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Italian Christmas Food

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‘Tis the season for great Italian Christmas food…as if you needed a holiday, right?

There’s no Christmas like an Italian Christmas! Sure, we may be a little biased, but the Christmas season is much anticipated as one of Italy’s most celebrated holidays. Natale is an exciting occasion to cook up some best-loved family recipes, to dine with friends and family and to be merry, of course. For these reasons, we want to pass on to you some of our most cherished Italian Christmas traditions, so that you can spread the holiday cheer with your favorite people.

Italian Food Gifts + Holiday Party Trays

No more fretting over the “perfect Christmas gift”… we’ve got you covered. Our tasty gourmet gift collections are designed to inspire your holiday entertaining and Christmas gift giving with something for everyone on your list. We offer gift baskets brimming with savory Olives & Antipasti, charcuterie and cheese board favorites, best-loved Italian grocery items and ingredients, as well as Build Your Own personalized custom gift baskets.

Artisan Appetizer & Cheese Board Gift
Cheese & Charcuterie Gift Collection
Best of Italy Pasta Gift
Pizza Gift Collection

Traditional Christmas Dinner, The Italian Way

Cities sparkle, hearts are full and Italians of all ages spend the whole month of December anticipating the great food to come. 

Christmas Eve: Feast of the Seven Fishes

In Italy, Christmas Eve dinner is traditionally lighter with no meat and a lot of seafood, while the Italian-American meal has evolved into much more of a feast. Bring on the sword fish, tuna, salmon, octopus salad, smelts, calamari, spaghetti with clam sauce and the famous Italian classic—salted cod, known as baccalà. The Feast of the Seven Fishes can also include other meatless dishes, which vary by region. For example, gnocchi recipes and stuffed pasta are a hit in Northern Italy, where Veneto is known for buckwheat spaghetti in a creamy anchovy sauce. No matter where you celebrate, though, the sweet treats are a certainty: biscotti, pandoro, torrone (nougat candy) and almost always a candied loaf of panettone.

Baccalà Tomato Sauce with Linguine
Recipe: Baccalà Tomato Sauce with Linguine
Fried Baccala in a bowl in the background a piece is being dipped in sauce
Recipe: Fried Baccalà
A plate with linguine pasta topped with clams and a white sauce
Recipe: Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Christmas Day Lunch

The most important of the Natale meals, Christmas Day lunch can last for hours. Unlike Christmas Eve’s meal, Christmas Day is typically meat-based. Natale lunch begins with a classic antipasto spread featuring dry cured meats, salumi, fine Italian cheeses, briny olives, artichokes and more. The first course is pasta that varies by region. In Southern and Central Italy, baked pasta is a must. In Northern Italy, Lasagne Bolognese and filled pasta like manicotti and ravioli are traditional Christmas fare. Next comes the main event, the meat. Roasted veal, baked chicken, sausages or braised beef are common Natale entrées worth celebrating.

A piece of baked brie topped with olives jubilee and walnuts being served with crackers
Recipe: Baked Brie with Olives Jubilee
Sliced roast placed on top of some pasta and topped with broth
Recipe: Braised Beef in Barolo Wine Sauce
Recipe: Ricotta & Spinach Filled Ravioli

Looking to build your own antipasto spread?
Check out these tips in our All-Inclusive Wine, Cheese & Olive Pairing Guide.

Santo Stefano’s Lunch

On December 26th, lunch carries on the Natale festivities. For this meal, more distant relatives and friends are invited. The meal isn’t as indulgent as Christmas lunch, but just as well composed. If there are no new guests to your party, it’s customary to enjoy leftovers, like the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. (Why not try a batch of Fried Baccalà with your leftover salted cod?) While there are no particular culinary traditions, Santo Stefano’s lunch tends to be less elaborate and much more creative. Now is the time to try some unusual pasta dishes or exotic soups. Also, on this day, restaurants are very popular, offering a refreshing change from days in the kitchen.

Two bowls of Italian Wedding soup being served with bread
Recipe: Italian Wedding Soup
Butternut Squash Risotto
Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto with Pine Nuts & Balsamic Glaze
A pan with Lasagna ready to be cut and served
Recipe: Classic Three-Cheese Lasagna

Need some more inspiration? Check our gallery of recipes!