Christmas is the crowning jewel of the Italian feast of Natale, a three day festive celebration held over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Italians are well known for their love of feasting and the festive period is no exception, with Italian home cooks displaying their culinary prowess across a number of sumptuous courses. The Christmas Eve tradition, known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, is perhaps the most well known of the three feasts and is characterized by an extravagant seafood menu with its twelve courses supposedly representative of the twelve apostles.
As this collection of Italian Christmas recipe ideas demonstrates, festive dishes vary from region to region. In Sicily they celebrate Christmas Eve with irresistible dishes such as Sicilian cheese pie, Fried cod with cauliflower ‘affogato’ and Cassatelle di Agira – Sicilian stuffed pastries, while Northern Italian chefs like the Costardi Brothers’ cook Red mullet with capers, black olive and tomato, an excellent choice for your own Feast of the Seven Fishes.
The Italian Christmas lunch begins with platters of antipasti. Grazia Soncini’s delicious Lemon marinated anchovies and Andrea Migliaccio’s Potato Zeppoline are two delicious examples of Italian antipasti recipes found in this collection, while Marco Stabile’s luxurious Beef tartare with truffle caviar would make a fantastic Christmas starter. Traditionally, the antipasti is then followed by a several courses of mouth-watering pasta, such as Black Truffle Ravioli, Cappaletti of Rabbit and Spaghetti Vongole.
Boxing Day lunch, or il giorno di Santo Stefano as it is known in Italy, is also an important Italian meal. Although not typically as grand as the preceding Natale feasts, The feast of St Stephen is an opportunity to get creative with some more modern recipes. For a dessert guaranteed to impress friends and family, try Daniele Usai’s Chocolate, coffee and hazelnut dessert or keep it simple with Rosanna Marziale’s no-bake Cheesecake recipe, made with mozzarella instead of mascarpone for an extra rich, indulgent flavour.