Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

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10 Italian Inspired Recipes for the Holidays






Liquor /Wine


Liver Paste for Crostate

This is a classic Italian appetizer, especially for special events.

1/2 cup olive oil heated in pan


1 chopped onion

1 chopped celery stalk

1 chopped carrot

Cook until vegetables are soft


1 tablespoon chopped anchovies

2 tablespoons chopped capers

1 pound of chicken livers

Cook until the liver is pink inside and brown outside.  Remove from heat and grind everything into a paste.  Season it with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve it as an appetizer, spread on toasted bread.  I like it with a slice of tomato on top; it balances nicely with the meat flavor.

Cauliflower Soup - Passata

This is a wonderful winter soup, warming, tasty, and a great way to get veggie-avoiders to like their veggies.  You can make the soup with practically any vegetable or bean that you like.

Cook the cauliflower (boil, steam or nuke) and then mash it up well

In a soup saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil

Add some crushed garlic (the amount depends on your tastes) and cook until soft and golden

Mix separately 4 tablespoons of flour for each cup of milk you use (the amount of milk depends on how much soup you wish to make, and how thick you wish it to be with veggies)

Add the milk/flour mixture, and one bullion cube per each two cups of milk you've used, to the saucepan and stir until it is hot and thick (it thickens during a 5 minute boil)

Then add the mashed cauliflower and stir well

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and if you are adventurous, saffron (or curry if you want it hot).  The soup tastes even better the next day, so you can prepare it well ahead of time if necessary.


Whole Fish alla Napoletana

This oven-baked whole fish is simple to prepare, and delicious. 

(If you wish, you can omit the liquid and wrap the fish in foil, and cook it for the same amount of time.)

Stuff a cleaned, whole fish with the following mixture:

2 tablespoons chopped capers

4 cloves chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

the juice of one lemon


Set the stuffed fish in a baking dish and add:

1 cup water

1/2 cup vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

top the fish with a little bit of the stuffing

Cook 20 to 25 minutes in a hot oven, until the liquid evaporates 

Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Chicken alla Marengo

A delicious chicken dish cooks in a saucepan in about 45 minutes, only 15 of which you need to attend to it.  Great dish to cook while everyone is eating appetizers or a previous course.

Clean about 8 pieces of chicken, remove the skin

In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter with 6 tablespoons olive oil

Add the chicken pieces and salt, pepper and nutmeg to your personal tastes, and cook on a high heat for10 minutes to brown the chicken

Then add 1 cup of dry white wine and cook it on a high heat for 5 minutes to evaporate the wine down a bit (this concentrates the wine flavor)

Separately, mix 2 tablespoons of flour with 2 cups of cool broth, then add to the saucepan, stirring well

Cover the saucepan, lower the flame, and let it cook for 30 minutes

Before serving, stir in the juice of one lemon and 1/4 cup chopped parsley.  And it's a good idea to double check your salt, pepper and nutmeg seasoning at this time.


Grilled Duck Breast

A simple, fast, classy meat dish, tasty and healthy too.

Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper to your personal tastes

Heat a frying pan or stove-top grill lightly oiled with olive oil

Place the duck breasts skin side down and let it grill for 5 minutes

Turn the meat and let it grill for another 3 minutes

Turn off the heat and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Then slice it into strips and serve it immediately.

Duck has an intense flavor so sauces are not necessary and usually detract from the flavor of the meat.  But a garnish of freshly chopped tomato, onion and parsley, seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, is refreshing with the dense meat.

Veal in Marsala Sauce

Marsala wine is used much in Italian cooking, in both sweet and savory dishes.  This simple veal dish uses Marsala for a delicious sauce. 

Use your common sense to adjust the ingredient measurements; more meat means more butter and Marsala sauce.

Melt some butter in a frying pan

Add veal fillets and brown on both sides

Add salt, pepper and 1/4 cup Marsala wine

Let the wine evaporate on a high heat for 5 minutes

Separately, mix 1 tablespoon flour with 1/4 cup cold milk, then add this to the pan and stir well

Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes


Baked, Stuffed Tomatoes

This side-dish is best made with big, meaty tomatoes.  I omit measurements, because it's best to tailor this dish to the quantities you have, and your taste and the tastes of your guests.  But as large tomatoes are rather bland, it's best to error on the side of more flavor.

Slice the tomatoes in half and carefully remove the soft centers.

Place them on an oiled baking dish

Stuff the tomato halves with this mixture:

crushed garlic to taste

chopped basil to taste

bread crumbs

grated parmesan cheese, and Pecorino cheese if you have some

add chopped anchovies, capers and olives if you wish, to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the stuffed tomatoes in a hot oven for 30 minutes.  Serve warm.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (Fruit)

This is a simple to make, fancy to serve, and convenient to make ahead of time, dessert.

Wash the fruit and dry with towels (strawberries are natural partners to chocolate, but if you wish, you can use grapes, banana slices, raspberries, orange slices...)

To get the chocolate to the best temperature for dipping, it's a good idea to only melt about 2/3 of your chocolate in a bowl over hot water.  Then remove the warm chocolate from the hot water, and add the remaining chocolate and stir until it is all melted, and cools enough to hold a shape when stirred.

Hold the fruit piece with a toothpick or fork.  Use a spoon to spoon the chocolate over the fruit.  (If you dip the fruit in the chocolate, you risk losing the fruit in the bowl!)

It helps to then quickly tip or turn the fruit nearly upside down, to catch drips.

Set the covered fruit in a foil cup, or on a pan covered with plastic wrap.  Either freeze a few minutes then serve immediately, or set the pan with the fruit in the fridge until serving time.


Marzipan Cookies

In Italy, pastry chefs shape pure almond marzipan into colorful designs.  This cookie makes it easy to do something similar at home.

This is a fun recipe for children, and a delicious cookie that can be shaped into all sorts of forms, creating images and figurines. 

Mix together:

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups flour (you can substitute some ground almonds for some of the flour for a more almondy flavor and texture)

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract (you can also use Amaretto liquor as extra flavoring if you wish)

Separate the dough and color each section with safe, natural food colorings.  Then shape the dough into the desired images and figurines. 

Figurines come out best if chilled in a freezer for at least 10 minutes before cooking.  Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes (cooking times depend on the thickness of the figurines, so try to cook together the ones of similar sizes).

Chocolate Soufflé' Cake

This is a simple cake that comes out looking and tasting very classy.  Something for the real chocolate lover.


Beat together:

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


Stir in:

16 ounces melted chocolate (baking chocolate is best)


Separately, beat to soft peaks:

4 egg whites

a pinch of salt

and adding slowing, 1/2 cup sugar

Slowly stir together the beaten egg white mixture and the chocolate mixture.  Try not to deflate the egg whites too much while mixing.

Pour the batter into a spring-form pan lined with baking paper and cook in a moderate over for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center.

Cool the cake.  It will shrink as it cools.  Remove it carefully from the pan and paper and set it on a serving plate.  Garnish it with whipped cream and raspberry, cherry or strawberry jam.  Some chocoholics like to drizzles a chocolate sauce over the top, too.





Some Holiday Traditions




Italians and Hyphenated Italians eat 40 million Panettone at Christmas and New Years and on the Epiphany.   It is a yeast cake, or sweet bread, made with sultanas and candied fruit.  It rises for over 10 hours into a light, fluffy, domed cake.  It is wonderful eaten fresh, if the cake is fresh.  And wonderful toasted, or cooked into a bread pudding, or made into a trifle, if not so fresh anymore.




It is usually accompanied by Spumanti, a sweet, Italian sparkling wine.  But it is wonderful in the morning or as an afternoon snack, dipped in hot chocolate, tea or caffe-latte. 


There are many wonderful brands of panettone you can buy during the holidays from the major bakers, such as Bauli (who recently purchased the big brands Motta and Alemagna), and some original variations that include chocolate coverings, chocolate chips, and cream fillings.

Many of the top cafe-pasticerie bake their own during the holiday season, but they cost much, much more than the mass produced brands.

Bauli has a permanent staff of 800, and hires in 1200 temporary workers for the months of September, October, November and December, to help them make the panettone fresh for the holiday season.  They use no preservatives, so the cake only stays fresh for up to five months.

The panettone is a Milanese specialty, but it has very old origins in Moorish cuisine, where it was called 'The Elegant Cake'.  And it is indeed an elegant, and light, ending to a holiday meal.






Italian sweets makers go all out during the holidays.  One of the specialties is marzipan candies, candies made of an ground almond paste. 


The origin of marzipan is North African, namely the Moorish empire that ruled peacefully over much of Portugal, Spain and Sicily after the fall of Rome.  So it is not surprise that the most amazing Italian marzipan candies are made in Sicily. 


The candies come in all shapes and sizes and are often works of art, like these that are made to resemble fruit. 




Spumanti and Prosecco

Spumanti are sweet, sparking wines that are not so very strong in alcohol.  They are generally served with desserts.  Many wineries in Italy produce Spumanti, but the most famous is Asti Spumante.  All the wineries sell the most around the holidays but it is on sale year-round for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.

Prosecco is a dry, Italian sparkling wine.  It is drunk all year-round, most often as an aperitif.  You can go into any cafe-bar in Italy and order a glass of Prosecco.  They always have a cold bottle open and ready to pour.  It is a nice alternative to a vermouth martini.





Perfumes are often the gift of choice at this time of year.  I have many Italian perfumes featured on my Soap/Perfume page.


This year I have added some very special perfumes for those who love to live history (they are the same perfume mixes that the ancient Romans used to use) and for those who suffer allergies from western perfumes (oriental perfumes are all natural and rarely cause allergic reactions).


 Oriental Perfumes are concentrated perfumed oils.  They last longer on the skin than western perfumes, have no synthetic chemicals, no alcohol, and no water.  Their scents are luscious.  They are my new passion.  And once you see the beautiful perfume containers, and smell the beautiful scents, they will be your passion too.  I feature two sellers who ship around the world.  One of the sellers offers free samples of scents, you pay only a very low shipping fee.