Words by Carla Passino
The red spicy kick of a Calabrese soppressata, golden panzerotti oozing with Apulian mozzarella, rosemary scented lamb with crispy roast potatoes, rich, buttery panettone—Italian Christmas food is as varied as it gets. Every region, every province, every village has its own specialities for both Cena della Vigilia (Christmas Eve’s supper) and Pranzo di Natale (Christmas lunch).
Seafood—especially fried or boiled stockfish and capitone, a type of eel, stewed in tomato sauce—is common on Christmas Eve, but not everywhere. And the Christmas lunch fowl of many Northern and Central regions—capon in Piedmont and Lombardy, guinea fowl and duck in Umbria/Tuscany—gives way to roast lamb (or, occasionally kid) in Lazio, the islands and some parts of the South.
Even panettone, which is originally from Milan but has now become Italy’s one national Christmas staple, is usually accompanied by local cakes, pastries and puddings—rich, raisin-studded gubana in Friuli Venezia Giulia, crunchy, rose-shaped carteddate in Apulia, honey-coated struffoli in Campania—as well as nuts, chocolates and torrone.
A lifetime would not be enough to try all the regional Christmas food worth savouring. If you are not a stickler for authenticity, however, you can concoct a marvellous Italian Christmas lunch by putting together some of the best recipes from each region.