And finally Christmas has come and with it the time to plan the menu for celebrating.
My Genoa Christmas menu (but for the starter, which is a family recipe) looks back on what the Genoese folks have always brought to their tables on such a special occasion, but I choose just some dishes among the almost endless number of courses they were used to.
Here it is:
Dill marinated salmon
Natalini in capon broth
Dried and candied fruit and chocolates
Recipes below are for 6/8 servings. But given the number of courses you will probably feed 10 people, or have left overs for relaxing a couple of days!
In the mean time, if you are curious about old Genoa Christmas traditions you can have a look at my post “Genoa Christmas traditions and two floral video tutorial” , where I also share two video tutorial for hand making traditional decorations for your table and your house.
DILL MARINATED SALMON
Salmon, sliced and layered on buttered toast is very common on Italian Christmas tables. This is not, though, a Genoa traditional Christmas dish. However this is one of my favorite course and a traditional recipe of my family which my mum prepares since years, so I want to share it with you. It is very easy to prepare, it prepares by its own actually, and you can serve it on Christmas but also for many days onwards.
1,5 kg of fresh salmon1 celery stick
50 g or rock salt1 small onion
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 glass (100 ml) of marsala wine
- Cut the salmon in two halves longwise, remove bones and entrails being careful to keep the skin attached to the meet.
- Chop roughly the dill and mix with rock salt and marsala wine.
- Spread the mix on both fillets, keeping the skin down side.
- Put one fillet on the other (meat on meat) keeping the skin outside.
- Wrap tight in aluminum paper, close between two plates and put a weight (ab. 2 kg) on top.
- Let marinate for at least 48 hours, turning it upside down after the first 24 hours.
- Before serving drain very well the exceeding water.Cut in thin slice and serve with unsalted butter and toasted bread.
NATALINI IN CAPON BROTH
Genoese macaroni in broth are so connected with Christmas that in Genoa they are also called Natalin or Natalini (“Natale” meaning Christmas in Italian).
They are a typical Liguria shape of pasta and very very ancient too (documents backdates the existence of macaroni in Genoa in 1300). They differ from other Italian macaroni for their particular shape: they look like “penne” but are 20-25 cm long.
There are other versions, however, that want capon broth enriched with finely chopped vegetables, a handful of dried mushrooms and a couple of spoons of tomato paste. The recipe that I follow is instead more “minimal” with the broth is clear.
1 capon (cleaned without entrails, legs and head)
500 g of lean beef
1 celery stick
1 small onion
300 g of Genoese or Natalini macaroni (20 cm long and smooth macaroni)
150 g of sausage
grated Parmesan cheese
- Boil at least 3 liters of water in a large saucepan, toss the vegetables, a pinch of coarse salt and when the water reaches a boil, add the capon and the beef.
- Cook until the meats are tender, then take them out and set aside.
- Strain the broth. If you want to degrease it you can prepare it the day before, leave it to rest in the refrigerator overnight and then remove the fat that will have firmed on the surface. Or you can directly pass the broth in a colander where you will have placed a layer of cotton wool which will retain all the fat contained in the liquid.
- Extract the sausage meat from its casing and cut it into small balls.
- Pour the broth into a large clean pot, bring to a boil and then throw in the Natalini and the sausage balls.
- When the Natalini are cooked, serve them with their broth and the sausage balls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan
CIMA GENOVESE (stuffed beef belly)
Cima genovese, according to someone the “king of cold dishes”, was born as a poor dish.
In fact, it is a bag made with beef belly stuffed with eggs, few cheese, few vegetables and offals, like sweetbreads, brain and back- since ever considered pieces of scraps of little value. When brought to the table, however, in its abundant roundness, it looks like a roast of fine meat, showing off even on the most modest tables. It is served cut in slices like a roast beef.
The dish, also for its laboriousness, was generally reserved for festive lunches. Some people, like me, prepare it at home for Christmas, others cook it for the Easter lunch. However you can find it in Genoa butchers and deli all year long.
Leftovers are extremely good too. You can cut your cima in small cubes and serve it again soaked in meat jelly. Or even better you can cut it in thicker slices which you will soak in egg, bread and then deep fry. Moving.
My recipe does not include traditional offal, which is difficult to find (unless you have booked them it in time by your butcher) and that few people like nowadays. I replace it with baked ham and mortadella. However, if you want to follow the traditional recipe just replace the cold cuts in my recipe with a mix of brain, back and sweetbreads.
1 kg of beef belly
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
100 gr of shelled peas
150 gr of cooked ham cut into small cubes
150 gr of mortadella cut into small cubes
2 spoons of pine nuts
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced marjoram
1 celery stick
1 small onion
- Sew the beef belly with some kitchen thread to obtain a rectangular bag with the shorter side open (you can ask the butcher to do it for you).
- Clean and cut one of the two carrots and the courgette into small cubes. Clean and cut the artichoke into very fine strips.
- In a large pan where you have poured 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, fry the carrots, courgettes, peas and artichokes for a couple of minutes, making sure that they do not fall apart (they must remain firm). Remove the vegetables from the heat and let them cool.
- In a bowl beat the eggs and then add the Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, sautéed vegetables, ham and diced mortadella (or offal diced in small pieces and previously sautéed in some butter) and minced marjoram. Mix and flavor with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
- With the help of a ladle, pour the mixture obtained in the bag of veal, filling it up to half. Then sew very the open side with thread and kitchen needle. To be more sure that the mixture does not come out of the bag, wrap it in a gauze or napkin and tie it with kitchen string.
- Put a large saucepan on the fire with salted water, the remaining carrot, the celery stick and the onion. When the water is lukewarm dip the cima and slow cook it for 2 hours.
- When cooked, take it out and put it to cool in between two plates with a big weight on top which will press squeezing out any broth left inside.
- Serve cold cut into thin slices of about 1 cm.
Roots of Chiavari, also known as “scorzonera”, are tubers very common in Liguria. They look like carrots, but are pointer, withe and with long green leaves on their head. Their taste is bitter.
The traditional salad is very easy to prepare. After having cleaned them very well from the soil, you cut them into rounds ab 2cm thick and boil for 10-15 minutes in water and white wine vinegar in equal parts. Then you drain them and season with oil, salt and few black pepper.
Since few years I handmade the traditional Genoese pandolce following the recipe of the Genoa historical pastry shop Pasticceria Villa – Profumo.
I bake pandolce twice in December. At the beginning of the second week I prepare 6 to 8 small pandolci, which I then wrap as present for friends. Then I bake it again three / four days before Christmas, this time halving the doses of my recipe, and shape 2 medium pandolci which I will bring of the table on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day. I prepare them few days in advance so the flavors mix and mingle better and the cake gets the right crumbliness.
You can find the recipe of pandolce basso on the blog, with a video of my experience in Villa Profumo laboratory and step-by-step recipe.
A proper celebrating meal cannot end without a glass of meditational wine in which to dip dry biscuits that greedily absorb the liquid. You eat them one after the other, chatting with your fellows, and the serving plate get empty without even realizing it.
Homemade anicini are the perfect example of a Christmas tradition that matches this little passion of mine. You prepare them prepare easily, they are excellent and last for a long time. To keep in mind not only at Christmas!
DRIED AND CANDIED FRUITS AND CHOCOLATES
Bringing dried and candied fruit to the table on Christmas is a centuries-old tradition in Genoa. Dried and candied fruit, due to their exotic nature and to the high price, have always meant prosperity and luck and therefore has always been very auspicious on the tables of the Genoese. In old specialized Genoese shops, such as Fratelli Armanino or Romanengo the queue under Christmas is mileage!
You can indulge in the choice! Figs and walnuts, almonds, dates, dried apricots, pineapples, blueberries, and the more the merrier!
Even for chocolate, maximum freedom of choice. I love to prepared some very simple and very cheerful chocolates. I melt dark and withe chocolate, pour them in a baking tray mixing them with a tooth pick to create a nice pattern and then I pour on top some pieces of green pistachios, orange dried apricots, red dried cherries and walnuts. I let it cool down and then I cut it roughly in triangles with a sharp knife.
If you are going to prepare my menu, here you are the .pdf file of the Italian Riviera Christmas feast menu here below that you can print and put on your Christmas table for your guest!
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