Each country has a special way of celebrating the Christmas holiday, and for Italians and Americans of Italian descent, nothing is as special as preparing a beautiful feast to be enjoyed together as a family on the holiday. In fact, in Italian households, both Christmas Eve and Christmas day offer an appetizing assortment of delicious dishes.
On Christmas Eve in Italy, dinner is known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, and is celebrated with a seven-course meal that is representative of the seven sacraments. Christmas day, known as Natale, families gather together to enjoy hearty dishes that are both flavorful and memorable. Very often the Natale meal includes a soup, a pasta course, and a roast turkey or pork loin with vegetables and dessert. At the end of the two-day festivities, the entire family will be well fed and satiated with the deliciousness of the holiday.
A true classic, the dish is usually served on Christmas day, after the Feast of Seven Fishes. Creamy and rich, Christmas lasagna is typically made using a Béchamel sauce, red sauce, and ricotta and mozzarella cheese. However, the true beauty of the Christmas lasagna is that it can be made in advance and frozen for easy heating on Christmas day. Some recipes you may want to consider, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, include Redbook's Christmas Lasagna or Food and Wine’s featured Celery Root and Mushroom Lasagna.
Made using Penne pasta, baked ziti is a traditional Italian dish that combines this tubular pasta with a rich and delicious red sauce, and can include meatballs, sausage, and vegetables such as zucchini, green peppers, and mushrooms, depending on the recipe. To prepare the dish, you begin by cooking the penne and coating it with the sauce. The penne and sauce is then layered in a pan with sour cream and other cheeses such as ricotta and mozzarella, meat of your choosing, and vegetables. Once layered, the ingredients are covered with Parmesan cheese and baked. Like lasagna, baked ziti can be made in advance to save time and enjoyed on Christmas day.
The Christmas day meal is no small affair in an Italian household, and the crowning glory of the table is often a beautifully roasted turkey or a pork loin. The turkey is stuffed with a savory dressing made from sweet Italian sausage and traditional Italian herbs and spices. For an extra juicy turkey, consider brining the bird prior to roasting. This will require letting the bird soak in the brine up to 24 hours.
If a turkey isn’t on the holiday menu, Pork loin is often served and combines very nicely with seasonal flavors such as orange and fennel. Savory and succulent, a pork loin is naturally juicy and sure to please the entire family.
Sides dishes served with both of these dishes include marinated roasted root vegetables, roasted potatoes, or broccoli rabe.