Flavors of Italy: Holiday Dishes

Struffoli, a favorite Neopolitan holiday dessert. Courtesy of Storie Di Napoli

Flavors of Italy: Holiday Dishes

Struffoli, a favorite Neopolitan holiday dessert. Courtesy of Storie Di Napoli

Struffoli, a favorite Neopolitan holiday dessert. Courtesy of Storie Di Napoli

For Italians, the holiday season brings about two very important dining occasions: Cenone della Vigilia (Christmas Eve dinner) and Christmas Day supper. Italians usually kick-off the holiday festivities by fasting all of Christmas Eve day and then indulging on an abundant seafood feast for dinner. While Christmas Eve signifies a time to enjoy the fruits of the sea, the flavors of Christmas Day include rich meats, soups, stews, pastas and elaborate desserts. After a marathon lunch or supper, Italian families normally crowd around the holiday table to play a lively game of tombola, the Italian version of bingo. As you begin to think about what culinary traditions you’ll be continuing this holiday season, we’ve included a few festive regional Italian dishes to get you in the spirit:


Vruoccoli zuffritti co l’alice salate – Fried broccoli with salted anchovies

Italian style sauteed mussels

Italian style sauteed mussels

Cassuola de calamarielli e seccetelle – Casserole of little squid and calamari

Struffoli – Morsels of sweet fried dough drizzled in honey

Cappone a lo tiano – A delicious homemade soup made with capon and vegetables

Puorco servatico – Roasted wild boar


Arrosto di Agnello – Roasted lamb

Bollito di Maiale – A stew made with boiled pork, hot chili, rosemary and bay leaves.

Calcionetti Fritti – Turnovers filled with black grape marmalade, garbanzo beans, chopped walnuts, almonds and cocoa

Emilia Romagna

Culatello di Zibello – Cured ham stuffed into a pigs bladder, lightly salted, and aged to cured perfection

Cotechino di Modena – A fresh sausage made using a blend of pork, pork fat and pork rind


Cenone di Natale (Christmas Dinner). Courtesy of www.altroquotidiano.it

Cenone di Natale (Christmas Dinner). Courtesy of www.altroquotidiano.it

Le Marche

Pizza di Nata‘ – A dessert bread made with dried fruit, raisins, grated lemon and orange, figs, cocoa powder and sugar


Fritto misto di verdure – Fried artichokes and broccoli

Baccalà Fritto – Fried salt cod


Pepperoni in bagna cauda – Peppers swirled in a warm salt, garlic and anchovy sauce

Torrone d’Alba – Whole hazelnuts dreamily suspended in fluffy white nougat candy

What festive Italian dish do you want at your holiday dinner table? If you’re looking for ideas, let us know, and we might post a recipe or two!

About the author

Dejou Marano is Co-Founder of CountryBred and Founding Editor of The Bred Blog. Splitting her time between Los Angeles and Europe, Dejou seeks to bring the imagination and wonder of Europe to all travelers through her never-ending pursuit of undiscovered cultural gems and experiences, which she shares through her travel writing.


  1. Please can you send me the recipe for Calcionetti fritti. My mother-in-law came from Abruzzo and made a turnover at Christmas that she called Cecipieni. The ingredients sound identical to what you describe for calcionetti. I would be so grateful
    Colleen Ruffini

    • Colleen,

      Calcionetti are indeed quite the holiday treat! Below is a link from http://www.ricettepercucinare.com that will hopefully conjure up delicious memories of your mother-in-law’s cooking.


      1 1/2 kilos of chestnuts
      250 grams of boiling honey
      3 teaspoons of sugar
      150 grams of finely diced citron
      100 grams of chocolate powder
      200 grams of ground toasted almonds
      Zest of one orange
      One cup of white wine
      Olive Oil
      Flour as needed

      Shell the chestnuts and cover in flower. Put them in a large container and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Knead well and let rest for 24 hours before frying.

      Buon appetito!


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