Our best-ever Christmas dinner menus: Emilia Romagna

by Great Italian Chefs17 December 2018

Recreate the flavours of one of Italy’s most food-focused regions with this sumptuous five-course feast filled with the very best dishes Emilia Romagna has to offer.

Great Italian Chefs is a team of passionate food-lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest news, views and reviews from the gastronomic mecca that is Italy.

Great Italian Chefs is a team of food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest news, views and reviews from the gastronomic mecca that is Italy. From Veneto and Lombardy in the north to Calabria and Sicily in the south, we celebrate the very best of this glorious cuisine and try to bring you a little bit of la dolce vita wherever you are.

When it comes to Christmas feasting, the Italians do it better than anyone else. Whole days are dedicated to multi-course banquets, with dozens of family members working together to create celebratory dishes that mark a serious sense of occasion. The dishes themselves are often dictated by what region of Italy you’re in – a festive spread in the south will look very different to one in the north of the country, although both will be equally delicious.

Emilia Romagna is arguably Italy’s most famous region when it comes to food, as it’s the home of things like Parmesan, Parma ham, balsamic vinegar and the fresh pastas of Bologna. This is especially obvious during Christmas, when some of the more intricate and time-consuming dishes the region is known for are prepared. That’s why we’ve collected five of them together to create a wonderful menu to serve on Christmas Day. Instead of smoked fish to start there’s deep-fried dough and filled pasta; turkey is replaced by a deliciously decadent combination of pork and beef and pudding is much more interesting, combining a layered trifle-like dish and a richly spiced chocolate cake.

Have a look at the dishes below and see if an Emilia Romagna-inspired Christmas takes your fancy.


These crisp little pillows are one of Emilia Romagna’s most beloved snacks, and they’re a common way to kick off any meal in the region. They’re a very simple dough that’s left to prove before being deep-fried in lard until puffed up and golden brown, before being served with all manner of cured meats and cheeses. Don’t let the lard put you off – it imparts a wonderful flavour into the dough. However, if you’re catering for vegetarians, it can be replaced with oil.


Tortellini are almost a staple in Emilia Romagna, and have quickly become the filled pasta of choice across Europe. However, those ready made packs sold in the supermarkets are nothing like the real deal, which must be made from scratch. The pasta is often cooked and served in a clear chicken broth (or brodo), making this a hearty, warming primi that’s well worth the effort.


At Christmas you want something indulgent, decadent and excessive – and this recipe has those three characteristics in droves. A whole cotechino (a type of cured pork sausage famous in Emilia Romagna) is wrapped in slices of prosciutto and a flattened piece of beef rump, then braised in Lambrusco wine until succulent and tender. The incredibly rich meat is then sliced and served with either mash or lentils, which can soak up all the incredible cooking juices. An absolute knockout dish that’s relatively unknown outside of Italy.


Literally translating to ‘English soup’, this Italian take on the classic British trifle is – dare we say it – an improvement on the original. However, it’s actually nothing to do with trifles (or soups); it got its name because of the rum originally used in the recipe (which was the drink of choice amongst British sailors). The sponge fingers are soaked in alchermes, an Italian liqueur, before being layered with custard cream and chocolate. A wonderfully festive way to round off any Christmas dinner.

And for afters…


Swap your traditional Christmas cake for something much more Italian with this beautiful spiced chocolate bread from the city of Ferrara. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and candied peel add buckets of festive flavour, while the dark chocolate, cocoa, honey and almonds keep things sweet and moreish. The finished cake is much lighter than traditional Christmas cakes, so everyone will be able to find room for a slice after they’ve polished off their zuppa inglese.

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