Local Taste

From Christmas’Eve dinner to Christmas lunch, the Amalfi Coast families celebrate the holidays

December 24th and 25th are probably the two busiest days of the year where culinary tradition brings new life to the kitchens.

By Francesca Faratro, Photo by Agostino Criscuolo

Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch are two of the most important meals of the year. Followed by the New Year’s Eve dinner, they are surrounded by the magic that brings everyone back to childhood.

Time to cook

At homes, surrounded by all Christmas decorations, all the mothers call their daughters and daughter-in-law to start a culinary collaboration. Together, clad in red aprons with Christmas illustrations, they are ready to complete the various preparation stages to create the menu. Usually, the menu is well planned, along with the rest of the family. Between plates and candles, cutlery and crystal glasses, the Amalfi Coast’s traditional Christmas Eve feast is fish-based.

 

The fish appetizers
From octopus salad, to prawn to salmon carpaccio
Seafood spaghetti
Spaghetti with anchovies
Cheese with nuts

Together around at the table

A delicious parade of appetizers inaugurates lunch. There is always a reinforcement salad that includes a mix of vegetables or the Russian salad completed with mayonnaise and hard-boiled eggs. Cod, which is a must, begins to triumph right from the first courses and is served boiled,  with papacelle, olives and salad. Pancakes and canapés are garnished with sauces and smoked salmon. The escarole is fried with olives and capers and eaten alone, or it is included as the main ingredient of a delicious rustic cake. Fish can tempt you with salad octopus, mussels au gratin, marinated anchovies, and salmon or swordfish carpaccio, among the starters. The first courses follow the tradition of spaghetti with clams or seafood risotto. However, in many families, it is custom to serve on the table spaghetti with anchovy sauce. In fact, in ancient times, when buying fish was a luxury that only a few could indulge in, a few drops of the precious liquid from Cetara were added to the garlic and oil sautéed.  First of all, the pasta is whipped with the anchovy sauce,  then topped with the toasted breadcrumbs and nuts. For the second course, a series of fish dishes are placed on the table. Although many cook capitone, this dish is not appreciated by everyone. Usually, people prefer greedy frying with prawns, squid, squid, and cod.

From cheese to meat

Focused on meat courses, the Christmas’menu takes long hours of preparation. You can find stuffed pasta, slowly cooked roasts, and endless appetizers. Usually, Christmas lunch starts with mozzarella and pickles, served with sliced ​​salami, hard-boiled eggs, pies stuffed with ricotta and salami, and some tantalizing fried food. Some families also lay on the table fresh or aged cheeses, crammed bread, rustic babà, or even vegetable side dishes. The escarole prevails, also stuffed with walnuts, capers, and anchovies, and olives or papacelle, also loaded with tuna or stale bread and then fried. The first courses are very greedy and represent the most crucial course of lunch. It includes lasagna, timbales of pasta, handmade ravioli, cannelloni, or conchiglioni stuffed with meat or crepes stuffed with cheeses. The most traditional families like to eat meat or turkey broth with tortellini or a tiny kind of pasta. The broth’s cooked lean parts are eaten as a main course, dressed with a salad, and served with potatoes or peas. On the other hand, some choose to bake rolls wrapped in bacon, roast beef or lamb ribs or roast kid, or, for the more experienced, stuffed turkeys or chickens.

 

A dessert composition with struffoli and a few pastries
Zeppole display on the table
Panettone is ready to be cooked

 

The grand, sweet finale

The desserts are the spectacular finale: a roundup of sweetness and gluttony. The Christmas table will display plates with zeppole, made with potatoes or honey for the recipe with only water and flour. Susamielli and roccocò are indispensable desserts, fragrant biscuits with a stiffer consistency, embellished with candied fruit, almonds, and spices. You will also be delighted with the fragrance of nougats with a soft or crunchy heart peek out in wicker baskets filled with dried fruit, apricots, or figs, also dried and stuffed with walnuts and orange peel. Then there is the king of Christmas, the panettone, which is the most awaited of all, along with pandoro. Panettone and pandora are served with a cold bottle of sparkling wine or champagne, witnessing the midnight wishes. The tradition wants that the youngest of the family, with his back covered, brings the Infant Jesus’s procession. The rest of the family will follow the little one, carrying streamers, lighted candles, and chanting the classic song Tu scendi dalle Stelle (From starry skies thou Comest) composed by Sant’ Alfonso Maria Dè Liguori, who lived in Scala for many years.

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