For Christmas in Sicily, Olive Garden Executive Chef Paolo Lafata and his family prepare the Italian tradition known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which involves an array of seafood dishes. They also prepare stuffed double-crust pizzas called cudduruni that “are filled with tiny slices of pre-boiled potatoes tossed with slow-cooked onions and sliced cherry tomatoes, alternated with slices of young pecorino cheese.”
For New Year’s Eve, the menu includes several types of pasta served with grilled meats brushed with olive oil and rosemary. Glasses of Prosecco or red wine top off the feast.
For dessert, Chef Paolo enjoys cannoli or panettone (a sweet bread loaf), with a sparkling wine such as Spumante, Aperol (an orange aperitif) or Amaretto liqueur. “On a cold winter’s night, we enjoy wine brûlée flavored with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.”
Not surprisingly, pasta features prominently in the holiday cooking of Flavio Tagliaferro, Olive Garden Director of Culinary Development, who is from Verona, Italy. Every Christmas Eve, he and his family prepare Ravioli di Zucca (squash), and their Christmas lunch is tasty Tortellini al Prosciutto.
“Our food is rich and abundant,” Chef Flavio said, and the feast includes salami, roasted meat and potatoes, homemade pickles, Italian cheeses served with fruit Mostarda (a chutney-like mixture), and Pandoro (golden bread) served with Zabaione Marsala, a dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine.
And it’s all hands on deck when he’s in Italy. “My mother makes the pasta, I take care of the meats, my wife makes dessert and my 9-year-old son helps a little, too.”
Flavio said his favorite holiday cocktail is a Spritz made with the orange aperitif Aperol, fresh-squeezed orange juice, Prosecco wine and ice. He normally pours Amarone Valpolicella, a red wine, to go with the main course.