Expedia asked me to create a Christmas recipe based on one of their holiday destinations. I chose Italy as I love Italian food, and also their way of life- good food, wine conversation and putting family first.
An Italian Themed Christmas Menu
I haven't fully planned out my Vegetarian Italian Christmas Menu but I do know that it would start off with olives, bread and a glass of Prosecco (Salute!).
Traditionally, Italians don't eat the bread before their meal, they use it to soak up the sauces at the end, however, I love the combination of bread and olives, and it is Christmas after all...
We would then move on to an Italian vegetable soup, such as roasted chestnut with fresh crunchy bread sticks or a salad of roasted vegetables.
Our Italian main would have to be pasta. A butternut squash tortellini in broth would make a rich, festive meal.
Next we come to dessert. Most people think of Panettone as an Italian Chrstmas bread or pudding. As I'm not a fan of dried fruit in puddings (I'm not keen on Christmas pudding or cake either which is quite awkward at Christmas time) then I would make a star shaped Pandoro bread instead and serve with mascarpone and almonds. Dave often makes Tiramisu so that would be offered too.
Also as a dessert option we would have Italian Vanilla Christmas Cookies. Traditionally, these are actually Anise cookies which have an aniseed flavour. As it can be hard to get hold of Anise locally, I made a vanilla version. If you prefer traditional anise just swap the vanilla essence for anise. They look so pretty on the Christmas table and their delicious taste and texture goes down well too.
We would end our Italian Christmas Feast with Italian Coffee and Cantucci Cookies.
If you'd like to make your own Italian Vanilla Christmas Cookies, read on for the recipe:
For the Cookies
100g caster sugar
300g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk
For the Icing
125g icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Hundreds and Thousands (Sugar strands/sprinkles)
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4 (350F/180C)
Grease one or two baking trays.
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Stir the plain flour and baking powder.
Add whisked eggs and vanilla essence.
Add flour mixture one third at a time. In between adding each third add one egg and stir well.
Mix in until it begins to form a dough. It does not need to be as dry as a biscuit dough.
Your dough is ready when it can be rolled into balls easily but the mixture still remains wet (as seen in the picture). If your dough is too dry, add milk, if too wet add flour.
Roll into balls of 3/4 to 1 inch. I actually did mine on the larger side and they worked out fine too.
Leave space between each cookie for them to rise.
Bake cookies for 10 - 15 minutes. They won't go brown (unless overcooked) but may be golden and appear to crack on top. Inside will remain a soft sponge.
Place Cookies onto a cooling try.
Once cool prepare dripping icing by mixing icing sugar, vanilla essence and milk together until they reach the correct consistency (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon).
Dunk each Cookie Ball into the icing. If needed pour icing over too.
Sprinkle hundreds and thousands on top to decorate.
Leave to set.
Once ready, serve or store in an airtight container (they usually keep up to one week).
They are so cute and very moreish. As well as fun, festive Italian pudding, they also make a great homemade Christmas gift, don't you think?
What dishes would be on your Italian Christmas Menu?
With thanks to Expedia who gifted a voucher and hamper for writing this post as part of the #expediaworldonaplate challenge