20 Christmas Dishes from different Italian regions - Part 1

If you have as yet not decided what to cook for your Italian Christmas dinner; take some inspiration from the list introduced here. Providing an overview of the typical traditional dishes served across the different Italian regions for Christmas Dinner. So let us start our culinary journey in the peaks of Trentino Alto Adige region to taste canederli, and then descend to the Marche region to taste passatelli in broth. We will then start again from Lazio to put on the table a steaming  rich broccoli arzilla soup and then move to Sardinia to taste a crunchy suckling pig; and for Desserts we travel to Friuli Venezia Giulia region for the traditional Gubana, or to the Campania region for the Struffoli. 

At the Christmas Markets they have even become street food, to be eaten hot seasoned with butter or broth, in a bowl;  leaving room though for strudels and mulled wine. Dumplings or Canederli are known in Alto Adige and in the entire German-speaking area as knodel (from the German knot, or lump) or bales (pallette) in Ladin countries). 

Trento Alto Adige - Canederli allo speck


250 g stale bread; 250 g milk; 120g Speck Alto Adige Igp; 2

eggs; chives; parsley; sage; onion; butter; Flour; beef broth; salt; pepper


Step 1: For the speck dumplings recipe, cut the bread into cubes and place it in a bowl with the milk and beaten eggs. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Step 2: Chop 1/2 onion and brown it in a pan with a knob of butter. Add the diced speck and let it flavour. Step 3: Check the bread and make sure it is well softened but not too soaked. If needed, add a little flour or breadcrumbs. Step 4: Mix the bread with the sautéed onion and speck, add 1 tablespoon of sliced chives, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper. Step 5: Form the dumplings, balls of about 5 cm in diameter: you will get about 12. Dip them in flour and cook them in simmering salted water for about 15 minutes. Step 6: 

Drain and serve with a little broth, flavored with chopped chives. Alternatively, if you prefer them dry, season them with melted butter and sage. Grazie alla Cucina Italiana!

In a Roman Christmas Eve dinner, there will certainly be no lack of arzilla broth, which is a hot soup based on pasta and broccoli as an appetizer. Perhaps you can continue with a fish-based dish, such as spaghetti with clams and mussels.

Sardinian porceddu on the spit is considered a Sardinian specialty no just at Christmas time, thanks to its soft and tender meat wrapped in a crunchy and fragrant rind. The secret to the fame of Sardinian porceddu is the cooking process: being on a spit and rotated for at least 4 hours. About halfway through cooking, the meat is salted and flavored with typical herbs such as myrtle. A number of agriturismo offer this speciality over the festive period, such as at Tenuta Li Lioni or the Agriturismo Sa Mandra or any of the Christmas markets.

Gubana - traditional Christmas Cake from Friuli-Venezia Giulia

In the enchanting Natisone Valley, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, lie the origins of a perfect Christmas cake - the Gubana. A beautiful moist yeast cake with a swirl of a rich filling of dried fruit and nuts flavored with Grappa and Marsala. Obviously you can also buy already-made versions from regional bakeries such as Vogrig; but a  homemade version is a very different proposition for a special Christmas dessert!

Ingredients for the Yeast Dough: Yeast 3 g; 00 flour 150 g; Whole milk at room temperature 85 g

For the Dough (a 22cm Diameter Mold): Sugar 90 g; 00 flour 350 g; Lemon zest 1; Salt 1 pinch; Butter at room temperature 75 g; Eggs 170 g; Whole milk at room temperature 40; White grappa 15 g.

Ingredients for the Cake Filling: Walnut kernels 250; Pine nuts 120 g; Raisins 140; Peeled almonds 60; Breadcrumbs 60 g

Butter 50 g; White grappa 10 g; Eggs (about 2 medium) 120 g;  Lemon zest 1; Orange peel 1; Marsala 110 g;

For brushing and spraying the cake: Eggs 1 and 40g Sugar.

To prepare the gubana, start with the yeast: sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the dehydrated yeast. Gradually add the warm milk and knead with your hands until you obtain a homogeneous, lump-free mixture which you will give a spherical shape. And let it rest at room temperature covered with transparent food film for about 1 hour. The yeast must double in volume: if it does not have the necessary volume, let it rise again. Now take a cake mixer fitted with a paddle and pour in the sifted flour and sugar, then add the yeast. Then pour the beaten eggs, the grated zest of an untreated lemon and the grappa. Turn on the cake mixer at medium speed, and begin to add the milk at room temperature at a steady rate.

When all the ingredients are blended, remove the leaf and replace it with the dough hook: pour in a pinch of salt and begin to knead at medium speed. At this point, little by little, add the softened butter at room temperature: add a small piece and continue with another piece if it has been absorbed. The dough must be elastic and must be strung on the hook. Remove the dough from the mixer, knead it into a spherical shape and place it in a bowl covered with cling film, leaving it to rise in the oven with the light on for about 3 hours or until it has doubled in volume.

In the meantime, dedicate yourself to the filling of the gubana. Rinse and then pour the raisins into a bowl to soak them with 100 g of Marsala; let it soften in this way for at least 20 minutes or more if necessary. While the raisins are softening, blend the walnut kernels in a blender until you obtain a very fine mince. Repeat the operation also for the pine nuts and almonds, so as to obtain 3 separate mince mixtures. At this point, take a non-stick pan with a wide bottom and melt the butter over low heat. When it is completely melted, pour in the breadcrumbs: let it toast like this for about 5 minutes. You can mix it lightly with a wooden ladle or sauté it to prevent it from burning. When it is ready, turn off the heat and set aside in a small bowl. Then take the raisins which will be softened: drain them and blend them very finely too. Now you can start putting together the ingredients for the gubana filling: pour the toasted breadcrumbs, raisins, walnuts and pine nuts into a bowl. Then add the almonds, the grated zest of an untreated lemon, the grappa and the remaining 10 g of Marsala. 

Separate the egg yolks from the whites and pour the egg yolks into the bowl with the other ingredients for the filling, while in a separate bowl you can whip the egg whites until stiff, then add them to the other ingredients, mixing everything together with a spatula, stirring from bottom to top, being careful not to disassemble the egg whites. The filling is now ready. Take the dough that will have risen and roll it out with a rolling pin until you obtain a thickness of about 0.5 cm: you will have to give it a more or less rectangular shape of about 50x60 cm. Place the filling inside, leaving a space of about 2 cm around the edges. Brush the latter with a beaten egg. 

Begin to roll the dough on itself, gradually stretching it slightly by passing your hands from the center outwards. Seal the edges well to prevent the filling from spilling out. Take a 22 cm diameter baking tray, greased and floured: start by placing one of the edges of the roll in the center and start rolling it on itself inside the mold, to create a spiral shape. Leave to rise in the oven with the light on for another 30 minutes. Then brush the entire surface of the gubana with the egg. Sprinkle with sugar  and bake in a preheated static oven at 170°C for 60 minutes (or you can cook it in a preheated ventilated oven at 145°C for 40-45 minutes). Once the cooking time has elapsed, remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving your gubana. Buon Natale!

Struffoli from Naples

Struffoli are a typical Neapolitan Christmas dessert that is a hit in every home and patisserie in Campania during the month of December! These are small, soft balls of dough made from flour, eggs, sugar, butter and aniseed liqueur; first fried in plenty of oil, then caramelized in honey and seasoned with colored sprinkles! Moment in which, while still hot, they are arranged on a serving plate and given the shape of your choice: pyramid, donut, Christmas tree, star... and finally decorated with candied fruit of your choice!

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