Food in Italy is fabulous all year round but there is definitely some extra love put into all the dishes and desserts around Christmas time! For dessert the most simple Italian sweet is fresh fruit. Freshly picked mandarins and melograno (pomegranate) that come straight from the orto (fruit and vegetable garden) and are all bursting with flavour and goodness.
Cacchi are Persimmon fruits or Sharon fruits and are very popular during winter time in Italy. They are quite firm until they ripen, when they ripen they become voluptuously soft and have a sort of gelatinous texture. There are many varieties of persimmon that ripen over the autumn and winter months from September through December.
Pomegranates have a great juice that can make for a quick sauce for pork chops or chicken. Mandarins are the staple fruit during winters season in Italy! Blood orange are great to add taste in your winter salad! Try a combination of blood oranges, fennel and black olives. Kumquats are a strange winter fruit. They are tiny little olive sized citrus fruits that are full of antioxidants.
During the winter seasons, nuts are very popular in Italy. Castagne or chestnuts have played an important part in the Mediterranean diet: did you know that Homer mentioned chestnuts? By the middle ages castagne were the staple food of the peasants in large parts of Italy from Piemonte to Lazio all the way down. In Tuscany’s Lunigiana and Lucchesia a lot of the economy revolves around Castagne agriculture. People gather together in the fall for the harvest and they work hard into the winter to sort, process, package and sell castagne. In major cities you will see people roasting and selling castagne on the streets and if you cannot find them just use your nose to follow the distinctive aroma!
Not only does the winter season have fruits like oranges and mandarins but also many dried fruits! Italian dried fruit ranges from dried figs, apples, dates and apricots. Many desserts will have dried fruits and also nuts. Our favorite winter desserts that we recommend you to try are Panettone, panforte and torrone.
Noci in Italian are walnuts and they grow in many parts of Italy. The best noci are believed to come from Sorrento. They have a sharper taste and a more walnutty flavor. Noci are used in many winter desserts. One of the simplest cookies is the Dolci di Noci cookies! And guess what, it only has three ingredients: noci, sugar and eggs!
You should definitely try biscotti! They are filled with whole hazelnuts, almonds and occasionally chocolate chips too!
When perusing over your menu to decide what wonderful flavours to try in your meal, remember to always leave a tiny corner of your tummy free to taste some of these extra good things afterwards – in Italian we say chiudere in dolcezza, finish your meal “sweetly”.