As I’m writing this, my two-year-old son is admiring the Christmas tree while incessantly turning on and off its’ lights. He’s giggling and it is a good break in the silence. I’m excited about for Christmas for my son – who is finally understanding the season – but this holiday will also be tougher than most. My dad will be missing from the festivities and, as is expected, some things will just have to change this year as we struggle on without him. Maybe we will start new traditions, maybe we will eventually go back to all the things we used to do with him…but one thing I’m noticing my family isn’t compromising on is the food. We still have to have the right Christmas food, my dad would be wondering what we were doing if we didn’t do at least dinner right.
So what does that mean? Well, usually a Christmas Eve full of seafood – fried shrimp, salted cod (bacala) and usually lobster too – and a Christmas day that starts with pasta and ends with a-few-too-many-desserts. I might not be able to give all my readers a brand new recipe post this year for Christmas (forgive me), but I can provide some of my past favourites. Here’s some typical Italian foods that will be on our table this coming holiday. What will be on yours?
Colluri (Also called: cullurielli, ciambelle, bomboloni, buffarede, grispelle)
The requests for these potato doughnuts start shortly after Halloween and continue on to sausage making season in the spring. When they are fresh out of the fryer, they are hot, fluffy and soak up tomato sauce like a sponge. If you make them a day ahead, you warm them up in the oven and it creates a super-crisp outer shell to these seasonal favourites. Here is the recipe.
Fritto Misto (fried mixed seafood)
I would protest any Christmas Eve without this. Firstly, yes Christmas Eve is all about seafood traditionally, but secondly deep-fried shrimp and calamari are one of my biggest treats. So quick to cook and perfect with a squeeze of lemon. This is a really simple recipe and totally better than calamari at a restaurant (never mind WAY cheaper). Here is the recipe.
Pasta with Meatballs
Once we have had our fill of Christmas Eve seafood, Christmas Day brings out the heavy hitters. And in typical Italian fashion, yes, we start the meal with pasta. The sauce will have been simmering all day with various cuts of meat as well as meatballs and veal rolls. Here’s the truth though: you eat the pasta first and then fish the meat out of the sauce to enjoy it on it’s own (or with colluri – see above!). Here is the recipe.
The most common winter vegetables in Italian households, rapini is a bit bitter but is a great partner to other dishes that are so rich on the holidays. It’s really easy to prepare, a quick sautee with garlic and hot peppers, so it’s worth a try, at least once. Here is the recipe.
Honey Pinwheels (Also called cartellate or grispelle)
My kryptonite. Put these near me and all bets are off. Stop counting how many I’ve had because I will eat them all. Get them while they are fresh, because they won’t last long. And that’s all I’ll say about this recipe.
Turdilli (Also called tordilli, turdiddri or turtiddi)
These are strange little “cookies” that are so unique to Southern Italy. From a dough that rises, these are fried and then dunked in honey. No two recipes are the same but if these are a tradition to you, you’ll recognize them instantly. We even have two recipes, one made with wine, another done “plain.”