What is a Traditional Italian Christmas Dinner?
The Christmas holidays are here with us! If you love Italian cuisine, but you can’t afford to travel to Italy, don’t despair. In this post, you will get the secret of how you can bring the Italian treat to your home. There is nothing like a traditional Italian Christmas dinner!
Here, you will learn how to set the mood for a perfect Italian Christmas dinner. You will also get aperitivo and welcome drink ideas and some games you can play. Finally, you will get menu ideas you can try. Read on to find out more.
Setting the Right Ambiance (Music)
Before you do anything else, it will be best to set the right ambiance for the evening. Christmas caroling is part of the Italian holiday tradition. You should consider what your guests would love before preparing the playlist. Here are some suggestions of artists you should consider:
If you are interested in Italian-American Christmas classics, consider songs from The Dean Martin Christmas Album. You can pick some great Christmas carols, including White Christmas, Jingle Bells, Silver Bells, and Silent Night. With such great melodies, Dean Martin’s collection can present you with great singles that children and adults can enjoy.
You can also get great songs from Rosemary Clooney’s collection. Rosemary released many albums that entertained her fans with pop and jazz music. If your dinner guests were raised in America, then her songs will impress them. Some of her great hits include C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, Little Red Riding Hood’s Christmas Tree, and Happy Christmas, Little Friend.
If you are into classic opera, consider some songs by Puccini, who is regarded as one of Italian opera’s greatest composers. His work was based on traditional 19th-century romantic Italian opera. Some of his greatest hits were La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1924).
To cater to the younger generation in your family, consider some contemporary works by Eros Ramazotti. The Italian star has sold over 12 studio albums, three live albums, three compilation albums, and 37 singles. Some of his hits include Sei un pensiero speciale, Buon Natale (Se Vuoi), Feliz Navidad (Si Tu Quieres), among other hits.
Battisti was an influential Italian singer, songwriter, and composer. He is widely acknowledged for the impact he had on Italian songwriting in the 1960s and 1970s. He released 18 studio albums from 1969 to 1994. His hits include Acqua Azzurra, Acqua Chiara, Una Giornata uggiosa, among other songs. You can’t omit to add these and other hits from his collection to include in your Christmas playlist.
Aperitivos and Welcome Drinks
In Northern Italian tradition, people take an aperitivo between 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm to whet their appetite before dinner. It usually serves as some sort of “happy hour.” Below are some suggestions you can use for your Aperitivos and welcome drinks:
The Aperol Spritz would be a great aperitivo for your Italian Christmas dinner guests. If your guests don’t mind alcoholic drinks, you can include this simple drink that features bitter liquor designed to be a great aperitivo. This is an ideal cocktail if you’ll be having flavorful dishes like roasted leg of lamb.
The gimlet is a simple apéritif that can go along with most meals. It will go well with your Christmas dinner party. You will love the fact that it is a two-ingredient recipe. Pick your preferred bottle of gin and blend it with a lime cordial. Your guests will enjoy this apéritif as they wait for you to finish up the dinner preparations.
The Campari is one of the most popular aperitifs loved by many Italians; it is bold and bitter and is not a cocktail for everyone. Few drinks can whet your guest’s appetite more than the Campari Cocktail.
Bourbon and Blood Orange
This is a great drink that your guests can enjoy before or during meals. The beverage features a smooth whiskey with sweet vermouth and a blood orange liqueur. Its dark profile makes it a perfect pairing for a lighter pasta meal.
Autumn Spiced Tonic
This is a dry profile of tonic water that is perfect for any meal. It creates a simple yet effective apéritif. Its recipe features gin and tonic, but the autumn spiced tonic gives it a magnificent twist. This apéritif is a tall drink so you can serve your guests before dinner and they can finish it at the table.
For more Italian-inspired aperitivo recipes, you can refer to our Italian Aperitivo article.
The snacks can be served together with your aperitivo’s include:
- Smoked Salmon and Watercress Crostini – little toasts made with lemon ricotta and watercress pesto topped with some salty, smoky salmon, and fresh grapes.
- Artichoke Bruschetta – this appetizer is made with marinated artichoke hearts and cream cheese whipped with a creamy spread.
- Italian Savory Cheesecake – this is a creamy mix of gorgonzola and ricotta cheese set atop a crust of cracker crumbs topped with salty green olives.
Italian Dinner Party Games
There are many Italian games that would lighten the mood at your Christmas dinner. Please, ensure you choose the right game that would suit your audience. Here are some games you could consider:
The standard Italian deck has 40 cards. Your guests should know the game’s rules to make it easy for them to play. At the beginning of the game, each player gets three cards, and they lay a trump card face-up at the table. The game then proceeds in a counter-clockwise direction, with each player laying a card on the table. The winner of a round is the player that lays out the card with the highest points. At the end of the game, the winner is the player with the highest points.
Food and Food Games
You can also provide your guests with food by experimenting with traditional antipasti and appetizers. As your guests arrive, have different meal trays set, and once the guests are comfortable, bring out the appetizers followed by the main course. You can incorporate food into your games. Have your guests write down an entrée in secret that reflects their personality. Other guests can take turns trying to guess what the others have written.
You can organize the children their own party corner supervised by an adult. One game they can play is a traditional Lupo Mangia Frutta. In this game, they choose one child to be the “wolf,” then the others pretend to be different types of fruit. Then the children stand together side by side and ask the “wolf” what fruit he wants. The wolf names the fruit, and the one who chose that fruit must run for safety. Those captured become the wolf.
Typical Italian Christmas Dinner Menu
Formal Italian dinners usually have several courses starting with antipasti, pasta (primi), meat (secondi), salad, soup, fruit and cheese, and dessert (dolce). If you want to keep it casual, you can minimize it to something you are comfortable doing.
But if you want to go all out, here are some delicious dishes you can include in your traditional Italian Christmas dinner menu:
- Ravioli Stuffed with Artichokes and Pancetta – you can follow up your appetizer with these ravioli. Spicy goat’s cheese contrasts well against the salt of the pancetta and artichoke.
- Spaghetti Carbonara – This is a classic Roman favorite. It has a few ingredients that include eggs, bacon, and cheese.
- Mushroom Rissoto – this creamy vegetarian-friendly risotto features porcini mushrooms. You can play around with mushroom types used in the dish.
- Chicken Breasts Pizzaiola – if your guests love poultry, this is a great dish. In this recipe, you will top steamed chicken breast with tomato sauce and cheese.
- Spicy Pork with Tomatoes – this is pork tenderloin simmered in spicy tomato sauce and herbs for a luscious main dish. For depth and complexity, add fire-roasted tomatoes.
- Meatballs with Tomato Sauce – contrary to what many people believe, meatballs are rarely served with pasta in Italy. They are usually their own dish. This traditional recipe uses ground beef, but you can add ground pork or veal to the mix as an alternative.
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Tart – This delicious tart is made up of four ingredients. The advantage of this dessert is that it is not too sweet and can be paired with espresso or port excellently.
- Tiramisu – This is a traditional Italian dessert that puts together mascarpone cheese, strong brewed coffee, and ladyfinger cookies. Tiramisu is Italian for “pick me up.”
- Pistachio Ice Cream – Pistachios are widespread in Italy. You can impress your guests by serving them your homemade pistachio ice cream.
Italians are known to value their traditions. Therefore, if you choose to host an Italian Christmas party for your guests this Christmas holiday, you must go all the way. In this guide, you have read all the essential details you need to prepare an amazing dinner party for your guests.
As mentioned in the post, ensure you set the right mood and include all the steps for a full Italian treat. Good luck as you plan that Italian Christmas dinner. Buon Natale!