Italian Christmas Dinner: Examples and Sample Menus

Struffoli is a traditional Italian holiday sweet.

Italians are known for their delicious foods, and Christmas meals in Italy are no exception. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are filled with delicious flavors throughout the country. Delicacies and traditional favorites vary by region, family and personal preference.

Christmas Day Foods

After the meatless day before Christmas, Italians often enjoy a delicious Christmas dinner that includes other meats. From lamb to roast beef, turkey or pork, Italians often include foods other than fish on their tables Christmas day.Salads and antipasto are often the first course. Broccoli, eggplant, peppers and other vegetables are featured in side dishes. Pastas, a staple of Italian cooking, are also included on the big day, in baked dishes or as homemade vermicelli. Crostini, a dry toasted bread, is often included in the meal. Fruits and nuts may also make an appearance.

Desserts and sweets are also part of Christmas meals in Italy. Try your hand at making belfanini, an anise cookie, or pine nut cookies using Italian Christmas cookie recipes. The treat called struffoli is often thought of as a Christmas cookie by non-Italians, despite its being more like a fried honey pastry. The cakes panforte and panettone are Christmas traditions in Italy.

Sample Menus for Christmas Meals in Italy

If you are not going to be in Italy over the holidays or simply want to incorporate some unique food traditions for Christmas, consider making your entire meal Italian-style. Though this sounds daunting, you can actually find a host of resources for making your delicious holiday dinner:

  • See what Giada DeLaurentiis and Mario Batali cooked up for an Italian Christmas celebration at Food Network. Their menu includes panettone, sautéed broccoli rabe, baked ziti with meatballs and grilled calamari with fennel.
  • In Mamas Kitchen offers a sample menu for an Italian Christmas meal that includes cardoons with cheese, minted striped bass, roasted baked red peppers and panforte.
  • Mangia Bene Pasta, a website dedicated to Italian cooking, lists a wide variety of holiday dishes for an Italian dinner. Choose amongst the diverse options for appetizers, soups, salads, fish and pasta.

If you are of Italian heritage, but previously have not made a traditional Italian Christmas meal, ask your relatives for recipes and menu ideas. Grandparents and older aunts and uncles may have family favorite recipes, passed on to them from earlier generations of the family.

Italian cookbooks are another source of menu ideas and traditional recipes. Get recommendations from family, friends and cooking websites. Librarians and booksellers may also be able to clue you into which cookbook will offer the most ideas for a Christmas meal.

Start Your Own Traditions

Even if you cannot eat Christmas meals in Italy, you can start your own Christmas custom from around the world by incorporating some traditional Italian recipes into your holiday meals, pairing them with the perfect Christmas dinner wines. Serve them on your Christmas themed place settings with table decorations to match in an Italian pattern for a more authentic feel to your dining experience.

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Italian Christmas Dinner: Examples and Sample Menus