All tagged Christmas Cooking in Naples
We can’t all spend Christmas in the best city in the world- and by that I mean Naples. Naples at Christmas is baroque. It is sensual. It smells like salted cod and tastes like cinnamon and almonds. The intricate nativity scenes for which Naples is famous may not accurately depict the birth of Jesus (pretty sure the magi were not there on the same night JC gasped his first breath) but they most assuredly capture the spirit of everyday life in Naples. In fact if you are in New York, you can visit a Neapolitan nativity at the Met this year. But if you are in Naples or feel like imagining you are, follow this simple Christmas walking guide, to experience the frenetic energy that is Napoli at Christmas. Follow the Sauced & Found google map above to stay on course.
Christmas Eve is a fish lovers dream across the South of Italy. In the days leading up to the holiday, fish markets across Naples work over time to keep up with demand. There are many nouveau preparations of old favorites. But classics are classics for a reason. Below is a by no means exhaustive guide to Neapolitan Christmas fish and their simple preparations!
Italy is ostensibly Catholic. We check liturgical calendars before leaving the house to determine what saint day it is and whether we need to wish a friend a congratulatory ‘auguri’ on any given day. Everyday is someone’s saint day after all, and some people even get to have more than one. Each day has a saint and each saint has a sweet. And while one can quibble as to how devout your average Italian is, the Advent season is without a doubt nationally celebrated occasion. But what is the Advent and what does it mean to the everyday Italian?
The Christmas meal in Naples and the province 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. Stephens 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.
Minestra Maritata gave rise to what Americans call “Italian Wedding Soup.” This soup is not in fact served at weddings. Maritata means married in Italian and refers to the married flavors of rich meat broth and bitter wintergreens. This is dish is typical of Napoli’s characteristic coquina povera (poor man’s cuisine) and is often served on the Christmas Day. I served it a week late because as mentioned, I had no electricity for the Christmas holiday. You will notice that I add little meatballs or polpettine. In Naples this is uncommon, however in Agerola it is preferred. Serve as you wish.
Consisting of cornichon, red peppers, capers, olives and cauliflower, insalata di rinforzo is made for Christmas Eve dinner and then served again for the New Years feast, as Neapolitan believe the flavors become “reinforced” the longer they marinate. Baccalà (cod) is a classic Christmas dish because as we know, Neapolitans have a bit of a thing for fish around the Christmas season.