An Italian Christmas Dinner

Classic Christmastime Dishes and Desserts From All Around the Bel Paese

Christmas is a time to enjoy treasured recipes and special dishes with family and friends, no matter where you live or what your heritage. The Italian holiday table is filled with these recipes, from celebratory drinks to decorative desserts, which are easy enough to make for your Christmas dinner. There is no one "traditional Italian Christmas menu" as the cuisine varies region to region, so you should feel free to mix and match your favorites from each area to create your own Pan-Italian holiday feast.

  • 01 of 08

    Vin Brule'—Italian-Style Mulled Wine

    Vin brule - Italian mulled wine
    Westend61/Getty Images

    It's great to have a big pot of this mulled wine ready (kept warm over the lowest heat possible) so that you can serve steaming mugs to holiday guests as they arrive. It also makes your kitchen smell wonderfully festive! The orange and lemon add sweetness and tang, while the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, star anise, vanilla, allspice, and black peppercorns give the warm beverage a bit of spice.

  • 02 of 08

    Filled Pasta Dumplings in Broth

    Tortellini in Brodo

    Nico Tondini/Getty Images

    Many traditional Christmas or New Year's meals in certain parts of Italy start off with small, filled pasta dumplings in broth. Either cappelletti or tortellini is served in a meat broth and enjoyed as sort of a hearty soup. The pasta dough is homemade and filled with cheese and a protein like chicken or pork.

  • 03 of 08

    Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

    Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

    Georgia Glynn Smith/Getty Images

    This baked, stuffed pasta dish is delicious and quick and simple to make, especially if you use dried cannelloni. Cooked spinach is mixed with ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, and nutmeg to create the filling for the pasta tubes. The cannelloni is covered with a besciamella sauce (white sauce) and baked until golden and bubbly.

  • 04 of 08

    Lasagne alla Bolognese—Bolognese-Style Lasagna

    Lasagne alla Bolognese
    Danette St. Onge

    Another wonderful baked pasta dish, this type of lasagna is made with a tomato-based meat sauce (ragu'), besciamella (a simple white sauce), and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you have the meat sauce made ahead of time, this recipe comes together quite quickly. No-cook lasagna noodles are layered between the white and red sauces and cheese, and then baked for just 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown and crisp looking.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Rotolo di Tacchino ai Funghi—Stuffed Turkey-Breast Roulade

    Turkey Breast Rolls Stuffed with Ham and Mushrooms

    Getty Images

    Turkey is a traditional part of Christmas dinner in many parts of Northern Italy. These rolls of turkey breast stuffed with ham and mushrooms make an impressive—but also quick and easy—Christmas dinner main dish. A pounded turkey breast is layered with slices of ham, sauteed mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese and then rolled up and secured. The roll is cooked atop chopped vegetables, browned, and then simmered until cooked through.

  • 06 of 08

    Panettone—Classic Christmas Cake from Milan

    Panettone - Italian Christmas Cake

    Anthony Masterson/Getty Images

    Panettone, the most well-known of all Italian Christmas treats, is a light, fluffy, yeasted cake studded with candied fruit. It hails from Milan but by now is ubiquitous throughout Italy and Italian communities around the world. It can be challenging and time-consuming to make, but this recipe is a somewhat simplified version.

  • 07 of 08

    Tronchetto di Natale—Italian Yule-Log Cake

    Italian Yule-Log Christmas Cake (Tronchetto di Natale)

    Verdina Anna/Getty Images

    This showstopper dessert is the Italian version of the French bouche de Noel, the rolled up cake that is made to look like a festive log for the holidays. It is actually not as difficult to make as you may think, considering the cake's impressive appearance. You can use whatever type of filling you like and feature extra decorations, such as meringue "mushrooms", for added effect.

  • 08 of 08

    Struffoli—Fried Neapolitan Christmas Sweets


    Linda Lewis/Getty Images

    These tiny, crisp-fried morsels of dough are covered in honey and colorful sprinkles and are an essential part of a traditional Naples-style Christmas feast. They can be arranged in the shape of a wreath or piled into a pyramid to look somewhat like a Christmas tree. The dough is scented with orange and lemon which complements the sweet honey glaze and decorative candied fruit.