Growing up in Abruzzo in the late 60s was fun and exciting, surrounded by real friends and a family that provided for us three children the best they could offer. Christmas 2020 will generate a strange sensation for obvious reasons, including the inability to travel back home. Italians identify “home,” the birth-place location and after so many years of living here in the States, the holidays make distancing even more challenging to accept. Today I would like to share some of the region’s culinary richness and traditions for the Christmas season.

Abruzzo is a guardian of ancient villages, fascinating rustic castles, a coastal stretch of sensual beauty, cities of art, boundless natural parks, and uncontaminated mountains. Abruzzo expresses its territorial and naturalistic multiplicity gastronomy that is equally rich and varies. On the occasion of Christmas, the products of the territory arrive on the table of the Abruzzesi, boasting a millenary agro-pastoral culture. The holidays’ regional cuisine offers tasty dishes that summarize the hinterland’s pastoral traditions and the coastal area’s maritime cooking practices, with the guarantee of the genuineness and variety of raw materials,

Cardoons soup with pallottelle the traditional soup for Christmas

The typical dishes, prepared according to the original recipes handed down from family to family, offer the opportunity to taste ancient flavors of sumptuous simplicity. On the 24th of December, the dinner protagonist is fish, especially salted cod (baccala”), prepared in infinite variations. Baked with potatoes, tomato with peppers and olives, fried in batter with eggs, or poached a rich broth perfumed with saffron and offered as a salad. Also, monkfish, the ever-present oven-baked capitone (female eel), with a sauce flavored with laurel and squid salad with onion, carrots, parsley, celery, boiled potatoes, and olives.

Fresh anchovies caught near the coasts are also a typical dish of the Abruzzo maritime tradition. It involves frying the fish in a batter of eggs and flour and a subsequent bath in vinegar finished with minced garlic and parsley sprinkling. In mountainous areas, especially in the Aquila area, tradition dictates that seven soups be brought to the table, namely lentils, fried cabbage, chickpeas, white rice, pasta with tuna, capitone, and cod. Such a rich meal cannot fail to include a good glass of DOC white wine such as Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, whose production is predominant in Chieti, L’Aquila, Pescara, and Controguerra, in the Teramo area.

I Calcinetti filled with chickpeas and chocolate, classic fried sweet ravioli from Abruzzo.

The classics of the Christmas Pranzo (Lunch)

Among the first courses, the scrippelle ‘mbusse and the Abruzzese style lasagna predominate. The former are thin crepes prepared by mixing flour, eggs, and water, rolled up and drowned in exquisite beef and turkey broth, dusted with Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese. The Abruzzese lasagna, also called timballo, is a real delicacy made of various layers of crepes interspersed with a meat sauce, chunks of smoked cheese, and coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs. Other courses included in the Christmas lunch are the chestnut and chickpea soup, the thistle soup, and the rintrocilo, a long egg pasta topped with mountain mutton and pork in a robust tomato ragu.

Baccala’ fritters by Chef, writer, gourmand, and journalist Francesca D’Orazio Buonerba

The inland’s undisputed protagonist is the meat, preferably accompanied by trays of steaming locally grown baked potatoes. Among the dishes that recall the pastoral tradition and the most innovative proposals, there is only the embarrassment of choice. The pork loin with plums, the stuffed veal rollè, roasted meats, the turkey alla Canzanese, served with its rich, gelatinous glaze, and low-fire-roasted lamb with olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, parsley, lard, and onion. The flavorful cuisine pair well with several DOC Abruzzo red and white wines, such as Pinot Nero, Cerasuolo, and Pecorino. The holiday table holds the center stage to the globally renowned Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, winning many international awards.

And, finally, the desserts, the vivid testimony of Abruzzo’s confectionery art. During the Christmas holidays, the protagonist is undoubtedly the Parrozzo, the Panettone and Pandoro version of the Abruzzesi. Mentioned by the Poet D’Annunzio, who exalted its goodness in his verses, the Parrozzo is a mixture of cornmeal and almond flour, cooked in a hemispherical mold and covered with excellent dark chocolate. Other delicious sweets include the irresistible ravioli- shaped calcionetti. Made with a crumbly dough and filled with a soft chestnut mixture enriched with cinnamon, honey, dried fruit, and chocolate.

Il Parrozzo the Abruzzesi sweet equivalent to Italy’s Panettone and Pandoro

Every province (indeed, every local community, even the smallest ones) has its own Christmas sweets, such as sfogliatelle made differently from the Neapolitan cousin, the mostaccioli, the bocconotti, the ferratelle, the torrone (Nougat) with chocolate, pepatelli, and many more. In conclusion, the Abruzzese Christmas menu is an authentic riot of flavors and colors, in which taste, quality, and tradition blend harmoniously.

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