Chef John's Best Italian Christmas Recipes
Over the years, Chef John has created classic, comforting Italian recipes for everything from bolognese sauce and minestrone soup to lasagna, chicken Parmesan, and homemade gnocchi. He's also explored regional hits like Tuscan black pepper beef and pork agrodolce. With this holiday menu, we celebrate Chef John's best Italian recipes for Christmas dinner and holiday entertaining.
Italian Rice Croquettes
Transform rice into delicious Italian croquettes. Roll the croquettes in bread crumbs and pan fry to a crispy, dark brown exterior. Enjoy them dipped into marinara sauce or aioli.
Sicilian Christmas Pizza (Sfincione)
This Sicilian Christmas pizza is a thick-crust pizza topped with bread crumbs. "Also key is the extremely sticky dough, which bakes into a feather-light, spongy crust that contrasts perfectly with the crumbly topping," says Chef John. "Add any tomato sauce you prefer. For best results, sauce should be highly seasoned."
Chef John's Basil Ricotta Gnocchi
Paired with a little tomato sauce, these basil and ricotta gnocchi make quite a Christmas presentation. "This technique turns out beautifully light, tender gnocchi every time and are just as good, if not better, than the classic potato-based gnocchi," says Chef John. "And much easier. Plus you can make them ahead of time and brown them in butter before serving."
Homemade Italian Sausage
These Italian sausage hold particular holiday significance for Chef John. "One of my earliest and most vivid food memories was when my uncle Bill would make his famous dried Italian sausage every Christmas Eve," he says. "They'd be fried after Midnight Mass and served on bread with roasted red peppers. This fresh version was inspired by those. If you can manage not to eat them right away, letting them dry for a day or two really deepens the flavor, and firms up the texture as well, in true Uncle Billy fashion."
Sausage-Stuffed Cherry Pepper Poppers
An incredible holiday appetizer, these bite-size cherry peppers are stuffed with spicy Italian sausage.
"These were unbelievably awesome," raves just-jam. "Boyfried got the peppers out of a Christmas gift basket at work. I told him we should give it away. A few months later, I felt the need to use them up and sought out a recipe and found this. I'm so thankful I did."
Chef John's Beef Braciole
A little rustic, a little fancy, all delicious! Beef braciole is a classic Italian stuffed, rolled steak, braised in tomato sauce. "FANTASTIC! DELICIOUS!" raves angelmommy. "This is the best thing I've made in ages! And pretty simple too since I was able to purchase the meat already thin sliced and rolled from a German meat market in the form of Rouladen. Other than that I followed Chef John's recipe to a T and it was so so delicious!"
Chef John's Panettone
Panettone is a sweet, slightly citrusy Italian Christmas bread filled with rum-soaked dried fruit. "It takes three days to make this panettone, which I thought was otherwise a pretty straightforward bread recipe," says Chef John. "Besides dried fruit, there are so many other things you can include, such as nuts, and chocolate chips, just in case this seems too healthy. Serve plain, with butter, or even better, toasted with butter."