Christmas is just around the corner and Italian, celebrity chef Gennaro Contaldo will, like many of us, be spending the festive season with his close friends and family.
Gennaro was born on the Amalfi Coast and moved to England in 1969. Gennaro frequently shares his delicious recipes with viewers across the country, appearing in programmes such as Saturday Kitchen and shows alongside his protégé, Jamie Oliver.
Food plays a significant role in an Italian Christmas and often the preparations can start months in advance of the big day. Unlike in the United Kingdom, there is no set Christmas meal. Dishes vary according to regional tastes and traditions. Gennaro likes to preserve berries and cherries in alcohol in the autumn so come Christmas time they are just bursting with flavour. He also likes to soak wild mushrooms in some olive oil to enjoy with the Christmas meal. These make great Christmas gifts too, if there are any left over of course!
In the centre of Italy and to the south of the country, Italians prepare a big meal on Christmas Eve which contains no meat, only fish and vegetables. The famous and popular baccala (salted cod) often makes an appearance with rich vegetables and salads. Afterwards they exchange gifts and head to midnight mass together. On Christmas Day the north of Italy enjoys meat-filled ravioli or tortellini and the south devour rich baked pasta dishes like La Gran Lasagna. Meals differ depending on the region and their traditions.
Christmas Day lunch is a large affair that features four or five courses, starting with a selection of antipasto dishes including Italian cured meats, olives and cheeses. Main courses may consist of anything from roast capon and beef to chicken and game. Sweet treats such as panettone and pandoro are shared and Gennaro always makes struffoli, traditional bite-sized Neapolitan pastries covered in honey and decorated with citrus zest. Another popular treat is the famous torrone which is like a nougat and can be found in different forms depending on the region. For Italians, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a sweet treat!
If you fancy trying something other than your traditional turkey this year, here’s an Italian inspired Christmas menu for your pleasure. Enjoy trying something new and celebrate Christmas like an Italian!
The traditional porchetta hails from the Lazio region and is a perfect centrepiece for your Christmas table. A popular street food of Rome, the dish can be eaten hot or cold, and it is just at home on your plates during Christmas dinner as it is with leftovers in the days following. In Gennaro’s festive recipe, Porchetta Natalizia, the pork loin is stuffed with a filling of minced pork, herbs, and chicken livers, before being rolled and roasted in the oven. Serve with some roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables and wash down with a lovely glass of wine.
To end your meal on a sweet note, swap your Christmas pudding with Gennaro’s zuccotto, a delicious dessert made with panettone. This Tuscan dish is made with plain sponge and ricotta but as it is Christmas, Gennaro uses surplus panettone to make this a very festive dessert. Zuccotto can be made in advance of Christmas Day, which makes it a great recipe if you are looking to get ahead and keep your day as simple as possible.
Discover the real Italy with Citalia
Celebrating Christmas like an Italian is truly special. Citalia are the UK’s leading Italy specialist with over 90 years' experience in tailoring holidays to Italy. Will you be cooking any Italian dishes for your Christmas dinner like Gennaro, Citalia’s Brand Ambassador? Allow Citalia to arrange a private cooking class for you during your next Italian getaway. Wishing you all a BUON NATALE!
Visit citalia.com to discover the real Italy on your next adventure. Andiamo!
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