Debbie Mason’s Italian Christmas Feast

From Debbie Mason, author of IT HAPPENED AT CHRISTMAS, enjoy this collection of recipes for the perfect Italian Christmas feast!

Mason_It Happened At Christmas_MMI’m married to an Italian, so it wouldn’t be christmas if we didn’t include our favorite Italian dishes along with the traditional holiday fare.

Italian Wedding Soup (Christmas Eve)

Makes 8-10 servings.

I make the meatballs, cheese bread, and pastini a week before, put them in the freezer and take out at serving time.

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground veal

1/2 pound lean ground pork

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 slices of white bread without crusts, tear into small pieces, add a little milk to moisten–let sit for 5 minutes

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large bowl, combine ingredients and mix with your hands until blended. Form into small balls–about 1/2 inch in diameter. Once you’ve rolled all the meatballs, bring 3 cups of chicken stock (store bought is fine) to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook the meatballs until they’re cooked through (5-7 minutes). Spread the cooked meatballs on a cookie sheet and freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag.

Cheese Bread

6 tbsp flour

6 eggs, beaten

2 cups of Parmesan cheese

1 tsp baking powder

  • In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients, then add beaten eggs. Mix until we blended. Pour onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and spread evenly.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Once cooled, cut into small squares–1/4 inch. Spread on a cookie sheet and freeze, then transfer to freezer bag.

Pastini

I use quadretti, stellini, or orzo. Cook as per package, drain and rinse. Once cooled, spread on a cookie sheet and freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag.

Chicken Stock

I buy a pre-cooked barbeque chicken from the grocery store. We don’t use the meat in our soup, so cut off what you want for sandwiches and put in fridge. Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the chicken, add a large onion, 2 or 3 carrots, and salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for 3 hours. Strain the broth into another pot. At this point, add 1 or 2 containers of store-bought chicken stock, depending on the numbers.


Lasagne (Christmas Day)

Makes 10 servings

Pasta Dough (below) store bought is fine

Ragu Bolognese (below)

10 oz parmigiano-reggiano, grated

5 cups besciamella (below)

Ragu Bolognese

Makes about 6 cups

1/4 cup of olive oil or canola

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 ribs celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground pork

1 6-oz can of tomato paste

1 28-oz can of blended tomatoes

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

Pinch of salt and pepper

  • In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are translucent (5 minutes). Add the veal and pork, increase the heat to high and brown the meat, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, blended tomatoes, milk, and wine and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. If you want to make ahead, you can refrigerate for 2 days or freeze for up to a month.

Besciamella

10 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

6 cups whole milk

4 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown (6-7 minutes).
  • In another saucepan, heat the milk to just under a boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking constantly until smooth, and bring to a boil while continuing to whisk. Cook, whisking until thickened, about 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg. Transfer to bowl and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pasta Dough

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

5 large eggs

  • Put the flour in a large bowl, make a well in the center and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs together and then starting with the inner rim of the well, bring in the flour. Once you have incorporated half of the flour, the dough will begin to come together and you can start kneading. Transfer your dough to a lightly floured board and knead for 10 minutes, dusting the board as necessary. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the dough into 8 portions and roll each one out. I have a pasta machine and put it through on the thinnest setting. Lay the sheets on a lightly floured work surface and let dry for 10 minutes. Cut into strips and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
  • In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Set up an ice bath next to the stove, and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the noodles, 6 to 7 at a time in the boiling water until tender, about 1 minute. Transfer to ice bath to cool, then lay out on clean kitchen towels to drain.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Assemble the lasagne in a 10X20 inch pan or use 2 9X12 inch pans. Spread the ragu over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with Parmigianino, top with a layer of pasta, a layer of besciamella, another layer of ragu, a sprinkle of Parmigianino, and pasta. Repeat until all the ingredients are used. Finish with a layer of pasta topped with besciamella and a sprinkling of Parmigianino.
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