Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Southern Italy

Neapolitan Christmas dishes

Pizza di scarole (pizza with escarola)


For the pizza dough:

500 grams of all-purpose flour (Type 00)

Approximately 250 ml of warm water

3-4 grams of fresh brewer’s yeast (or about 2 grams of dried brewer’s yeast + 1 teaspoon of sugar, to be added directly to the flour)

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

For the filling:

1 kg of escarole

50 grams of pitted black olives

30 grams of desalted capers

Salt to taste

50 grams of raisins and pine nuts (if desired)

One clove of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil


Prepare the pizza dough: Place the flour in a mound on a work surface, pour the dissolved yeast in a little warm water into the center, add the olive oil, and work vigorously. Continue to work the dough, adding a pinch of salt and then a little warm water gradually until the dough becomes compact, smooth, and elastic. Form two small loaves, cover them with a clean cloth, and let them rise in a warm place for at least 3 hours (or until the dough is well-leavened; remember that the less yeast you use, the more digestible the pizza will be, but the longer the leavening time will be).

Meanwhile, clean and wash the escarole, blanch it in salted water for a few minutes, and then drain it thoroughly. Sauté the garlic in a large pan with some olive oil, then add the escarole, the olives cut in half, the capers, and optionally the raisins and pine nuts. Cook over low heat, season with salt if necessary, just before the cooking is completed.

With your hands, roll out one of the pizza dough loaves in an oiled baking pan, place the escarole mixture on top, and spread it evenly over the entire surface. Cover with the second rolled-out dough loaf, making sure to seal the edges of the two doughs together.

Brush the surface of the pizza with a little oil and bake in a preheated oven at 180/200°C (356/392°F) for about half an hour, checking that the pizza is evenly cooked.

Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Naples, Italy

Neapolitan-style Salted Cod

INGREDIENTS for 8 people:

1 kg of salted cod

500 g of cherry tomatoes

700 ml of tomato passata (tomato puree)

5-6 tablespoons of black olives or pitted Gaeta olives

2 tablespoons of capers

1 bunch of fresh parsley

2 garlic cloves

Dried oregano to taste


Desalinate the salted cod:

If you buy salted cod, you need to soak it first to remove the saltiness. Without rinsing it, cut it into pieces and immerse it in a basin with cold water, covering it completely. Let it soak for 4-5 days, changing the water in the basin at least 2 times a day. The soaking time may vary from 4 to 5 days depending on the size of the pieces and the thickness of the salted cod used.

When the salted cod is desalinated, or if you buy already desalinated cod, rinse the cod pieces and pat them dry with paper towels.

Prepare the crispy fried cod:

Coat the pieces of cod with all-purpose flour, or for an extra crispy fried cod, you can coat it in a mixture of semolina flour and cornmeal in equal parts. Alternatively, if you prefer an even crispier fried cod, use only cornmeal. The choice is yours!

Cook the cod:

Fry the cod in abundant hot oil with the skin side up so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. For the first 2 minutes, cook it on high heat to form a crispy crust around the cod pieces, then continue cooking over medium/low heat, turning the cod pieces halfway through cooking.

Once the cod pieces are well browned, transfer them to paper towels using a slotted spoon and season them.

Sauce preparation

While the cod is frying, prepare the sauce. Sauté the garlic in extra virgin olive oil with pitted olives, desalted capers, and half of the chopped parsley. Add the cherry tomatoes cut into wedges and let them soften slightly, then incorporate the tomato passata and dried oregano. Cook for 15-20 minutes, adding a little water as needed.

Add the fried cod to the sauce and let it absorb the flavors for 5-10 minutes on both sides, adjusting the salt if necessary. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.

Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Naples, Italy

Stuffed Neapolitan Papaccelle

INGREDIENTS for 8 papacelle:

8 curly Neapolitan papaccelle (sweet peppers)

500 grams of stale “cafone” bread crumbs

7-8 fillets of anchovies in oil

200 grams of green or Gaeta olives

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

30 grams of capers (preserved in salt)

40 grams of grated Pecorino cheese

1 bunch of parsley

2 garlic cloves

Water as needed

1 liter of frying oil

50 grams of breadcrumbs


First, choose firm and intact papaccelle, discard any damaged or cracked ones, and wash them thoroughly in cold water.

Allow the papaccelle to drain, then dry each one with a clean cloth. Clean the papaccelle as follows: Make a circular cut to remove the top part (the cap), set it aside, then remove the seeds and any white filaments.

For the filling preparation, start by soaking the “cafone” bread, the wood-fired type, from the previous day. Transfer the bread to a colander and squeeze it well with your hands. Crumble the bread and press it to remove any absorbed water, then transfer it to a sufficiently large bowl.

Next, wash the parsley, dry it, and chop it coarsely. Rinse the capers preserved in salt and pat them dry with a paper towel. Peel the garlic cloves and chop them into tiny pieces (you can also mince them). Cut the green olives and anchovy fillets into small pieces and add the prepared mixture to the crumbled bread.

Add the whole eggs (shelled), grated cheese, breadcrumbs, a bit of salt, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Mix everything together with your hands until you obtain a homogeneous and compact mixture. Taste for salt, and if the mixture seems bland, add a bit more salt and mix well. Now, proceed to fill the papaccelle. Fill each one with the stuffing up to the edge, pressing it gently with your hands. Continue this process until all the filling is used up.

You can cook the stuffed papaccelle by deep-frying them in plenty of frying oil or by baking them in the oven. If frying, take a non-stick frying pan, pour in the oil, and heat it over moderate heat. Place the papaccelle in the hot oil and cook them over moderate heat. Use a slotted spoon to turn the papaccelle and cook the top side until the filling appears golden and slightly crusty. Once cooked, remove the papaccelle from the oil using a slotted spoon and place them on a tray lined with paper towels. Lastly, fry the previously set aside papaccelle caps and let any excess oil drain.

For baking, follow these steps: Take an ovenproof dish and grease it evenly with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Place the stuffed papaccelle in the dish, drizzle some oil over them, and cover them with their caps. Put the dish in a preheated oven at 180°C (356°F) and bake for 45-50 minutes. The stuffed papaccelle will be ready when the surface appears slightly withered. The “imbottunate” papaccelle are now ready to be served on the table.

Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Naples, Italy

Spaghetti with Clams:

INGREDIENTS for 4 people:

1 kg of fresh clams

360 g of spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic


Red pepper flakes

Extra virgin olive oil


In a large pan, sauté the garlic with extra virgin olive oil until it becomes golden.

Once the oil is hot, add the clams that you have thoroughly purged (cleaned).

Add a few ladles of hot water and continue cooking.

Be careful and remove the clams as they open so that they remain tender and juicy with their own juices.

In a pot with abundant salted water, cook the spaghetti for about 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta al dente and toss it together with the clams for no more than two minutes.

Add the parsley and plate the dish.

Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Naples, Italy

Neapolitan Struffoli


For the soft struffoli dough:

1 kg of all-purpose flour (Type 00)

580 g of whole eggs (about 9 eggs)

200 g of granulated sugar

180 ml of extra virgin olive oil

Grated zest of 3 lemons

30 g of anise liqueur

30 g of vermouth liqueur

1 packet of baking powder for desserts (omit it if you want the struffoli to be very crispy and not soft inside)

For decoration:

700 g of honey (I recommend wildflower honey)

100 g of sugar

1 small cup of water

Juice of 1 lemon

Colored sugar sprinkles and candied fruits for decoration

Peanut oil for frying (about 2 liters, depending on the size of the pot used)


First, prepare the soft struffoli dough. Beat the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the flour, then the olive oil, and finally the liqueurs and baking powder (optional). The dough should be soft but still workable with a rolling pin. If necessary, add more flour.

Shape the struffoli. Take a portion of the dough, roll it out with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 3-4 millimeters. Cut it into small strips and then cut each strip into cubes. Repeat this process until all the dough is used.

Fry the Neapolitan struffoli in abundant boiling oil in a large and deep pot (there will be some foam during frying).

Once all the Neapolitan struffoli are fried, move on to the decoration. In a large and deep pot, dissolve the sugar in water and let it lightly caramelize. Then add the honey, mix it well, and pour in the Neapolitan struffoli. Continuously stir for about 5 minutes so that the honey completely coats all the Neapolitan struffoli.

Now, plate the Neapolitan struffoli. Moisten the bases of the serving trays with lemon juice to prevent the honey from sticking. Pour a portion of the struffoli without butter onto the tray, wet your hands with lemon juice, and shape the Neapolitan struffoli to the desired shape. Repeat the process for all the trays until all the soft Neapolitan struffoli are used. Decorate with colored sugar sprinkles and candied fruits as desired.

Christmas Menu. 5 Traditional Christmas recipes from Naples, Italy