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6 Italian Christmas Traditions Americans Can Do

After hitting up the Italian Christmas markets, with all your gifts wrapped and Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) on his way, it is time to settle in and celebrate Christmas like an Italian.

1. Take in the lights | During Christmas, the concept of bella figura extends to cities and streets as well.  It is all about image, beauty and presentation.  Head out on foot to experience the twinkling lights, and never say no to roasted chestnuts and mulled wine along the way.

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2. Set up il Presepio | While Christmas trees are gaining in popularity, most Italian homes still set up a presepio, or manger scene.  All of the usual cast of characters are included, but to really deck out your holiday set up, you can opt for optional figurines like pizzaioli (pizzamakers) and tiny casks of wine (of course) to fill out the scene around Mary and Joseph.

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3. Plan a Christmas Eve dinner ‘di magro’ (light and meatless) | The night before Christmas, cook up a feast of fish.  This Christmas Eve dinner can traditionally feature 7 kinds of seafood, depending on the region.  Eel is often a favorite, and salted cod is pretty much non-negotiable.

4. Break out the games | In the hours between meals, break out some games for distraction and digestion.  The most popular game is la tombola, which most closely resembles an enthusiastic version of bingo… with beans.

5. Tis the season… for cake! | It is not only the streets that are transformed during Christmas season in Italy; the supermarkets also get a makeover to make room for hundreds of boxed cakes.  pandoro and panettone are holiday necessities, because no Christmas celebration in Italy could be complete without dessert.

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Depending on your preference, you can select pandoro, which hails from Verona, star shaped, and true to its name: golden colored bread. Or savor a slice of panettone, the runaway favorite, filled with candied fruit and raisins. This cake has its origins in Milan, and must rise three times to achieve its yeasty flavor and distinct dome-topped look.

6. Pace yourself | Christmas Day is only the beginning.  Next up is Saint Stephen’s Day on December 26th, when it is time to throw on your winter best and get out of the house to wish your friends and neighbors happy holidays. Celebrations continue for all 12 days of Christmas through the 6th of January.  Buon Natale!

 

181231_636233323070687_1494790961_n Natalie moved from California to Italy in 2010, and is the writer behind the blog, An American in Rome.

Speak Like an Italian: 3 Italian Phrases You Should Know

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If you’re planning on visiting Italy anytime soon, you might be worried about the language barrier.  Learning Italian can take some time, and is sometimes easier said than done.

While Rome wasn’t built in a day, there are some easy phrases that will help you communicate in Italy and sound like a natural in front of the locals. Whether you grew up listening to Nonna and Papa’s fluent Italian, you’re trying to remember what you learned in high school, or you’ve never heard a lick of Italian in your life, these four quick tips will provide a boost of confidence when you’re not sure what to say to your new Italian friends!

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Eat Like an Italian: Easy Chicken Recipe

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With the holidays coming up, it’s easy to get stressed about what to feed the army of relatives that will soon be on your doorstep. We’re a big fan of this easy chicken recipe for large reunions. It’s an old family recipe brought straight from Italy, and can easily be doubled or tripled depending on how many mouths you have to feed.

And the best part? You’ll have these chicken breasts prepared and grilled in under a half hour so that you can spend more time catching up with Uncle Joe and less time standing over a hot stove. Pair with Mazzoni Pinot Grigio and enjoy. Salute!

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Italian Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Suggested pairing: Mazzoni Pinot Grigio

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 large lemons

1 cup Lemon Wasabi sauce or Dijon Mustard

2 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped

1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped

4 chicken breasts

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Zest and juice both lemons in a large bowl. Add Lemon Wasabi Sauce, rosemary, parsley, and a dash of salt and pepper to the bowl and stir. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir again.

Trim fat from chicken breasts, then coat each breast in the wasabi mixture. Let sit for two hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight. Save any leftover sauce for the grilling process.

Preheat grill or skillet to a medium temperature. Place the chicken on the grill and heat for 4-5 minutes on each side. If you have extra wasabi sauce, continue to re-coat each side of the breasts. Cover to heat the chicken from all sides, and grill for another 5 minutes or so until the meat is cooked all the way through.

Serve with a drizzle of the wasabi sauce on top. Enjoy!

 

Shop Like an Italian: 4 Christmas Markets You Shouldn’t Miss

Italy is a beautiful place to visit this time of year, when everything is lit up and the streets are bustling with shoppers visiting their local outdoor Christmas markets. Famous for artisan holiday decorations, scopine scacciaguai (brooms said to rid you of bad luck) and amusements for children, these markets are an essential part of Italian life in the winter.

One of the most well known Italian Christmas markets is located at the Piazza Navona in Rome. Famous year round for its Fountain of the Four Rivers, the piazza sets a perfect scene for holiday festivities. But you don’t have to live in Italy to experience the magic of an outdoor Christmas market; read below to find out where you can visit one a little closer to home.

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

Piazza Navona in Rome (via Shutterstock)

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Drink Like an Italian: An Italian Thanksgiving

The holidays are here, which only means one thing: there’s lots of food and wine in our future. Between the grocery shopping, turkey prepping, and table setting, Thanksgiving can become a stressful time for everyone.

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Image via Shutterstock

Luckily, Italians never seem to be stressed around the holidays. That’s because they live by the simple mantra, “No food without wine and no wine without food.” As long as there’s food and wine, it’s a party!

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Italian Traditions: What You Don’t Know About Pizza Margherita

As many of you know, Pizza Margherita is much-loved Italian tradition, and a favorite meal both in Europe and around the world. What you may not know, however, is the fascinating legend of the pizza’s origins.

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

While many have debated the true history of Pizza Margherita, the story goes that shortly after Italy unified in 1861, King Umberto I and his queen, Margherita, took a visit to Naples. While there, the Queen became bored of the French cuisine that was standard throughout Europe at that time. She requested that a local pizza maker present her with something a little more Italian. Read the rest of this page »

Impress Your Date with this Calamari Recipe

Neiman Marcus, a name known for iconic style and excellent taste, recently published Neiman Marcus Cooks, a completely updated edition of their classic cookbook. We are incredibly honored that Mazzoni was featured as a suggested wine pairing in multiple recipes!

We don’t want to leave our blog readers hanging, so today we’ll share with you a Calamari recipe from the book. Although the dish has become a popular appetizer, this isn’t your average Calamari. Impress your date or your family with this mouth-watering Flash-fried Calamari and Thai Chile Dipping Sauce. Pair with Mazzoni Vermentino Chardonnay and dig in. Salute!

shutterstock_219084934 Read the rest of this page »

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