There are widespread misconceptions on the foods Italians eat over the Christmas holidays. Like “Italian food” in general, different regions and sometimes even the towns within have different traditions. So Martha and I have been asking around, and we’ve been gifted a couple of menus from the region of Le Marche and from our neighbors in the Lunigiana.
Remember that only a small number of people will feast with these menus, but they reflect the diversity of traditions regarding the food of Italy.
You might also notice that mention of the “Italian feast of the Seven Fishes” Christmas Eve dinner is absent here. That’s because it’s unlikely to have come from Italy. The late Kyle Phillips gave his opinion on this in Fish for Christmas Eve.
Christmas foods typical of Le Marche and Puglia
Our good friend Rita Sacco wrote us from their home in Le Marche, and provides a menu from one of our favorite places to visit, Sassoferrato. She’s also included a menu from Puglia, where her source is Fausta Munno, a woman who runs an agriturismo and who first taught us how to make orecchiette. Fausta is a tireless promoter of the food of the Gargano peninsula. The first menu comes from the town of Rodi in the Gargano, the second from Sassoferrato in Le Marche.
Christmas Eve dinner: Gargano Peninsula, Puglia
The menu should include at least thirteen different ingredients (12 apostles + Jesus), but no meat.
Baccalà (salted cod soaked for three days in cold water): fried, roasted and boiled, seasoned with olive oil.
Vegetable soup: cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, celery, field chicory, cherry tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, other winter vegetables
Roasted eel seasoned with wild fennel
cartellate (sweet pancakes) with vincotto (fig syrup)
Calzoncelli (sweet ravioli with a filling made of mashed chickpeas, cocoa), nougat , mandarins, walnuts
Mixed meat ragu,(meat sauce) :pork, thrushes, bacon to season macaroni
Roast pork and sausage, side dish: boiled cauliflower and other vegetables seasoned with olive oil and lemon
Dessert like Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve dinner: at least ten ingredients
Baccala :roasted, stewed with tomato, fried, or boiled and seasoned with olive oil and parsley
Crescia Fogliata: shortcrust pastry pie with apples, raisins, pine nuts, nougat, walnuts
Broth of young turkey with homemade cappelletti (Tricorn-shaped egg pasta wrap, filled with cheeses and flavored meats), and stracciatella (a type of soup made with eggs beaten with Parmesan cheese and tossed in the boiling broth)
Boiled turkey meat seasoned with olive oil, parsley
Those who could afford it:roast chicken with potatoes
Nougat, mandarins , walnuts
Christmas Foods from La Lunigiana, Northern Tuscany
This menu is submitted by our Italian neighbors, Francesca and her son Niccolo, AKA Nick Warren Knuckles Jr. The menu is in Italian, but you might know many of the dishes.
Christmas eve: sera baccalà lesso con i ceci (boiled salt cod with garbanzo beans)
Oppure brodo di cavoli neri con bruschette (Black cabbage broth with bruschette)
Il 25, Christmas
Mangiamo antipasto crostini toscani, salumi e sottaceti (vegetables under vinegar)
Ravioli al ragu
Pollo e patate arrosto (chicken with roasted potatoes)
Oppure arrosto e sformato di verdure (green vegetable flan)
i dolci: panettone, torrone, panforte e poi frutta secca, datteri, arance, mandarini…
Il 26 mangiamo brodo di pollo o di manzo con ravioli o i cappelletti
E di secondo la carne lessata con la salsa verde e verdura
I’m hungry now. I gotta go. But first, perhaps you’d like to listen to an audio of a conversation with chef Guido Santi of Convivio Rome and I talking about the Christmas foods of Italy. Click the little triangle and away you go.