Christmas holidays in Rome: 5 traditional dishes
Decorated for the Christmas holidays, sparkling with lights and full of people hurrying to buy the last presents: during Christmas holidays Rome is more alive than ever.
The most important preparations are made by families for three moments that in Rome (and in the whole of Italy) are considered almost sacred: the dinner on Christmas’ Eve, the lunch on Christmas day, and the lunch on New Year’s Day.
Rituals and personal recipes change from family to family, however, here are five dishes that cannot be missing from the tables of Roman families during the holidays.
Fritto misto alla Romana (Mixed Roman style fry)
This is a triumph of vegetables: Artichokes, broccoli, thistles, potatoes, courgettes (even if they are not seasonal), cabbages and cauliflowers. The vegetables, straight-up fried without having been parboiled, must have a thick and crunchy breading, made with mineral water. Besides the vegetables, there can also be pieces of cod, squids or baby octopus, also breaded and fried.
Undisputed protagonist of the Christmas’ Eve dinner is the broccoli (the Roman ones) stewed in Arzilla broth, an ancient recipe made with humble ingredients, today hard to find in the city’s restaurants. Made with two typical ingredients of the region, Roman broccoli (a vegetable with an amazingly geometrical shape) and with the thornback ray, found along the Roman coast and called Arzilla, this soup is eaten with broken spaghetti or pasta leftovers. Warm and invigorating, it is the typical first course on the night of the 24th of December.
Another traditional and famous dish of the Roman cuisine: stracciatella. It is a soup made with eggs, previously beaten with a little Parmesan cheese, nutmeg and grated lemon skin, then cooked in boiling meat broth, mixing constantly with a whisk.
The main dish of the Christmas’ Eve dinner is the abbacchio, a baby lamb, not older than six months, cooked in the oven, grated or breaded and fried, served with potatoes. It is usually called alla scottadito (burned-fingers) because it should be eaten while it’s still hot and with the fingers. Besides potatoes, it can also be served with artichokes or puntarelle (a variant of chicory).
At the end of the Christmas lunch, Romans eat pangiallo (yellow bread), a dessert of ancient origins, dating back to the Roman Empire. Pangiallo is prepared with nuts, chocolate, raisins, candied fruits and honey. The shape and color remind of a little sun, considered a symbol of good omen after the winter solstice of the 21st of December.
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