Top 3 traditional Italian food at Christmas

The traditional Italian food at Christmas is made of a great variety of recipes and it is an example of the irreplaceable traditional Italian cuisine. It is difficult to refer to a single culinary tradition in Italy because every family, city, and region has its own typical Christmas dishes. There are those who prefer to meet for dinner on December 24th and those who choose to have lunch on December 25th. However, there is a main and unique characteristic of Italian food at Christmas: abundance.


On the 24th, the Christmas Eve (la vigilia di natale) starts with the traditional cenone. This word literally means “the big dinner”. The Italian cenone has its rules.The first of which is to eat fish exclusively. Obviously, it is very difficult to name all the dishes that shape the traditional Italian food at Christmas since they change depending on the area. For example, Octopus and Potato Salad is a typical Italian food for Christmas Eve in Puglia. This is a recipe prepared in advance that can be served with a baking dish. The cenone may also begin with antipasti, appetizers and followed by spaghetti with clams, fish, vegetables, fresh fruit and nougat. The 25th is also celebrated with meals, family greetings and meetings with friends. On the 25th you can eat meat.

Traditional sweets in Italy at Christmas

It is well known the importance of sweets in Italy at Christmas and there are some that you can find on every single Italian table:

    • Torrone: soft or hard, made with almond, cocoa, and chocolate.
    • Panettone: a sweet baked bread with fruits and raisins.
  • Pandoro: similar to Panettone but without fruits. It often contains chocolate chips.

Sometimes panettone and pandoro are both covered with Mascarpone sauce, a cream made with Mascarpone cheese and eggs (very soft and tasty). This combination is the best Christmas dessert.


Most famous Italian desserts and Christmas sweets are so irresistible, that they remain in high demand throughout the year. Regional specialties have become national symbols, becoming a decorative and tasteful detail of the cosmopolitan Christmas menus.

Besides these well-known Panettone, Pandoro, and Torrone, there are some other typical sweets with a long tradition that will tipically make their way to kitchen tables throughout Italy. The map of Italy can be redesigned with the wide variety of Italian products that bring delight to each region at Christmas.

Italian sheets by regions

    • Tronchetto (Piedmont): a mixture of chocolate, brandy and mascarpone.
    • Zelten (Trentino-Alto Adige): a fruity and spiced bread.
    • Pandolce (Liguria): a focaccia of candied fruit and raisin.
  • Ricciarelli (Tuscany): inimitable almond-based Christmas cookies.

If you want to discover more about Italian food! Check our post about 50 useful Italian words for food.

If you have decided to visit Italy and try the traditional Italian food at Christmas for yourself, or you want to know more about the culture, customs or language of this beautiful country, you can contact us. The Italian language is part of the culture of the country itself and we can help you to speak it correctly.