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Italian Christmas Food 101

seafood feast

Family and Italian Christmas food coupled with lots of love and age old traditions makes the Italian Christmas one of a kind. Families go to church together, open their gifts and gather round the dining table for a hearty Christmas meal. An Italian Christmas meal is just like any other Italian cuisine, flavorful, mouth-watering and highly enjoyable. During this merriest season of the year, traditional cuisine and seasonal fares brightens the Christmas table.

Many Italian families usually prepare 7-9 courses of food during Christmas Eve dinners and some families even have 20 courses. The number of courses served corresponds to the Italian Catholic tradition of relating the numbers 7 and 9 to the number of sacraments and the trinity respectively. The courses are well balanced with a selection of fish and shellfish, coupled with soup, salad, pasta and desserts like the panettone, lebkuchen, amaretti and nougats among others. These are deeply rooted to tradition that Christmas Eve, is a day of abstinence which is the reason why fish are commonly
featured. On the other hand, tradition will also tell us that desserts have nuts because eating nuts helps fertility and allows the family to experience the kind and pleasant life.

The meals likewise vary from region to region. il capitone or the eel is a staple of every Christmas meal in Rome and the southern part of Italy. It is usually fried and there are some who prepared it in moist. It is usually served during dinner before the family goes to the midnight mass. The leftover is commonly marinated in vinegar with oregano, garlic, pepper and bay leaf and are served the following day. Other seafood treats include the mouth-watering favorites like: fried baccala with potatoes and tomatoes, stuffed squid, fried calamari, grilled swordfish, grilled halibut with pesto, pistachio-basil butter and baked salmon, tuna meatballs and cod with artichokes and basil.

Lunch on Christmas day is highly charged event and the most significant meal of the Christmas feast. Crostini or little toasts are served as appetizer. This thinly sliced bread is toasted or grilled to crispiness and are usually sprinkled by olive oil and salt or have h toppings like liver pâté. Crostini also goes well with soups. Another traditional food on the Christmas table is the Tortellini in brood. Originally from the City of Bologna, tortellini pasta is with filled with cheese, fish, vegetable or meat, making it flavorful and a comfort food as well. They are usually cooked in chicken broth or it goes with a light tomato sauce.

Going to the meat side of the table, the traditional dish of Northern Italy, called lo zampone is also present. It dates back from the 16th century; this pig foot is stuffed with spiced mince meat and the whole of it is usually eaten including the gelatinous rind part. Another meaty favorite is the stuffed sausage made from a pig intestine with salt and spices called il cotechino. Others also serve l’ agnello or lamb with mashed potato and other vegetables. Additionally, these foods make a comeback during the New Year’s festivities.

Loosen those belts and be prepared to indulge with this flavorful treats.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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