If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember my early morning enthusiasm for this 'Christmas Pastries' recipes from a Puglia cookbook I found. Well, I made them! Here's a very unprofessional video of me in action. Recipe included too.
It will come as no surprise to you all that there is no singular traditional christmas lunch deal in Italy, although having deprived themselves of meat on Christmas Eve, generally everybody eats meat on the 25th. Loosely speaking, an Italian christmas lunch will comprise antipasti, pasta, plates of meat, vegetables, and a desert (usually always panettone, along with a local festive specialty). Unsurprisingly, what these courses actually consist of differ hugely from region to region.
To illustrate this I’ve created an (almost!) game! You'll find eight regional variations on christmas lunch (A-E) below - see if you can guess where they’re from.
I am fully aware that not all of you will be, as I am, spending Christmas eve back at their parents house dressed in fleece pyjamas and eagerly awaiting the annual viewing of The Grinch. Perhaps you're knocking back a robust red and nibbling cheese straws at Tim and Audrey's Christmas 'do' or spilling cider over Adam Chandler (your year 11 crush) at the annual christmas eve reunion.
In Val d’Aosta, however, some of them will be dolling themselves up for the annual midnight ski, which will see hundreds of them literally ski down an Alpine peak into Christmas day by torch-lit procession. In Abruzzo, some of them might well be enjoying the ‘ballo della puppa’, the ‘exploding puppet woman’, which sees some poor sod climb into a large papier mache mannequin of a woman laden with fireworks and dance about to folk music whilst fireworks blow off of him in a very un-risk averse pyrotechnic show. Go on, have a read
I have written, at length, about the virtues of Emilia Romagna’s glorious, grainy parmigiana reggiano. I have vehemently championed the restorative properties of a good ricotta and I’ve waxed lyrical about my unwavering adoration for Puglia’s big, beautiful buratta.
Well, dear readers, I have a new favourite cheese to talk about which is, ironically, also the oldest cheese there is to talk about.
'Saltimbocca' literally means 'jump in your mouth'. Such an apt title of a dish I have never known - these tender, tasty little morsels of meat literally melt in your mouth.
I too thought cheese could not be improved upon. Then I found out about some savvy souls who decided to bathe cheese wheels in barrels of wine and everything I thought I knew about cheese was thrown up into the air.
…. For Prosecco cheese exists
November 2nd can be a confusing day for an uninformed child in Italy.
All Souls Day, which celebrates the lives of lost loved ones and anticipates a visit from them during the day, is celebrated all over Italy, and most regions and towns have their own popular traditions.
In Sicily, they go big.
When I moved to Italy I had a sort of epiphany. ‘What London needs’, thought I, ‘is a place which provides the British populace with good regional Italian food. Not just Italian food. We’ve got enough restaurants serving up various pasta shapes and polpette under the ubiquitous umbrella of ‘Italian cuisine’. No, it needs the sort of place you can buy a good Pugliese burrata and enjoy tortellini en brodo the way they serve it in Bologna. Or the sort of place one might find proper pesto.