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Christmas in Tuscany: traditional dishes

Christmas in Tuscany: traditional dishes

Christmas lunch in Italy, like around the world, is sacred and features some indispensable dishes. Rich appetizers, classic tortellini in broth (or other types of filled pasta depending on the region), meat or fish dishes, pandoro and panettone according to preferences, dried fruits, and citrus.

But each region has its own, let’s see in general what is eaten at Christmas in Tuscany.

Christmas Lunch in Tuscany

A classic Christmas lunch in Tuscany will have chicken liver crostini as an appetizer. Throughout Tuscany, each family prepares its own version, and they are straightforward to make: chicken livers are sautéed in a pan with a sofrito of onion, celery, and carrot, then deglazed with white wine. They are then cut with a knife and returned to the pan, adjusting with salt and pepper but without overdoing it: the savoriness of the dish comes from chopped anchovies and capers. Tuscan bread (without salt) and perhaps slightly stale, slightly moistened and baked in the oven to make it crispy.

All that’s left is to spread the chicken livers and serve your crostini on a serving dish: they won’t last long.
But it’s not a Christmas appetizer if it’s not rich!
Therefore, a traditional Tuscan appetizer should contain mixed cold cuts, pecorino cheese, and olives. A vegetarian (or vegan) alternative is Cecina (chickpea tart) to be served warm.

Traditional main courses

For main courses, there are different schools of thought.
We cannot ignore cappelletti in broth: you can buy them, but we recommend making the broth at home; it has a completely different flavor. The broth for cappelletti is made with capon boiled the day before in cold water with onion, carrot, and celery. The capon can be eaten boiled (delicious), and the broth obtained should be used the next day to cook the cappelletti.

Another traditional first course for Christmas lunch is fresh egg pasta with a filling of spinach and ricotta or the more classic potato filling (typical of Mugello). The sauce should be rich: a simple meat ragù will be fine, but to add prestige to their tables, Tuscans love to use game meat. For those who enjoy game, you can prepare a wild boar or hare sauce. For a vegetarian version, just toss your ravioli or tortelli with butter and sage leaves.

What’s Eaten as a Main Course at Christmas Lunch in Tuscany

Main course: pork loin roast Arista is the Tuscan name for roasted pork loin, very common in Sunday lunches, especially in Florence. Tuscan Arista is very easy to prepare and is seasoned with garlic, fresh rosemary, sage, salt, and extra virgin olive oil.

Traditional Tuscan Christmas Sweets

We conclude the meal with a traditional Tuscan Christmas dessert with a recipe that is a thousand years old: Panforte + some special Christmas biscuits like “cavallucci” and “ricciarelli” accompanied by Vin Santo. Certainly, cantucci will not be missing, but those are never absent.

Panforte is a dense, honeyed sweet of medieval origin. Initially prepared by monks in monasteries and symbolically given on special occasions, it later passed into the hands of apothecaries: sugar, almonds, candied fruit, and spices were precious ingredients like gold, and like gold, they were stored by these figures halfway between an alchemist and a pharmacist, in large glass jars on dark wooden shelves.

Spices are what make it unique, a Tuscan peppery bread. Its pungent and honeyed aroma is, for me, the true scent of Christmas, along with that of almonds and orange peels from ricciarelli.

Cavallucci are one of the most famous Christmas delicacies in Tuscany, dating back to the Renaissance when the church council gave panforte and cavallucci to its members. Originally from Siena, these old-fashioned biscuits have a soft texture and are made with type 00 flour, nuts, candied fruit, anise seeds, and spices.
No one knows the exact origin of their name (which comes from horse). Some believe it comes from their shape, with a central groove resembling a horse’s hoof, or perhaps because a small horse was once stamped on them. Others emphasize how they were often consumed by roadhouse workers, where travelers stopped to rest and change horses.
Originally simpler, with no nuts or candied fruit, only flour, honey, sugar, and anise seeds, they have enriched over the centuries to satisfy the increasingly demanding tastes of the bourgeoisie.

Midway between a small shortcrust pastry and an almond biscuit, ricciarelli are characterized by a dusting of powdered sugar, a soft interior that melts in the mouth, and a strong aroma of bitter almonds. The origin of Sienese ricciarelli dates back to the 15th century: almond paste – in the form of marzipan or Marzapanetti – was once highly appreciated in the city, and Siena was famous even beyond its territory for its production. Almond paste biscuits were reserved for sumptuous Lord’s banquets because they consisted of precious ingredients, mainly almonds and sugar. They were so valuable and refined that marzipan sweets were sold in apothecary shops alongside the medicines and spices of the time.

Today, along with panforte, ricciarelli are perhaps one of the most characteristic Sienese sweets. During the Christmas season, you can find them in all pastry shops and bakeries in Siena. Despite being a traditional recipe, they are also a modern-flavored dessert since they are naturally gluten and lactose-free, making them a Christmas biscuit that satisfies everyone’s needs.

Christmas menu at Castello di Gargonza

And if you would like to celebrate a special Christmas within the walls of a medieval castle, Castello di Gargonza offers its menu for the occasion:

Welcome aperitif, sparkling bubbles with the frivolities of the kitchen to welcome you into the warmth of our tables.

Cod creamed in extra virgin olive oil


Roché of livers

Capon terrine with berry glaze

Purple broccoli flan with De’ Magi blue cheese fondue


Agnolotti in capon broth

Risotto with marrow and saffron


Mixed boiled meat with a triptych of sauces and sweet and sour giardiniera


Cold lemon cake with Gin reduction

Traditional panettone with hot Vin Santo cream


From the cellar

Vermentino Costa Toscana, Marchesi Ginori Lisci, 2022

Montescudaio DOC Merlot Bio, Marchesi Ginori Lisci 2020

€70.00 per person including wines

For children with a seat at the table €30.00 per person.

The same menu is available for celiacs.

For info and reservations or tel. 0575/847021

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