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Traditional Christmas dishes from North to South Italy, they vary from region to region, sometimes even from town to town. In some regions (especially in South Italy) it is common to celebrate Christmas’ Eve with an abundant dinner based on fish, in some other regions the celebration takes place on Christmas day and families get together to enjoy a large homemade lunch. Some recipes can be found on the tables of Sicilians as well as the ones of people from Turin, for examples: chicken broth, dried fruit, vegetables in season, pandoro, panettone e torrone. In every region popular dishes coming from a simple (poor) cooking magically become a bomb of calories to be more nutritious.

Below: white nougat with almonds (torrone bianco), white nougat with nuts (torrone bianco con nocciole), white nougat with pistachios and candies (torrone bianco con pistacchi o canditi).

North Italy

In the North the preference goes to stuffed pasta like tortellini, ravioli, agnolotti or fresh pasta like tagliatella, lasagna and canederli. As second dishes the choice goes towards traditional boiled meat to go with agrodolci or strong sauces, but also with sweet mustard. Among the sweets, the pandolce from Genova (pastry filled with raisins, candied fruit, pine nuts), the Panone from Bologna (flour, quince mustard, honey, chocolate and dried figs). And the two inevitable and world-known Panettone from Milan and Pandoro from Verona.

Center Italy

In Central Italy the tradition takes influences from the territory, from soups to maccheroni, from cappone (chicken broth) to abbacchio (roast lamb), and fish in various seaside towns. Tuscan patisserie is proud of two specialties from the town of Siena: the panforte and the ricciarelli. In the Marche region the queen of all sweets is the Pizza di Natale (sweet flat bread with cashew nuts and raisins).

South Italy

The South of Italy is the triumph of fish and vegetables dishes: in Campania people prepare the spaghetti con le vongole (spaghetti with clams), in Sicily the pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines), in Puglia the orecchiette alle cime di rapa (orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe). In Calabria on Christmas’ Eve people fry the zippole (sort of doughnuts to be enjoyed plain or filled with vegetables, anchovies and salami). In Naples we find the capitone (a fish that can be cooked in different ways, fried or baked) and the baccalà (salted codfish). In the southern regions of Italy sweets are the essential part of the meal: dried figs, glazed fruit, Neapolitan struffoli (deep fried balls of dough, crunchy on the outside and light inside, struffoli are mixed with honey and other sweet ingredients, there are many different ways to dress them, but the traditional way is to mix them in honey with sprinkles, cinnamon, and bits of orange rind), buccellati (Sicilian circular cake that can include dried or candied fruit), torrone al pistacchio (a nougat made by a mix of egg white, honey, sugar and filled with almonds, or roasted nuts, it is often covered in two thin layers of hosts/wafers, the consistency of a torrone can range from soft and chewy to hard and crunchy), the cartellate from Puglia (thin pastry layers rolled up to a rose shape then deep fried, there are many types but the typical recipe wants them to be soaked with cooked wine or honey and then covered in cinnamon, icing sugar or almonds).

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