Christmas Cooking in Naples
The Christmas meal in Naples, the Amalfi Coast and the Region of Campania is a three-day marathon of eating. There is no way out of it. If you are invited to the home of a Neapolitan friend just beware—the antipasti is exactly that, just the first dish in a long series of many. Christmas Eve is all about fish. The meal starts around 8PM and lasts late into the night. Some families attend midnight mass and many children receive their gifts at midnight. Baby Jesus also arrives in his nativity manger at this time.
Christmas Day is for Minestra Maritata, a slow cooked broth with winter greens. Finally December 26th is St. Stephen's Day. For most families, this means leftovers. While you may not be in Italy for the holidays this year, you can certainly cook like a Neapolitan with this recipe guide.
Enjoy marinated seafood, octopus salad and olives. You can buy ahead of time at an Italian market and arrange on a big platter or individuals plates. Let the marathon begin! Some families also serve extremely fine buffalo mozzarella cheese. Just never on the same plate as the seafood, please.
Our family favorite is Spaghetti alle Vongole. Other typical dishes include Risotto alla Pescatore (seafood risotto) and/ or Linguine alle Cozze (linguine with mussels). The challenge is not to pig out on pasta because there are many...many.... courses yet to come. Oink, Oink……
Fish comes baked and fried on Christmas Eve. We often prepare Orata, Branzino and Spigola (sea bass) acqua pazza style with tomatoes, parsley, garlic and hot peppers. For a simple recipe you can try Sauced & Found’s Orata in Cartoccio. Fried main dishes include Baccalà Fritta (fried cod) and Capitone Fritto (fried eel). Old Italian nonnas begin roaming the fish markets around December 23rd looking for the freshest, fattest eels. Nonna brings these eels home LIVE where they slither around in the kitchen before someone kills them, breads them and fries them. Capitone are actually quite delicious, but maybe stick to the fried cod this year!
The most iconic Neapolitan side dish is Insalata di Rinforzo, a dish of marinated cauliflower, peppers, capers, olives and anchovies. Make it a ahead of time and let it marinate. You may not want this dish after eating everything else, but nonna doesn’t care. She will make you eat it anyway because IT’S TRADITION!!!! Broccoli di Natale or Christmas Broccoli is another standard contorno. This winter green is something of a cross between broccoli rabe and the more standard broccoli. Often we boil and add lemon, garlic and olive oil.
No Neapolitan Christmas is complete without Struffoli! Try Sauced & Found’s recipe for an easy make ahead dessert that is fun to prepare in a large group. You can bake or fry the little cake balls before drenching in honey and sprinkles.
Christmas Day Recovery
Make a batch of Minestra Maritata ahead of time and serve after the madness of Christmas morning. By slowly simmering a variety of meats and then adding mixed winter chicories, you are ready for Christmas Day with the best of Neapolitan comfort foods.
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