Traditional Italian Christmas celebrations center around the dining table, where family and friends share multicourse meals and linger over conversation. Many Italian Americans carry on those customs from the Old World. Some favorite recipes came down through the generations, while others put a modern touch on the classics, including the anticipated pasta course. From celebratory drinks to decorative desserts, mix and match these favorites to create your own pan-Italian holiday feast.
01 of 08
Holiday revelers throughout the world enjoy mulled wine. Italy's version, vin brûlé, pairs the warming spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, star anise, vanilla, allspice, and black peppercorns with red wine. Orange and lemon add sweetness and tang. Get a big pot ready so you can serve steaming mugs to holiday guests as they arrive. It will make your kitchen smell invitingly festive.
02 of 08
A baked pasta dish, this Bolognese-style lasagna pleases entire families. It's made with a tomato-based meat sauce (ragù), besciamella (Italian-style béchamel, a white sauce), and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Make the meat sauce ahead of time so you can pull this recipe together quickly on Christmas day. Using no-cook lasagna noodles also cuts your prep time. Just assemble the layers, then bake it for about 30 minutes until it turns golden brown and crispy.
03 of 08
A comforting baked stuffed pasta dish, spinach and ricotta cannelloni is quick and simple to make, especially if you use dried cannelloni.
The filling contains cooked spinach along with ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, eggs, and nutmeg. It's piped into the pasta tubes, then the cannelloni is covered with besciamella and baked until golden and bubbly.
04 of 08
Though indigenous to North America, turkey became a traditional part of Christmas dinner in many parts of northern Italy after Spanish traders brought domesticated birds to Europe. Rotolo di tacchino ai funghi (stuffed turkey breast roulade) makes an impressive—but also quick and easy—Christmas dinner main dish.
For this alternative to a whole bird, pounded turkey breasts get layered with slices of ham, sautéed mushrooms, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, then rolled and secured before being browned and simmered atop chopped vegetables.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Crisp-fried morsels of dough covered in honey and colorful sprinkles, struffoli are an essential part of a traditional Naples-style Christmas feast.
Scented with orange and lemon, the dough bakes to an airy puff coated with a sweet honey glaze and decorative candied fruit. Arranged in the shape of a wreath or piled into a pyramid to look like a Christmas tree, struffoli add a decorative touch to your table as well.
06 of 08
Panettone, perhaps the most widely recognized of the Italian Christmas treats, is a light, fluffy yeast cake studded with candied fruit and raisins. It originated in Milan but is now commonplace throughout Italy and in Italian communities around the world. Classic recipes can be challenging and time consuming, but this modern take simplifies the process.
07 of 08
This Tuscan treat is similar to an American filled doughnut except the filling isn't hidden inside. A yeast dough rises once, is rolled out and cut into circles, rises again, and then fried until golden brown. After rolling the bomboloni in sugar the filling is inserted using a piping bag, allowing some to peak out. Fill with jam, pastry cream, and/or chocolate hazelnut spread.
08 of 08
Panettone's sister cake from Verona, the star-shaped pandoro looks like it could be the topper for a Christmas tree. It's also a yeast-risen airy yellow cake, but pandoro does not contain panettone's signature candied fruit or raisins. You may find commercial versions filled with flavored cream, though. If you want to DIY pandoro, you need a tall (up to 10 inches) cake mold.