7 Recipes for an Italian Christmas Dinner

Classic Holiday Dishes and Desserts From Around the Country

Mulled wine in two glass mugs

 istetiana / Getty Images

Traditional Italian Christmas celebrations center around the dining table, where family and friends share multi-course 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 07

    Vin Brûlé

    Glasses of mulled wine, spices and fir branch
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    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 07

    Lasagne alla Bolognese

    Lasagne Alla Bolognese

    The Spruce / Danette St. Onge

    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. No-cook lasagna noodles also cut your prep time. Just assemble the layers, then bake it for about 30 minutes until it turns golden brown and crispy.

  • 03 of 07

    Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

    Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

    Georgia Glynn Smith / Getty Images

    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 07

    Rotolo di Tacchino ai Funghi

    Turkey breast roulade mushroom stuffing recipe

    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

    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 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Struffoli

    Struffoli Honey Balls
    Tania Mattiello / Getty Images

    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 07

    Panettone

    Panettone cake

    Anthony Masterson / Getty Images

    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 07

    Pandoro

    A Pandoro Christmas cake in Gastronomia Stella, Verona
    Danette St. Onge

    Panettone's sister cake from Verona, the star-shaped pandoro looks like it could be the topper for a Christmas tree. Also a yeast-risen airy yellow cake, 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.