Umbria takes its traditional Christmas Day luncheon very seriously. In these 40+ years I have lived here, the menu of that meal has never changed – not even in its smallest detail! Whether I do the cooking for the extended family or whether we are invited by family …the menu has to be the same! Sacred traditions are…sacred indeed.
Preparations begin days ahead making the cappelletti by hand, paying painstaking attention to the filling of the finest ingredients (hearth-roasted/grilled pork, veal and chicken ground with prosciutto, parmesan, celery and nutmeg) and to the thin layers of homemade pasta, closed into a hat-shape and dried for a couple days.
Capon is used – with the addition of a lean piece of veal – to make the broth, flavored with onions, carrots, celery, parsley, cloves, bay leaves and a couple sun-ripened tomatoes (picked at their peak in August and frozen for this very purpose). Brought to a slow boil, it cooks for over four hours to ensure the maximum flavor. Left outside or in a large refrigerator overnight, it is strained through a narrow sieve to eliminate its fat and cooked vegetables.
Houses are decorated beautifully with great attention to handmade ornaments and natural materials.
The broth with these amazing cappelletti are followed by insalata russa and vitello tonné – a perfect combination of delicate flavors.
The following course is galantina (boned capon stuffed with a mixture of ground veal, prosciutto, mortadella, parmesan, celery, carrot, parmesan, nutmeg, pistachios and truffle) and parmigiana di gobbi (an artichoke like vegetable which is grown specifically for this purpose) a complex, rich dish. The large celery-like stalks are peeled, boiled, battered and deep fried and layered with a rich meat ragù, mozzarella and parmesan. The concoction is baked and served hot and crusty. The wine of choice is a well-aged Sagrantino.
Elaborate decorations are everywhere, beautifying the dining room for this special Christmas meal.
Centerpieces are made anew each year from natural materials – usually plucked from the garden.
The more traditional families make their own dessert – ours is a chestnut mousse accompanied by Sagrantino Passito- a heavenly almost end to a leisure, hours-long meal. After all this a slice of Panettone and a bar of Torrone must be served along with a glass of sparkling Spumante – tradition…must be respected. A huge basket of fresh winter fruit follows…before a strong espresso truly ends the meal!
…and so another typical Christmas Day Luncheon was enjoyed by all – the tradition followed to the letter once again!
Best holiday wishes to all!