With the upcoming festive holiday season quickly approaching, it behooves us to delve into the wonderful world of Italian holiday desserts. Few groups exhibit such enchanting delights as do those of Italian ancestry at this time of year. Whether you’re a college student away from home or a business person on a busy schedule, sit back now, and get ready for your next visit to either an Italian home, or a premier Italian restaurant.
The Italian “Festival of the Fishes”
What is considered by many experts as the “ultimate” Italian-American holiday meal, “The Festival of the Fishes,” not only brings participants to a closer spiritual plane in many cases, but it also serves as a platform of not one, but several different main course dinners served on one table. The various desserts are served separately on another, starting with Struffoli.
Struffoli: These honey-coated dough fritters formed in the size of small chickpeas are among the first to go in this Christmas Eve celebration, called the “vigilia.”
Other Typical Italian Holiday Desserts
In the following six items, you’ll sample, if only on a digital device, some of the most exquisite and well-known culinary samples from those with a discriminating taste from the world’s best kitchens–the Italian home kitchen. Whether you celebrate the “Festival of the Fishes” or not, one particularly famous import to the US is panettone.
Panettone: Coming in a cupola shaped style, this sweet bread loaf from Milanese flour uses eggs and butter as its main ingredients. Now, add to it raisins, sugar, candied orange, citron, lemon zest or peel, and genuine vanilla extract, and you’ll soon know why it’s so famous in the US and elsewhere.
Pandoro: Traditionally from Verona, the pandoro is vying in popularity with the panettone. Called the Pan d’Oro, or “golden bread,” it’s shaped like a star with 8 points and dusted with icing, sugar and vanilla resembling miniature Italian Alps.
Panforte: Considered by connoisseurs as the original Italian fruitcake, this spiced fruit and nutty cake goes back in history to the 12th century. Characterized by typical wintry ingredients such as ground Indian cinnamon, cardamom, pungent cloves, nutmeg, honey, and almond nuts, panforte hails from the city of Siena in Tuscany, its name meaning “strong bread.”
Marzipan or Martorana: Said to originate with the Benedictine sisters in Sicily, martorana, shaped in similarity to candied-dusted fruit of various colors and shapes, is also claimed by Germans, the Spaniards, and the French as well. Made with almond flour, almond paste, and sugar, you’ll not know what Heaven is like until you’ve placed these little artistic gems in your mouth.
Torrone: All this being said, it seems that almonds are the most used nuts in culinary circles as far as many Italians are concerned. However, coming up close behind in popularity are hazelnuts. And nowhere can this be seen more than in one of the most popular of Italian desserts, the torrone. A variation of Spain’s “turon,” torrone comes filled with nougat whipped to a much harder consistency. It is made with eggs, honey, sugar, almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts. Some variations come coated in dark chocolate.
Above are some of the most popular Italian desserts made during the holidays, but there are also many more. If you would like a taste of Italian food for yourself this holiday season, visit Italian Garden, located in San Marcos, TX. That said, “buon appetito” and “buon Natale” to you and yours.