Searching for something to replace your usual Christmas repertoire? We asked our top chefs and experts for their favourite Italian Christmas dinner ideas and here’s what they came up with…
Kick off festivities with Maxine Clark’s Venetian showstopper Sgroppino; prosecco, tangy lemon granita and a dash of vodka and you’re away. Aperitivo in hand, cicchetti follow swiftly; Tom Whitaker’s oysters with fernet branca – the ultimate in opulence and simplicity. A large wooden platter of his thinly sliced home-cured coppa, prosciutto and speck provides the backdrop for Ursula Ferrigno’s warm sage and olive oil bread served with a silky green new season olive oil.
Next up is Giuseppe Silvestri’s pumpkin and amaretti ravioli with butter and sage, the melting combination of crushed amaretti and sweet pumpkin taking one on a brief trip to the beautiful Northern Italian city of Mantova. Chestnuts are a must, so from The Latteria Studio, Carla Tomasi suggests her delicious chestnut flour tortelloni stuffed with wild mushrooms. They speak for themselves, and believe us when we say they are too good not to try.
To match these bold Christmas flavours we have picked our favourite of all the Soave wines, the elegant Pieropan Calvarino – crisp, delicious and with a lovely depth to it.
Always keen to pop fennel in wherever she can, Sophie Braimbridge’s guinea fowl stuffed with figs, fennel and orange zest gives a celebratory twist to game. Whereas Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis (Quovadissoho.co.uk) “cannot help feeling that a great pot of ‘bollito misto’ with every sauce there is and some Barbaresco to aid and abet would jolly along a Christmas dinner mightily”.
Onto the cheese and Stirred’s Sarah Roberts suggests a ripe and runny Gorgonzola with dark chestnut honey; a glorious glass of La Grola from Allegrini is the perfect marriage for this Northern Italian blue.
Now for the sweet stuff. We are going long on Maxine Clark’s ever adaptable and totally indulgent zabaglione. It can be made into a custard-like sauce (cool and fold into softly whipped cream) to have with Christmas pudding; it makes a voluptuous ice cream and it can be transformed into the richly luscious and crowd-pleasing chocolate, coffee and mascarpone delight – Tiramisu. But THE best and most sybaritic zabaglione is one lovingly made with eggs, sugar and Recioto when in the Veneto, a rich Vin Santo when in Tuscany and any Sicilian Zibibbo or Moscato Passito. Whichever you use, make sure that the zabaglione is accompanied by authentic, icing sugar-dusted fat savoiardi for dunking, and of course a generous glass of the chosen ambrosial wine.
We beg you to leave a centimetre of room to squeeze in Rachel Roddy’s delicious Italian soft almond biscuits from her award-winning book Five Quarters (Bookshop.theguardian.com). So simple and quick to make and a treat that will take you well into the New Year. Serve a wicked glass of sweet Masi Recioto here and there is quite literally nothing more to be done.
The Stirred team wishes you an incredible Christmas dinner, a wonderful festive season and very much look forward to seeing you in 2017!