Christmas holidays in Italy is not just the 25th, but we celebrate the 26 as well, St. Stephen Day, the one that in Canada is called Boxing Day.
The frenzy starts on the 24, with the last minute shopping. Stores are open until very late. Then, according to individual family traditions, there is the midnight Mass and the big dinner. Or, for others just the Christmas Day dinner. I hardly remenber when as a child we used to go to the midnight mass. But I do recall the cold! Churches were not heated back then.
But then grandma used to make a delicious mulled wine. Oh, yes for us children too! She used to bring it a boil and then burned it for a long time so that the alcohol would “burn” too. I’m not so sure, our cheeks were so hot, and we were all so happy!
On Christmas there was more church again, the big Mass where there was a lot of singing. Finally home to a great meal, which usually involved tortellini in broth, then the second course was usually bollito misto (boiled meat—that was necessary in order to have the broth) that was served with sauces, such as mostarda (mostarda referred to a simple sauce or condiment that was both sweet and spicy), and Pearà (Pearà, Veronese dialect term, literally “peppered” is a traditional Veronese sauce made with bread crumbs, beef and hen stock, beef marrow and black pepper. It is served exclusively together with bollito misto, making lesso and pearà (lesso is Venetian for bollito), a typical dish unique to Verona and its surroundings. That was because my grandmother was from that area. I never had it again after those days. Then there was a roasted poultry, I recall either the Guinea Hen, or a small female turkey. Mashed potatoes to complete.
And then the star of the day. Either Panettone or Pandoro. WOW! Grandma managed also to give us each a bar of torrone.
Panettone is a cake from Milan. It seems that it already existed in 1200 but its history is lost between legend and reality. But it was apparently created by a guy name Toni (Tony); hence the “pan de Toni“. This cake is actually very complicated to make.
Pandoro has Veronese origins and it seems that its origins date back to ancient Rome. The recipe we know is a nineteenth-century evolution. In 1894, however, Domenico Melegatti deposited the recipe to the patent office. Sadly, this year Melegatti went bankrupt. Two young entrepreneurs recently bought it and managed to have the cakes on all supermarkets on time for Christmas.
Best of wishes to the Melegatti enterprise.