A Typical Christmas Dinner In Italy

Christmas in Italy When it Comes to Food

Learn more about what you can expect to eat during a typical Italian Christmas dinner. Christmas is a time of year that people celebrate worldwide in different ways. In Italy, people celebrate Christmas dinner with a big feast called il cenone di Natale. This feast usually includes many traditional Italian dishes like pasta, pizza, and lots of wine! 

Christmas celebration

What Does a Traditional Italian Christmas Dinner Mean?

What is a traditional Italian Christmas dinner? A classic Italian Christmas dinner is a special meal you typically eat on Christmas Eve. The traditional Italian Christmas dinner is a holiday tradition that people enjoy throughout Italy and worldwide. 

This meal typically consists of classic Italian foods and drinks, including pasta dishes, meat entrees, Neapolitan pizza, and delicious desserts like panettone or torrone. Whether celebrating at home with family or friends or dining out at a restaurant, you can enjoy a delicious and authentic Italian Christmas dinner. 

There are many different options to choose from for the main course of an Italian Christmas dinner. One classic dish is lasagna Alla Bolognese, a hearty lasagna made with a meat sauce. Another popular option is cannelloni al Forno, baked pasta tubes with meat stuffing or vegetables. 

For dessert, there are many traditional Italian options to choose from. For example, panettone is a sweet bread you often serve around Christmas time, while torrone is a nougat candy made with honey, nuts, and candied fruit. 

Another popular option is tiramisu, a coffee-flavored dessert made with layers of mascarpone cream and sponge cake. If you are looking for something lighter, try panna cotta, a vanilla custard pudding, or gelato, Italy’s delicious version of ice cream.

The meaning of a traditional Italian Christmas dinner varies depending on the region where you eat it. In some parts of Italy, dinner is a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. However, dinner is more about spending time with family and friends and enjoying good food and drink in other areas. 

A traditional Italian Christmas dinner is always a unique and festive occasion regardless of its meaning. For anyone looking to experience this special meal for themselves. So what are you waiting for? Indulge in some traditional Italian Christmas cuisine today!

What Do Italians Eat at Christmas?

What do Italians eat for Christmas? Of course, no Christmas celebration would be complete without food and drink, and Italians are no exception! So here’s a look at some of the traditional dishes and beverages you’ll find on an Italian Christmas dinner table.


Antipasti are the first Italian festive appetizers eaten before pasta. You can serve them on exquisite individual plates as a table centerpiece or bites. The following dishes show how the antipasti set the scene for the next feast!

  • Arancini: Looking for deep-fried Christmas meals in Italy? You need arancini or Italian rice balls.
  • Main Patti: Primi Piatti is a carb-heavy dish in Italy, albeit the technique varies. It may also include soup and pastries.
  • Canederli: Canederli is to South Tyrol in northern Italy, while wheat pasta is to southern Italy, egg pasta to Emilia Romagna, and rice to Milan. Canederli, the famed bread dumplings of Trentino Alto Adige, is the most popular carb, with various flavor variations. Canederli is a warm way to celebrate Christmas. First, you can make the gnocchi-like dumplings using leftover bread, egg, and milk. Then comes the seasonings: ready-to-eat spinach and greens, chives, onion, and local cheese. The most frequent condiment is a speck, South Tyrolean dry-cured pork. Many serve a consommé or butter sauce with the balls.
  • Brodo Tortellini: This simple comfort meal is one of the favorite Italian Christmas foods in Emilia Romagna. This first course is a handmade egg pasta with cheeses and meat. Flavorful chicken broth is often available.
  • Lasagne: This meal is one of Italy’s most popular Christmas dinners, with several variations from the local vegetables available in each region. This Italian holiday meal is delicious, satisfying, and well-balanced.
  • Secundi: Tuna Sauce Christmas Veal (Vitello Tonnato) This meal from Piedmont in northwest Italy is noteworthy! A Christmas tradition, “tuna–ed veal” is a cold veal cut lathered (or drizzled) with a creamy tuna sauce. Pair this dish’s richness with a mild red wine.

Main Dishes

  • Roast pork: Whether you roast in the oven or grill over an open fire, it’s hard not to love tender slices of roast pork at Christmas dinner.
  • Pappardelle al Sugo di Carne: You can make this traditional pasta dish with slow-cooking beef ragù that simmers until rich and flavorful.
  • Caponata: A classic Sicilian eggplant dish that you make with tomatoes, olives, capers, onions, and celery – perfect for soaking up all that delicious holiday gravy!
  • Baccalà mantecato: For those who don’t eat meat during the holidays, this codfish dish that you whip with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice is a delicious alternative.


Of course, the sweet finale to any dinner is some Italian Christmas desserts and sweets.

  • Panettone: This traditional Milanese Christmas bread that many enjoy during Christmas in Italy and worldwide. 
  • Pandoro: Pandoro, a golden Christmas cake/bread from Verona, is an Italian Christmas dinner dessert. You sprinkle this soft sweet bread with sugar powder. Italy grants pastry artist Domenico Melegatti exclusive 3-year rights to create this gourmet cake in the 19th century.
  • Panforte: Your taste buds will thank you for this classic festive dessert from Siena in Tuscany. You can make this delectable delicacy with chocolate, fruits, nuts, honey, and Christmas scents. Panforte Nero (a darker variety with an almond undertone) and Panforte Margherita are two popular variations (a lighter, more delicate version initially devised by Enrico Righi in the 19th century to be a serving for a visiting Queen Margherita). Panforte is easy to make and preserves well, ideal for Christmas gifts!
  • Stollen: We tend to overlook the more alpine holiday staple of Christmas Stollen, or Christstollen, the Christmas bread full of almonds, raisins, and candied fruit and powdered like snow on top. With so many tempting delicacies on the table, this fruity Christmas bread gets better with age, which may be a good thing!
  • Struffoli: Struffoli, like glittery Christmas tree decorations, is a staple holiday delight in Naples. To make the Christmas tree or wreath, a heaping mound of fried dough balls is drizzled with honey and topped with colored sprinkles. But it’s always amusing to observe who eats the last few pieces well after Christmas. Christmas is the perfect time to sample the regional cuisines of Italy. So throw out your scales and eat your way across the country. Food is holy in Italy, and healthy eating is a religion.

Of course, no Italian Christmas dinner would be complete without a glass (or two) of wine! So here are some of our favorite Italian Christmas drinks to enjoy with your meal:

  • Barbera d’Asti: A fruity and full-bodied red wine from the Piedmont region.
  • Chianti Classico: Another excellent option for red wine lovers, this Tuscan classic is well-balanced and pairs perfectly with food.
  • Pinot Grigio: A light and refreshing white wine from the Veneto region – perfect for sipping on a warm summer day.
  • Prosecco: An Italian sparkling wine perfect for toasting to the holiday season!
Christmas dinner

A Typical Italian Christmas Eve Menu

Another popular option is tiramisu, a coffee-flavored dessert made with layers of mascarpone cream and sponge cake. If you are looking for something lighter, try panna cotta, a vanilla custard pudding, or gelato, Italy’s delicious version of ice cream.

Christmas Eve supper in America and Christmas Eve Italian dinner is pretty different, although they both feature fish. To Italian-Americans, the Christmas Eve in Italian meal means only one thing: Festa Dei Sette Pesci, or “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.”

Have you ever had the interest in knowing the origin of this tradition? Yes, we have! We’ve contacted our relatives numerous times and have not received responses, so we are learning more about Italy’s traditional Christmas culinary traditions.

Many Italian families commemorate La Vigilia di Natale, the 24th of December, by putting up a nativity scene and going to Christmas Mass, sometimes even at midnight. Then, they arrive home late at night and congregate around a table piled with seven different types of distinctive seafood dishes, usually consisting of one or two varieties of fish that they prepare in seven different ways!

This is a comfort because we always assume there should be seven different types of fish. Whew!

But why the lucky number seven, you might wonder? The number seven frequently appears in Catholic symbology. From the seven sacraments to the seven deadly sins to the seven days it took for all of Creation to be born. In addition, the number seven is mentioned over 700 times in the Bible!

It is a long-standing tradition to eat fish on Christmas Eve. It stems from Roman Catholics abstaining from meat and dairy on the night of specific religious occasions. For years, people have been painstakingly producing, conserving, and passing down traditional seafood recipes via families. What will astound you about this custom is that it is entirely an American concept! 

The tradition has been in existence since the early 1900s when homesick Italian American families were paying tribute to their heritage by cooking a lavish seven-course supper with a seafood theme.

This fusion event blends the Old Country’s religious rites with the New World’s modern concepts to end a long day of fasting with a wonderful seafood feast. It a version of the Sicilian La Vigilia di Natale (Vigil of the Nativity) or the Cenone (Great Supper).

Whether you’re celebrating in Italy or anywhere else in the world, a traditional Italian Christmas Eve Italian dinner menu will be an unforgettable experience. Some of the most popular dishes enjoyed on an Italian Christmas Eve menu include:

  • Antipasti such as cured meats, bruschetta, and cheese plates.
  • Pastas like lasagna, ravioli, or spaghetti bolognese.
  • Meat and seafood dishes like roast lamb or roasted whole fish with lemon sauce.
  • Sweet treats like panettone or cannoli.
  • Hot beverages like coffee or mulled wine keep warm during the festive celebrations.

Whether enjoying a traditional feast or trying something new, a delicious Italian Christmas Eve meal will highlight your holiday celebrations. So gather your friends and family, and savor all of the exquisite flavors of this festive season!

Some Italian Christmas Drinks With Food

Are you looking for something a little different to add to your holiday celebrations this year? Why not try some Italian Christmas drinks with food! With a wide range of unique and flavorful options, these festive beverages are the perfect way to savor the season’s spirit.

There is something here for everyone, from hot mulled wine and spiced eggnog to creamy cappuccinos and sweet liqueurs. So grab your favorite holiday treats and get ready to toast the season in style with these delicious Italian Christmas drinks. Cheers!

  • Hot mulled wine: You can make this warming drink with red wine, spices, and citrus fruits. It is the perfect way to enjoy a winter evening by the fire.
  • Spiced Eggnog: A holiday classic with an Italian twist, this creamy drink is made with eggs, milk, and a touch of cinnamon. It is delicious, or you can make it better with rum or brandy for an extra special treat.
  • Cappuccino: A rich and creamy cappuccino is the perfect pick-me-up on a chilly winter day. Top it off with some whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder for an extra festive touch.
  • Lemoncello: This sweet liqueur is a refreshing and delicious way to end a holiday feast. Sip it on its own, or add it to your favorite cocktail for an extra holiday cheer.

Whether you’re looking for something hot,  cold, creamy, or boozy, there is sure to be an Italian Christmas drink that’s perfect for you this season. So gather your friends and family, grab some festive treats, and get ready to celebrate in style with these delicious beverages!

Food Served on Christmas Dinner

Buon Natale!

Do you want to sample some Italian Christmas foods? We’ll help you have a classic Italian Christmas, whether you’re traveling to Italy for the holidays or wishing you were! If you’re planning a trip to Italy in December, you’re aware that there’s a lot to look forward to! 

The many Italian Christmas foods that are just waiting for you to try them, bright twinkling lights, cheerful holiday tunes, and the postcard scenery. The best thing about Christmas in Italy is that it lasts longer than in most other countries! The festivities begin around the 8th of December and extend until the 6th of January, the Feast of the Epiphany. 

If you’re planning a trip to Italy this winter, it is exciting to learn that you’ll have more time to immerse yourself in its seasonal customs. For example, while regional traditions differ, the midnight Mass at a local church is a tradition. 

As you travel around the piazzas in central and southern Italy, you’ll get serenades by shepherds or zampognari di Natale. During the Christmas season in Naples and Rome, shepherds play the traditional “zampogna,” an Italian wind musical instrument comparable to a piper.

Whether you’re enjoying traditional Italian dishes or participating in traditional holiday activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during this particular time of year. Buon Natale!