For foodies like us, the first sign of Christmas approaching in Italy is seeing the bakeries stocking fresh-made Panettone*.
Panettone is light and fluffy, meaning that a slice of this traditional Italian Christmas recipe may be as big as both your hands cupped together.
Translating to something like ‘Big Bread’, it’s a kind of a bread that is kind of big, and filled with candied fruits and spices so it’s also kind of sweet.
But not too sweet.
So you can certainly eat it for breakfast, for afternoon tea or even as a simple and yum Italian dessert.
The posh Italian dessert version would see it served with Zabaione – a kind of Italian custard – or with whipped cream or even drizzled with hot chocolate sauce.
Italians love giving food gifts for Christmas and it’s totally not weird – is it? – to be given a whole cheese wheel and some jam (home-made, obviously) as a gift, or extra virgin olive oil (ditto), or a Panettone together with a bottle of Spumante sparkling wine.
Panettone traditionally hailed from Milan, where it began as a sweet bready treat by the poorer folk.
Alternatives to Panettone are the Pandoro (from Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet) or Panforte from the Tuscan town of Siena. that is much more like an English-style fruit cake.
The last of the Panettone (or Pandoro) is usually served as the dessert on New Year’s Eve.
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