Are you spending Christmas in Italy? Let me give you a friendly advice: eat lightly on Christmas’ Eve or you won’t survive Christmas lunch.
This is serious, I’m not jocking.
Let me give you an example of how an Italian mind can work when you use the words Christmas and food on the same sentence.
Some weeks ago I was having a conversation with my mother. It went more or less like this:
Mom: Hey, we’re going to decide what to cook for Christmas.
Mamma: Hey, dobbiamo decidere cosa cucinare per Natale.
Me: Oooh no! Please, there are still three weeks left, can’t we just decide later on?
Io: Oooh no! Ti prego, mancano ancora tre settimane, non possiamo decider più in là?
Mom: What?! No, it will be too late!
Mamma: Cosa? No, poi è troppo tardi.
Me: Oook, if you say so…Then, here’s the solution: let’s just have some appetizers, and then some pasta.
Io: Oook, se lo dici tu…Allora, ho la soluzione: facciamo qualche antipasto e poi un po’ di pasta.
At this point my mother stared at me as if I had just being released from a mental hospital. Then, she went on:
Mom: It’s C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. We can’t just have only appetizers and some pasta! We’ve have to cook something else. We must cook at least some appetizers, 4 mains, then fruit, dessert and then we’ll have some coffee or some liqueur. So? What do we cook for Christmas?
Mamma: E’ N-A-T-A-L-E. Non possiamo preparare solo antipasti e pasta! Dobbiamo cucinare qualcos’altro. Dobbiamo cucinare almeno degli antipasti, 2 primi, 2 secondi, la frutta, il dolce e poi ci beviamo un caffè o un liquore. Quindi? Cosa cuciniamo per Natale?
I have this same conversation with my mother each and every year. She tries to convince me we need a regal lunch, and I try to convince her to take it easy.
The reason why this conversation keeps coming up every year is that food plays an important part in the Italian culture, especially if it’s meant for Christmas. For Christmas you MUST prepare something special for your guests. No matters if your guests can’t eat all that food, or if you’ll have to eat leftovers for days and days after Christmas. You must cook. And you have to decide well in advance your menu, so you can collect all the ingredients you need in time.
So, since Christmas is approaching fast, today I want to share with you at least two easy Italian recipes you can cook for Christmas: Spinach gnocchi and lemon veal scaloppini.
525 g (1.15 pound) potatoes
300 g (10 oz) spinach
100 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
4 slices of onion
25 g (5 tsp) unsalted butter
4 sage leaves
What you need
Pot 22 x 12 cm (8.65 x 4.70 inches)
Bowl 24 x 11 cm (9.45 x 4.35 inches)
Saucepan 18 x 9 cm (7 x 3.55 inches)
Frying pan 25 x 6.5 cm (9.85 x 2.55 inches)
1. Wash potatoes.
2. Place potatoes into a big pot, cover with water until submerged, and boil for 40 minutes or until you can easily poke them with a fork. Add more hot water if needed.
3. Drain potatoes in a colander.
4. Peel with a knife while potatoes are still warm, since it’s more difficult to peel when cool.
5. Mash potatoes in a bowl with a potato masher.
6. Boil the spinach in a saucepan for 15 minutes.
7. Drain spinach in a colander, squeezing the water out with the back of a fork.
8. Let spinach cool.
9. Blend in a blender or food processor. Add to potatoes, stirring to combine.
10. Add the egg and salt. Stir.
11. Add the flour and knead until completely mixed together and a ball is formed.
12. Rest the dough for 5 minutes.
13. Take a part of the dough, and, with the help of some flour, roll the dough into a sausage shape of 1.5 cm in diameter.
14. Cut each sausage into 2 cm (0.80 inches) pieces.
15. Take a piece and roll it against the tines of a fork with your index finger – each gnocco should be shaped like a C – and place on a floured wooden surface. Repeat until all pieces are used.
16. Take a big pot of water, add a handful of cooking salt, and bring to a boil.
17. Add gnocchi and cook until they float – usually 2 or 3 minutes.
18. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide frying pan. Add the onion and sage and fry gently for one minute.
19. When gnocchi are ready, drain and place into the pan with onions, butter, and sage. Stir and serve.
270 g (9 1/2 oz) thin veal steaks
32 mL (1/8 cup) lemon juice – 1 lemon
32 mL (1/8 cup) water
50 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 tsp flour
What you need
Pan 25 x 6.5 cm (9.85 x 2.55 inches)
1. Beat the steaks with the flat side of a steak mallet to make them thinner.
2. In a pan, melt the butter on a low flame.
3. Add the steaks, cover, and cook for 2 ½ minutes each side on a low flame.
4. Add the lemon juice, water, and salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on a low flame.
5. Uncover, add the flour, stir, and cook on a low flame for 2 or 3 minutes to create a sauce.
6. Serve with the sauce.
What about you? Have you already decided what to cook for Christmas?
Feel free to leave your comments below and…BUON NATALE!
Original image by Alexas_Fotos