Guide to 10 Great Christmas Dishes in Italy - Recipes, Ideas and Menus

What are the Most Popular Traditional Italian Foods for Christmas in Italy? Panettone, Tortellini in brodo, Lasagne, Baccalà, Stuffed capon, Nougat, Capitone large eel, Zampone with lentils (con lenticchie), Roast beef, Cannelloni.

By Lele Gobbi
Dec 02, 2022
tagAlt.Christmas in italy

The 10 Great Christmas Dishes in Italy


What is a typical Christmas food in Italy?

From tortellini to lasagne, via baccalà (salt cod), roasts and stuffed capon: there are many tasty traditional Christmas dishes in Italy.


How do Italians celebrate Christmas in Italy?

There are a few rules in Italy: particularly in the Centre-South, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a feast based on fish, while in the North, lunch on December 25th is usually more important.

The Best Italian Wines for Christmas




What do Italians eat on New Year's Eve for good luck?

As for New Year's Eve, there is room for imagination and invention for the so-called ' Cenone’ (Dinner); however, it should contain lentils because they bring good luck, or rather 'bring money' because of their round shape reminiscent of gold coins.



What are the Most Popular Traditional Italian food for Christmas?

Panettone,Tortellini in brodo, Lasagne, Baccalà,Cappone ripieno, Torrone, Capitone, Zampone con lenticchie, Arrosti di carne, Cannelloni 




It is the Christmas dessert or cake par excellence, traditionally leavened and soft, rich in eggs and butter, with candied sultanas, citron and orange peel. It is typical of Milan, but is widespread throughout Italy and even abroad.

There are some stories concerning its origin and especially about the name itself, which probably derives from the augmentation of the word 'panetto' - panettone means big panetto - which is perfectly justified because the ‘panetto’ loaf that is made to rise in various stages is always large. Besides the traditional panettone in the two typical versions, i.e. high and low, there are countless versions of filled panettone (farciti) or others with many other sweet ingredients on the market. 

italian tortellini served with broth, shot from above_451668763125


Tortellini in broth (in brodo)

This is one of the most famous Italian Christmas dishes, and indeed of Italian cuisine in general. It is a speciality contested between Modena and Bologna that brings everyone together at Christmas. The dough is particularly rich in eggs, and has a pork filling.


The fold is small and graceful, and popular imagination attributes the tortellini model to a representation of the navel or belly-button of Venus.  For the broth, a very generous portion of beef or capon broth is highly recommended ( chicken broth is also acceptable). 
► Read the recipe for Tortellini in broth (in brodo)

Lasagna with Meat and Tomato Sauce_3481612355355



This is the name of one of the oldest forms of pasta, usually rectangular or ribbon-shaped and a little thicker than a noodle, which is made from dough normally based on wheat flour and eggs, but with numerous exceptions. The preparation of the sheet of dough is roughly the same as for egg pasta with regional variations for the quantity of eggs and the mix of flours.


More precise and rigid is the tradition of the shape, as lasagna is always a thin rectangle of pasta, 2 to 5 cm wide and 10 to 15 cm long


► Read the recipe for Lasagna



Baccalà (salt cod)

A word of Spanish origin (bacalao) and Flemish ancestry, which in Italy means Atlantic cod preserved through salting, because cod preserved through drying is called stoccafisso in north-eastern Italy. In the past, it also served as an authentic barometer: after salting it, sailors would hang it on board with ropes, then when the codfish began to drip, it meant that a storm was coming, as the increased humidity in the air caused the sodium chloride to dissolve. 


Today, recognising the best cod is certainly not easy – knowing which fish, once cooked, will be soft, tasty and not fibrous. There are countless recipes in Italy with this fish. At Christmas time and in many areas it is often eaten fried.

Christmas table with roast capon_201010100


Stuffed capon (ripieno)

This is a typical Christmas dish whose main ingredient is a male chicken castrated at the age of 60-70 days and slaughtered at 6-7 months of age. It is reared and fed (mainly on corn) with great care in order to maintain the typical quality characteristics (degree of fattening and fat distribution).

The stuffed capon is sold gutted and boned; as for the stuffing, lean minced veal and pork meat, diced raw and cooked ham, eggs and parmesan cheese are usually used.  

► Read the recipe for Stuffed capon

Torrone - Nougat


Torrone - Nougat

A typical Christmas sweet, whose basic ingredients are honey, whipped egg whites, almonds or hazelnuts and vanilla.

Classic and renowned are the nougats from Cremona, Alba, Siena, Benevento, Abruzzo and Calabria. Particularly refined are the Sicilian ones in all their varieties.

The Best Italian Wines for Christmas





Capitone (large eel)


Capitone (large eel)

This is the name given in the regions of southern Italy to the large female eel, which has reached its maximum development and is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve.


It is a fish that lives in fresh or salt water, depending on the period of its life. It is a very fat fish, but its flesh is very delicate. It can be cooked roasted, fried, stewed, or in pâté.

Zampone with lentils (con lenticchie)


Zampone with lentils (con lenticchie)

A typical Christmas dish, especially for the last day of the year. It is a speciality of Emilian charcuterie, composed of minced pure pork meat, rind, ears, snout and ribs, stuffed into a casing made from the skin of the pig's foreleg, well cleaned and scraped.


The mixture, skilfully balanced between lean and fatty parts, is seasoned with salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. It is served on a hot plate or with mashed potatoes, spinach with butter, sauerkraut, and especially lentils.

Roast beef (Arrosti di carne)


Roast beef (Arrosti di carne)

Roast beef, literally roast ox, is a dish which is often found on tables during the Christmas period. It is a special roast that consists of a fairly thick cut usually taken from the sirloin (controfiletto) or part of the rib in a whole piece.


The meat must be adult beef which is as mature as possible and infiltrated with minute veins of fat. Cuts that can also be found, although not exactly ideal, are fillet (tender and lean) and rump in a large piece (also somewhat lean).




This is a type of stuffed pasta that is very popular during the Christmas season, especially in Piedmont, Campania and Sicily. It is likely that they are a simplified evolution of crespelle, inspired by some classic Italian recipes of Neapolitan origin, which involved complex preparations of large macaroni or rigatoni, stuffed one by one with elaborate fillings.


At the basis of their success is a kind of excellent versatility, since, filled and seasoned appropriately, they can be both a dish for grand cuisine and a quick, nutritious and appetising solution.


You might be interested in:


all.sign in to leave a review