An Italian inspired Holiday Dinner

Every year in Donna's family the clan gets together on the last Sunday before Christmas.  The menu always consists of Clam Dip followed by Italian food (lasagna etc.)  We're not sure why since that side of the family is Scandinavian but hey it's tradition.  Since John is half Italian we decided to research a slightly more Italian approach to the holiday. 


Christmas in Italy

In Rome, cannon are fired from Castel St. Angelo of Christmas Eve to announce the beginning of the holiday season. A 24-hour fast ends with an elaborate Christmas feast. Small presents are drawn from the Urn of Fate.

The main exchange of gifts takes place on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, the celebration in remembrance of the Magi's visit to the Christ Child. Children anxiously await a visit from La Befana who brings gifts for the good and punishment for the bad. According to legend, the three wise men stopped during their journey and asked an old woman for food and shelter. She refused them and they continued on their way. Within a few hours the woman had a change of heart but the Magi were long gone. La Befana, which means Epiphany, still wonders the earth searching for the Child of Light. She is depicted in various ways: as a fairy queen, a crone, or a witch.




 Christmas Eve Dinner

Serves 8

Traditionally there should be 7 fish dishes -- baclava (salt cod) is the only one that John insists is required.  It's actually a lot easier to get to the seven than you might think. 



Makes 8 servings

Mama Morelli's fried cauliflower
2 large celery stalks, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, then into 8-inch lengths
small carrots
1 medium zucchini, about pound, quartered lengthwise, then cut into approximately 1 inch pieces
cup cured black olives
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into approximately 1%- by 2-inch slices
pound creamy goat style cheese, chilled and cut into -inch dice
curly parsley for garnish
Nutty Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

 Group the vegetables in a shallow container and pour the Nutty Vinaigrette (recipe follows) over them. Let stand, covered, for several hours, stirring occasionally to distribute the vinaigrette.

Before serving, drain excess vinaigrette from the vegetables. Arrange attractively on a large platter along with the olives and cheeses and garnish with parsley. Serve along with the artichoke pie (recipe follows) as a first course.


Makes about 1 cup

1/3 cup good nut oil (walnut, hazelnut, or unrefined peanut oil)
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
juice of lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs

Combine all the ingredients in a cruet and shake well. Shake well before each use.



Mussels, smoked oysters, clam dip


Seafood Lasagna


Seafood Layers

For The Spinach Layers:


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sautee garlic and mushrooms until tender. Pour in 2 jars Alfredo sauce. Stir in shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg and pepper.
  4. In a 9x13 inch baking dish, layer noodles, ricotta mixture, Alfredo mixture and shredded cheese. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used, ensuring that there is shredded cheese for the top.
  5. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cover, and bake 15 minutes.


Salmon grilled


Pasto with Basil and pinenuts




Makes about 4 dozen

cup (1 stick) margarine, cut into several pieces
2/3 cup dry unsweetened cocoa
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
cup water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1 cup finely chopped almonds
1 cup raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring, until the mixture resembles a smooth syrup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and spices. Make a well in the center and pour in the chocolate syrup. Work together, first with a spoon, then with clean hands, to make a stiff batter. Add the almonds and raisins or currants and work in.

Form into balls no larger than 1 inch and arrange on cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie tests clean.