In Italy, in the province of Pavia, Christmas Eve dinner starts with a soup of lasagna mixed with mushrooms sauté in oil and garlic. In old times in Italy newborn babies were wrapped in bands of white cloth to keep their tender legs very straight and prevent them from growing bowed. In the fantasy of the local people this dish represents those bands, it is made in honor of baby Jesus being born on Christmas Eve.
Many specialties follow this first dish: marinated eel, salted stockfish and escargot. The small horns of the escargot allude to discord and disagreement between people, therefore they need to be hidden in the stomach of the guests to properly prepare themselves to a peaceful Christmas, as the legend says.
Other fundamental specialties are risotto cooked in any style, roasted turkey, boiled capon dressed with mustard. In the same province of Pavia, going more toward the inland towns and villages, included in the typical menu of the holidays, after a risotto plate, one finds stuffed onions with meat and focaccia bread.
A must have dessert for the end of the dinner is the Sbrisolona Torte, a typical dessert of that area. It is a crisp and friable torte, which accompanies Torrone, Panettone and Pâte Brisee’ all hand-made specialties found in each home. The Sbrisolona Torte doesn’t really mark the end of the dinner, there are still all the fruits of the season parading on the table: citrus, grapes and dry nuts. Apples, even though are fruits of Christmas season, they are not eaten because they represent the fruit with which Adam and Eve committed the original sin.
Women bake hand-made breads for Christmas holidays. The portion to use for every meal is cut and reserved, then all Christmas breads are placed on the center of the table and everyone in turn must take a piece every day from Christmas Eve until the 31st of December. It is a belief that Christmas breads do not go bad, do not grow mold and therefore they are good to cure bellyache.
Every region in Italy has different customs and traditions. In the South, the main item on everybody’s table is fish, cooked any way possible, in addition to the delicacy of raw fish and shell-fish and it doesn’t matter how much its price sky-rockets in this time of the year, it is a must have! Christmas dinners last many hours, they could go on for 5 or 6 hours. Italians people spend a lot of money for a Christmas dinner and cook for days to make it ready, but the only important thing is the togetherness of the family, the love for one another and that in itself is priceless. Ciao.
This is an excerpt from my second book: ©Sins Of A Queen, due to be released in a few days.
Copyright © 2010 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola has been in business as an interior designer since 1990. Her life is a continuous evolvement of colorful events. She will not only design your home, build it and decorate it, but she will also design your palate with her new productions of Italian regional cookbooks. She is the author of: ©Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity and ©Sins Of A Queen. Both books are available on