The Poles have their borscht and herring, the Germans have their carp and potato salad and the Japanese have their KFC.
Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, Christmas Eve menus can widely vary. Some ethnic groups abstain from meat entirely, while others load it on. Some offer only light fare --in anticipation of the main event -- while for others Christmas Eve is it.
We recently talked with Chef Cesare Casella executive chef and partner at New York City's Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto restaurant to discuss his Christmas Eve traditions and how to make a memorable meal.
I chose these dishes because the holidays are about the home and these dishes are comfortable and remind me of home because that is where we made them.
Just because these dishes were created by a professional chef doesn't mean you can't recreate them in your home. Casella says while some of these recipes appear to be complex, many elements can be made ahead of time.
Christmas eve dinner should be warm, comforting, and inviting --and each bite should capture a memory, so start your own traditions this holiday season with these recipes:
Begin your evening with Tordelli. This appetizer is a rich pasta filled with meat, cheese, and warm spices. For Casella, this dish reminds him of his grandmother who helped to instill these holiday traditions at home. You can even make this dish a head of time and freeze it until Christmas eve.
Strangolapreti loosely translated means "priest choker," based on how quickly the priests would gobble it up. It's no wonder why they ate this delicious gnocchi dish so fast. Made with stale bread rather than potatoes, it's served in a sage butter sauce. Make sure you read this recipe carefully and follow all the directions. It can be difficult if you don't. However, you can simply make the dough on the Dec. 23 and prepare everything else the next day.
For another comforting pasta dish try a spicy Fra Diavolo -- spicy sauce made for pasta or seafood. Casella, who grew up eating seafood only on special occasions, serves it up with lobster over pasta. You can make the sauce a few days head to save time just make sure to cook that fresh lobster day of.
The true star of the meal will be a delicately seasoned Controfiletto di Maiale al Profunmo di Rosmarino or pork with rosemary and shallots. This can make a great Christmas day main, as well. The Casella family ate this pork during the holidays growing up, and he says pigs were raised from the spring to the winter just in time for the Christmas roast. This dish, unlike the others, should be prepared the same day as it's served. If you need to make it early, just keep it warm in the oven.