Christmas has always been considered an important moment of social gathering, as well as a very special occasion in which you can taste dishes that cannot be found during the year. This, especially in the past, was mostly true for sweet food, which were not always available on everyone's tables and represented the symbol of the celebration par excellence.
From north to south, from seaside to the mountains, each area has its own typical Christmas cake, delicious and born to be at km 0, as the ingredients were often a perfect synthesis of the identity of the place.
Let's start our journey and discover some of them!
Pangiallo Romano. One of the oldest and most characteristic desserts of our tradition, because it is a symbol of Sol Invictus (or Sole Vincitore), or the Roman holiday from which the Christian Christmas took shape. It was used to prepare it on the day of the Winter Solstice, as an auspicious sign that the long winter night would take its course and give way again to the bright spring sun, hence its golden colour, obtained with a mixture of flour and spices, and sometimes even saffron. In the past, the dried pits of summer fruit were used for the preparation; today almonds and hazelnuts are preferred, and some also add a little chocolate.
Certosino Bolognese, also called Panspeziale. The most colorful candied fruit dessert imaginable. Its origin dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was produced by pharmacists (from which it seems that its name derives, precisely because it was prepared precisely by the "speziali"), while later it was the Carthusian friars who cooked it and transformed it into a tradition. A very abundant dessert, it is prepared with flour, honey, candied fruit (citron), almonds, dark chocolate, raisins, pine nuts, butter, aniseed and cinnamon. Some also use mustard, and as a final touch a polish with honey.
Struffoli Napoletani. Honey is the protagonist of many of the Christmas desserts, but in none it is as evident as in the Neapolitan struffoli (or cicerchiate). Of unclear origin - perhaps born in Greece, where a similar preparation still exists, or inheritance of the Andalusian dominion - struffoli are one of the most famous desserts in all of Italy thanks to their simplicity and captivating taste. In fact, they are balls of dough fried in butter or lard, covered with hot honey and decorated as desired with candied fruit or colored sprinkles.
Cartellate. Widespread in Puglia, Calabria and Basilicata, they are crumpled and fried pancakes to be enriched with vincotto of must or with honey and cinnamon. The name recalls its crumpled shape, similar to a basket made up of ribbons of a thin sheet of pasta, obtained with flour, oil and white wine, joined together and wrapped around itself to form a sort of choreographic "rose" with cavities and openings, which will then be fried in plenty of oil. Some prefer chocolate instead of vincotto, or simply icing sugar.
Gubana. It is a typical Friulian dessert dedicated to great festive periods, such as weddings, festivals, Easter and, precisely, Christmas. Numerous variations can be found throughout Eastern Europe even if its origin seems to date back to the Natisone Valleys, on the border with Slovenia, where traces of it can already be found in the Middle Ages. Dessert made from leavened dough, usually with a filling of dry biscuits and dried fruit, all embellished with grappa or rum, even if the ingredients can vary from family to family, depending on one's tastes. The name derives from "guba" which in Slovenian means fold, recalling the gestures that are performed to give the pasta the appearance of an enormous snail.
These are just five of the many traditional desserts that can be found in various regions of Italy, so different and all delicious. An excellent reason to take a Christmas tour in search of each specialty.