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Christmas Pannetone

As Christmas approaches I can’t help but get sentimental about my traditional Italian festivities, luckily I will be back home in the mother land to enjoy the season in a few weeks’ time. Natale, or Christmas, is one of Italy’s most beloved holidays, where each region celebrates three meals with its own line-up of traditional dishes. Each region has its own culinary version of Christmas cuisine all based around the three meals.

Christmas Eve is one of my favourite times, with much anticipation for the festivities ahead and an abundance of sea food, I found it’s wildly different to Christmas Eve here and is very food focused. To get me in the mood and to show how beautifully diverse Italy is in its regional food and celebrations, I have put together a Christmas menu by various Italian region.

Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with King Prawn and Rocket

Christmas Eve
Dinner is traditionally a light meal with no meat, so fish is typically used to make antipasti like Carpaccio di pesce spada, tonno or salmon (sword fish, tuna fish, or fresh salmon carpaccio), and insalata di mareordi polpo (seafood or octopus salad).

Lombardia, Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna
Agnolotti filled with ricotta and spinach, potatoes or pumpkin are usually served with butter, sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ravioli filled with ricotta, raisins and/or dried figs, spinach, chocolate and candied citron are a rich treat enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

The locals enjoy bigoi in salsa, which is thick, buckwheat spaghetti seasoned with a cream of anchovies and onions.

Bagna cauda is often served which is a hot dip similar to fondue made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil, butter, and in some parts of the region, cream. Anguilla (eel) orcapitone is very traditional and is cooked in many different ways all over Italy, but particularly popular in this region.

Involtini (roulade) of swordfish made with breadcrumbs, orange juice, pinoli, dried raisins, tarragon, ginger, garlic, parsley and basil is served.

This dinner precedes the popular Midnight Mass. In the colder and more rural regions, Mass is followed by the infamous Christmas delicacy, hot panettone!

Of course there are a few special places in London where you can sample the delights of a traditional Italian Christmas dinner, like De Scalzo in Belgravia where the Christmas menu includes favourites such as Filetto di Branzino alla marinara (Sea Bass with garlic prawns, creamed potatoes and buttered chard). For a more authentic experience, there are finds such as last year’s Oval-based supper club Eat at my Place, which put on a traditional Neapolitan Christmas menu on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Although it helps, you don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy an Italian Christmas!