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Nov 29, 2005 11:35 AM

Suggestions for Traditional Italian Christmas Day Dinner Needed

  • s

My husband's family is of Sicilian origin and I'm jewish.

Christmas Eve is always celebrated at his neices home, however, I've been having Christmas Day dinner at our house (a much smaller crowd, only about 6-8 at most).

I know Christmas Eve it is customary to have the Feast of the 7 Fishes, which is done in a small matter in his family, since surprisingly, few of them eat fish (I know, very strange).

I'm going to be making a turkey for the main entree, but I am looking for a festive pasta course to preceed the turkey. I don't want to resort to the usual lasagna and it can't be with seafood (unfortunately for me).

Also, any traditional ideas for side dishes would be greatly appreciated as well. This is the 5th year I'll be throwing this dinner and while it's been a huge success thus far (thanks to my cooking skills) I really would like to wow them this year, since I actually love all of them like my own family.


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  1. My husband's family is very traditional Sicilian, and it must be spaghetti with mushroom sauce on Christmas Eve (sometimes I make fra Diablo sauce and hubby refuses to eat it! I have to make him a special pasta with mushrooms,as he's not a seafood lover either). They're a little more flexible with the pasta course on Christmas Day, as long as they have meatballs, sausage and braciole with it. Sometimes I make Lasagna, but pasta from scratch so it takes hours. Lately I've made manicotti (I have an electric crepe maker so I can throw it together while everyone has breakfast), or cannelloni, if I feel ambitious, the important thing is to make the pasta yourself. But this year I'm being really lazy and making stuffed shells, which I'll jazz up with some spinach and maybe gorgonzola too (I'll just use Barilla or whatever). Since we've been eating for 48 hours, they're not so picky the 2nd day!!

    1. l
      La Dolce Vita

      Why don't you do homemade ravioli? You can make them ahead of time, and freeze them. Then, boil them directly from the freezer. You don't have to do tomato sauce (although this is traditional). I've served them with a butter-olive-oil mushroom sauce, and a drizzle of truffle oil.

      My mother, who is Italian, fills her ravioli with ricotta, but I like a spinach-and-ricotta filling.

      For side dishes, my mom would make spanikopita, because our family is also Greek. But to keep it Italian, you could do a nice antipasto salad, with provolone, pepperoncini, slivers of asiago, on top of a bed of lettuce with tomatoes, olives and cucumbers. Around New Year's my grandmother put sliced oranges on the salad for good luck. I don't see any reason why you couldn't do that for Christmas, too.

      7 Replies
      1. re: La Dolce Vita

        I second the ravioli suggestion. I'm from a sicilian family and for thanksgiving we preceed the turkey with ravioli. I made the marcella hazan 4 ingredient sauce. Delish. Since it's basically the same meal you'll be prepping for christmas, that should be ok!

        1. re: Lizard
          La Dolce Vita

          What's in the 4-ingredient sauce? Is it a tomato sauce?

          1. re: La Dolce Vita

            It's 2# of fresh tomatoes cooked down and puree'ed, or canned and puree'ed, a pinch of sugar, an onion halved, and butter. it calls for a whole stick, i only use half. simmer all the ingredients for 45 minutes and voila. pure tomato ecstasy.

            1. re: lizard
              La Dolce Vita

              Ooohh. Thank you for sharing! This may be the meatless tomato sauce recipe I've been looking for. And it's quick, too. No all-night simmers like I do with my regular spaghetti sauce.

              1. re: La Dolce Vita

                You're welcome. I'm from an italian family and have always used the family "gravy" recipe. This is my first non-family sauce I've made. It's really simple. And rumor has it, with fresh summer tomatoes it is a heavenly experience. The essence of tomatoey summer. This is one time I didn't doctor the recipe at all (except to cut the butter in half). No added salt, no added basil, no crushed red pepper flakes. It was great. And such a pretty color.

          2. re: Lizard
            bob oppedisano

            Second a stuffed pasta. Top quality ravioli, with either a butter/sage or a light tomato/basil sauce (food mill san marzano peeled tomatoes into a pot in which one small onion, whole, has been sauteeing in olive oil; cook with big fistful of fresh basil for no more than 30 minutes). Or top quality tortellini or agnolotti (from a pasta shop, not the supermarket case) in home made or well-doctored prepared broth, with a shower of parsley and parmigiano-reggiano.
            For sides, a gratin, perhaps, of caulflower; stuffed artichokes; chard or broccoli di rape sauteed with garlic and lemon. A tavola!

          3. re: La Dolce Vita

            I wouldn't want to experiment with home made ravioli for the Christmas dinner. They are harder to make than you think, especially the first time. To be safe, practice first, or else you can buy ravioli with various fillings that will be quite acceptable to the family. If you can locate a seller with fresh ravioli, choose a ricotta or spinach ricotta filling. If not, Celantano makes a traditional ravioli.

            I don't know if you make your own "gravy" for this family. If you do, go for it, and if not, try changing things up a bit by adding a cup or so of grated Parmesan and heavy cream. This will give you a festive and delicious pink sauce. You can avoid the very long cooking time needed for Sicilian sauce by serving pink sauce that is richer and thicker than any tomato sauce. Everyone eats this. It is actually better not to cook the tomato sauce for more than about 45 minutes with this sauce, as a dark red sauce doesn't actually lend itself to this treatment. You can even cheat with a jarred sauce if you were so inclined, (choose basil and garlic), because the Parmesan and cream add quite a lot of richness.

            If ravioli are not you favorite, consider canneloni or manicotti. Those are also considered holiday pastas.

          4. How about home made pasta cut into festive Christmas shapes? Instead of ravioli you could cut the pasta with different shaped cookie cutters, chill them until ready to cook and toss with a great sauce. This would also be a bit lighter if your having turkey.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ida Red

              Wow! I love that idea! I was thinking about making ravioli, and cutting it into unexpected shapes would really be quite a touch.


            2. Start with an antipasta

              1 Reply
              1. re: EAF

                It's actually "antipasto," as in "before the meal," not "before the pasta." :-)

              2. Be thankful you're not Lithuanian - they have 13 fishes on Xmas eve.