Our Christmas Dinner

Every year since Troy and I got married (and one year prior) we have hosted an International Christmas dinner for my parents. It started out on a fluke. The first year we were together, we were talking to my parents and for the first time, they had no plans for Christmas Dinner. My mom makes a huge brunch and has everyone over. Then, my brother and wife (at the time) usually had a big Christmas dinner and my parents would go over there (as did I). Well, long story short (and without the icky drama...LOL) my sister-in-law chose to only invite her family to dinner. Yeah, I know. So, Troy and I decided to do something different and invited my parents over to my apartment and we would make dinner for them. It turned into a non-traditional Christmas dinner.

We ended up really enjoying it and decided that it would be fun to cook a traditional Christmas dinner from a different country every year. We would research out that countries traditional recipes and stories and even decorations.

After we ate dinner that first year, we each wrote down 3 different countries that we would like to try out next year and then a country was pulled out of the hat. And that is what we have done every year. We have had some amazing meals! And we have learned so much about other countries and their holiday traditions.

This year was our 11th International Christmas Dinner. This year was Italy. I only took one picture of our food! I have a picture of our Seafood Salad course and that is it! I can't believe I forgot to take pictures! I was just having too much fun and we were busy serving up the individual courses. If you would like to see out Christmas tablescape for this meal, just go to this post!

Here is the menu we prepared and served for this year's Italian Dinner:

Bere Confortevoli (cocktail

Sogni di Notte or Dreams in the Night

1 oz vodka
1 oz coffee liqueur
1 T amaretto liqueur
4 oz cream

Antipasti Freddi (Cold Appetizers)

Selezione di Antipasti alla Favorita

A platter of Italian meats, cheeses, and other nibbles;

Antipasta Caldi (Hot Appetizers)

Spiedini di Mozzarella e Crudo

Mozzarella pearls, wrapped in Parma ham, (Prosciutto) threaded onto skewers with cherry tomatoes then grilled.

Troy baked mini Italian bread loaves and I made up a dipping oil.

Zuppa (soup)

Stracciatella (Little Rags)

About 2 quarts (liters) broth
4 eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley (optional)
3-4 tablespoons semolina (optional, some recipes call for it)
A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)Preparation:

Eggs and broth -- hard to devise a better match! In the past custom dictated it be eaten at least once a week, but now its popularity has declined. However, it remains in the archives of authentic Roman cuisine, always ready to reemerge if needed.

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina (If you're including it), grated cheese, and, if you're using them, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture in one fell swoop, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork so as to break up the egg, which will form fine light flakes, minute rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve, with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.


Marinati Insalata di mare (marinated seafood salad)

1/2 pound sea scallops
1/4 pound medium shrimp
1/2 pound fresh mussels
1/4 pound calamari rings
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 lemon, sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6 cups mixed salad greens
freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Cook scallops, shrimp, mussels, and calamari in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain. Peel the shrimp, and shell the scallops and mussels.
Place cooked seafood and olives in a large bowl, and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, chives, and red pepper flakes. Chill for 1 hour.
Divide salad greens onto 6 plates or salad bowls. Spoon seafood over greens. Garnish with slices of lemon and red onions. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Primi Piatti (First Course)

Polpettone (Stuffed meatballs) Ripieno de Gnocci

4 hard boiled egg yolks
1/2 c frozen or canned spinach
1/2 lb Italian Sausage
1 lb ground beef
8 thin slices provolone cheese
1 pint fresh mushrooms (sliced)
1 c sweet red wine
1T beef base
2 C water

Divide spinach into fourths and press each fourth out into a flat patty, roll each spinach patty around an egg yolk, sealing the ends carefully so no egg yolk shows. Divide the sausage into fourths, press each fourth out flat, and roll it around the spinach encased yolks, again pressing tightly to seal the ends and making sure no spinach is showing through. Divide the ground beef into fourths, press each fourth out flat and thin. Wrap each sausage ball in provolone cheese and then wrap each one in ground beef, sealing all edges and making sure no cheese is exposed. (Pressing the spinach, sausage and ground beef flat works best if you use saran wrap or waxed paper and press it between layers.)

Chill at least an hour and if possible overnight.

Brown the meatballs in a hot skillet with a little olive oil added. Then remove from the pan and place in a shallow baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, deglaze the skillet with red wine, remove any large pieces of meat with a slotted spoon or strainer.
Add the beef base, and water and stir until beef base is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and add mushrooms, simmer on low heat while meatballs cook.

After 45 minutes, remove meatballs from the oven and place them back in the skillet with the mushroom gravy, pour any juice and dripped cheese from the baking dish over the meatballs. cover and simmer on stovetop, basting occasionally, until gravy has thickened slightly.

Serve with Gnocci, ladling gravy over both the meatball and the gnocci.

Secondi Piatti (Second or Main Course)

Involtini de Polenta

4 5-6 oz thin pork loin chops
1 cup finely crumbled bread (remove and discard the crust) or bread crumbs
3 ounces (75 g) grated pecorino (you'll want fairly, though not extremely sharp cheese here)
1/4 lb fresh ricotta
3 tablespoons minced parsley
2 cloves finely minced garlic
Coarsely ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Begin by pounding the slices of meat with a pounder to flatten them out. Combine the crumbled bread with the cheese, parsley and garlic, and season the mixture to taste with salt and coarsely ground pepper. Rub the slices of meat with olive oil and dredge them in the bread crumbs, then roll them up and stick them with skewers so they stay closed. Set them over the coals and cook them until done, basting them with more olive oil. Serve them hot.

Creamy Polenta
2 cups water
Salt to taste
1/2 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream cheese

Heat water lightly seasoned with salt to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.

Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Finish by stirring in the cream cheese and salt to taste.

If preparing in advance, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 5 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff.

Frutta (dessert)


4 eggs
1/2 c sugar
4 oz sweet red wine
1/2 lb marscapone
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 t vanilla

In a bain marie, or in a stainless bowl, over boiling water, combine
4 egg yolks
1/4 c sugar
4 oz sweet red wine
2 packages of lady fingers
1 1/2 c espresso

Heat, stirring constantly, until you see bubbles forming, but do not allow to boil, the mixture should form thin ribbons when you lift the spoon.
Remove from heat and add.

1/2 lb marscapone cheese

stir until combined, and allow to cool. In a separate bowl, beat the whites from the four eggs until they form stiff peaks

In another bowl, whip 1/2 pint of heavy cream, until it forms stiff peaks. add remaining sugar and vanilla. Fold the cream and the egg whites together, set aside about a cup, and to the remaining add the egg yolk/marscapone mixture and fold gently until blended.
This will form your filling.

pour some espresso into a pie plate or other plate, a few at a time, dip the lady fingers in the espresso, and place them in the bottom of a glass baking dish, lining the entire bottom of the dish.

Divide the filling in half and spoon one half over the lady fingers, spreading it with a spatula into a flat even layer. Repeat with a layer of dipped lady fingers and a layer of filling. Top with the cream/egg whites that you set aside, and dust with cocoa powder.

Chill overnight

Dessert was served with espresso. We even bought a new espresso maker (the kind that goes on top of the stove)

I will show the tablescape for our Christmas dinner on Thursday!

And next year will be ..........RUSSIA!!

I am linking this post to:

Tempt My Tummy at Blessed with Grace

Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff

Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

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  1. Looks like a pretty amazing menu. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts.

  2. Everything looks yummy, but the seafood salad would have been my favorite.

  3. What a great idea and such a fun tradition! I love trying new things and learning another countries traditions is super fun! Meal sounds amazing....yum!

  4. That is such a neat idea and I am so hungry after reading your menu!! Happy New Year and thanks for linking to TMTT.

  5. That is such a fabulous idea! Such a complete meal plan. Reading it made me hungry!

    Thanks for sharing. :-)

  6. What a fantastic idea! I want to know what other country's you visited for Christmas dinner!! Your Italian menu sounds delishous. I bet you had a great time.
    Let me wish you and your family a very Happy New Year.

  7. Like everyone has already said, what a fantastic idea! After the big traditional turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, I really ready for something different at Christmas. I've done this in the past, but never thought to do traditional dishes from another country. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!

    That salad though will definitely be served at The Hut any time of year.

    Happy 2010! So, what time is dinner next year?

  8. I am trying the soup! We used to do something similar in January. Such a cool idea.

  9. We used to invite international students to our home over the holidays and had great fun trying different international recipes. Would enjoy hearing more about which countries you have VISITED!! And, by the way, that was a MARVELOUS idea for the butter pats!! R P

  10. I enjoyed reading how this tradition started. And your menu sounds outstanding, the very best of Italy. Delicious!

  11. That is a really nice story! And look how its evolved! Fantastic idea for adventurous people... I tried suggesting a "different Menu" this year and people looked so hurt and shocked I dropped the subject like a raw turkey going into hot oil! We had traditional... *yawn*
    I'm having a little New Years Give away too... stop by and enter if you get a chance...
    ~Really Rainey~

  12. What a great idea for a Christmas dinner! If you are making some of these traditional Italian meals in the future, try using Volpi Foods for you Italian meats! They have some great prosciutto, salami and other specialty Italian meats. I work for them and can attest to their quality meat. Definitely worth a try!


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your ideas. If you ask a question, I will answer it here in a comment back to you. Please check back! Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful day! Diann :)