Italians aren’t really big on calorie counting, especially during the holidays. You have to have a superhuman will to resist all the decadent desserts that appear during Italy’s winter season.
Read about the twelve festive Italian dishes that (slightly) correspond to everyone’s favorite never-ending carol: “The Twelve Days Of Christmas.”
Day 1: A Pear & Almond Cake
You could keep the partridge—we’re more interested in the pear tree.
During autumn, it’s not all that difficult to find pears in many Italian baked goods, including a divine pear & almond cake. Hey, pears and almonds are high in fiber, so this dessert is kind-of healthy…right?
Day 2: Panforte
Italians and turtle doves both love fruit and nuts. Perhaps this affection is best expressed in Italy’s historic panforte “fruit cake.”
Although there are many variations on panforte throughout Italy, the traditional Tuscan version contains plenty of peeled nuts, candied fruits, and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Day 3: Capon Broth with Tortellini
If you’re in need of quick Christmastime comfort food, look no further than a warm bowl full of capon broth and tortellini.
OK, castrated roosters aren’t technically French hen, but they’re close enough, right?
Day 4: Quattro Formaggi Flatbread
Instead of sending out four calling cards, why not cook up a satisfying flatbread with four of Italy’s iconic cheeses.
Although there’s some debate online, most Quattro Formaggi recipes include mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, and ricotta.
Day 5: Struffoli
Struffoli refers to balls of fried dough that are thought to have originated in Naples. Since struffoli are traditionally topped with a honey glaze, it’s safe to say they’re a “golden” treat for your fifth day.
Day 6: Parrozzo
It’s good those geese are laying six eggs, because that’s how many you’ll need to make a traditional parrozzo cake.
Most popular in Italy’s Abruzzo region, parrozzo is a half-dome cake usually made with semolina, ground almonds, sugar, and baking powder. Oh yeah, don’t forget to put plenty of chocolate drizzle around your parrozzo before eating!
Day 7: Feast of Seven Fishes
While those seven swans may be a-swimming, Italians only care about the swimming seafood during Christmastime. Indeed, some observant Italians abstain from animal meat and celebrate the “Feast of Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve. Popular seafood dishes enjoyed on this day include baccalà in pasta, calamari, octopus, and clams.
Day 8: Panna Cotta
One of the tastiest ways to use all of the heavy cream those maids have been a-milking is to make the rich molded desert known as panna cotta. Although not traditionally associated with Christmastime, you could easily add some festive flair by sprinkling an eggnog glaze, rum, candied fruits, or and/or spices.
Day 9: Bigoli with Anchovies and Onions
If you’re going to be dancing a few Italian gigs, then you’d better load up on the carbs. One wintertime Venetian dish sure to boost your energy is bigoli pasta with anchovies and onions. Have a few servings of this plate and you’re sure to be dancing the Monferrina all night long.
Day 10: Pan D’Oro
Those Italian lords were certainly “a-leaping” over pan d’oro many years ago. Supposedly originating in Verona, this “golden cake” was reserved for the wealthy when it was first made in the 18th century. Today, however, this distinctive star-like egg-based cake can easily be found on Italian store shelves.
Day 11 Vin Brûlé
For the eleventh day, how about brewing a “piping” hot pot of vin brûlé. Popular in the Piedmont region of Italy, this flavorful mulled wine is jam-packed with holiday flavors like clove, cinnamon, and (of course) a dash of brandy. What type of wine should you use? It's the holidays, go for a wine of quality
Day 12 Cartellate
Anyone who drums at Christmastime is most likely celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. So, it makes sense to end your Italian foodie journey with fried cartellate. Many people who enjoy these wine-sweetened dough treats say they resemble the baby Jesus’s clothes, but you could judge for yourself.