas lunch as such.
We can say though that the south people have a preference for fish and many celebrate with a large meal on Christmas eve too. In many parts of Italy Christmas eve’s dinner is considered as important as Christmas day.
My Neapolitan friends will have a large selection of shellfish whereas further north in Emilia Romagna they will enjoy a bowl of tortellini in brodo.
You will think how on earth will people be able to fit so much food in. But you know eating slowly, with the odd glass of wine and in small portions whilst chatting and laughing around the table will certainly make this possible.
The more you fit in the more you will feel like you have celebrated properly. For an Italian taste and quality of the food is paramount.
But what’s on the table over Christmas then?
In Sicily pasta with anchovies will often be served and desserts like cannoli, pignolata and torrone (nougat) play a big part in the meal. In Sicily desserts are amazing.
On the eve in Calabria fried artichokes and the so called “zeppole” are being served as a starter. Then stockfish is really popular. The Christmas day meal is served over 13 courses as tradition dictates.
In Basilicata, Campania and Puglia fish and shellfish along with durum wheat pasta are the king of the meal and fish again all served over 13 courses. Struffoli, which are fried little balls flavoured with honey are a typical dessert of Campania.
In the Lazio region, on the eve, stockfish is a must and capon or hen for the Christmas day meal.
In Marche turkey for Christmas day and dinner would be maccheroni with stockfish and capon.
In Emilia Romagna you will have the classic tortellini. Nobody like the romagnoli knows better about them as they originate from here.
Further north there will be a preference for meat. In Trentino Alto Adige there will often be soup, cheese in the evening, polenta, roast meat, sausages and crauts.
In Veneto the Christmas meal will often end with a classic “sbrisolona”, a typical almond cake served with a generous glass of grappa.
So how about a Christmas meal Italian style this year?