This year, quite unusual (maybe because it’s untypical year for me), I spent Christmas holidays in Italy. Instead of Christmas tree I prepared decorations of picea branches, despite traditional Polish dishes I cooked Italian risotto with funghi porcini (my recipe you can find below) and as a bonus I was enjoying wonderful views and warm, sunny weather…
My Polish friends often ask me about Italian way of celebrating Christmas and I always respond that from my experience it’s quite similar to Poland, but here people take it much easier than in Poland: less crazy cleaning, less crazy cooking… Christmas period is not only time dedicated to the family, as people often meet with friends and who has more money takes these days off to go for skiing or to lie on the beach in some warm countries.
In Poland Christmas Eve dinner is the most important time, in Italy it’s pranzo natalizio. 25th of December all family gets together to eat an abundant lunch or at home, or in the restaurant. Dishes are simple and change from one region to another. In Piedmont small dumplings (agnolotti) stuffed with meat and vegetables are the most popular in these days, in Lazio and in Tuscan other type of dumplings (cappelletti) are the first choice too, but served in broth, in Sardine a lamb with potatoes and typical bread carasau is a traditional Christmas dish, while in Campania, Molise, Calabria – different types of fishes.
However, independently from the region, the real king of Italian Christmas is Panettone, a sweet bread loaf, mainly stuffed with raisins and candied orange inside (although it can be filled with chocolate as well). Because of laborious and complicated process of backing, it’s rather bought then prepared at home. The price oscillates from 3 € (industrial one) to 15 € (artisan one) per 1 kg. Pandoro (it’s similar to Panettone but made with a different type of pasta, dusted with icing sugar, normally without filling is another famous Italian Christmas sweet.
A Christmas Crib is another very characteristic Italian Christmas symbol. Presepi decorate hoses, churches, hospitals, they are built in cities and in little towns. Figures, stable, artificial moss – everything it’s needed to create a nativity scene you can do yourself or it can be bought in supermarket or stationary shops.
And below you will find my Christams inspiration – a simple and fast risotto with delicious funghi porcini.
Risotto with funghi porcini
20 g of dried mushrooms (funghi porcini)
350 g od rice
3 garlic gloves
0,5 l of stock
1 tablespoon olive oil (not extra vergine)
1 tablespoon of butter
200 g freshly grated Parmezan cheese
Served with: white dry wine type Chardonnay
30 minutes before cooking you need to soak dried mushrooms in warm water. Then dried them (but don’t pour out obtained brown infusion!), chop mushrooms on small pieces. In a small pot prepare the stock. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add sliced garlic and fry for 1 min, then add funghi porcini and fry for another 1 min. , then pour rice. As it cooks keep stirring it so rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Poor one ladle of stock and one ladle of infusion, continue stirring until absorbed and repeat this operation until the rise is fully cooked. Add some salt. At the end take the saucepan off the heat, add butter, stir well and wait for about 2 minutes before serving. The Parmesan cheese you can add directly to the dish or sprinkle on your plate.