Roman Christmas and Winter Food Traditions: Eat Like a Roman

Rome’s skin changes during the second half November. The Tiber River’s sycamores lose their leaves and the amount of rainy and windy day increases. People spend more time in their homes and cafes, rather than the charming piazzas.

There is an extra day of celebration before winter officially begins in Rome: the Immacolata (or the Feast on the Immaculate Conception) The season of Christmas festivities is open all around the city. In the historic centre, Christmas trees, nativity scenes and Christmas lights can be found. Similar events are held in other neighborhoods.

People start to discuss where they will spend the important holidays days: December 24th-25th and 26th. Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas lunch are shared with immediate family. This allows the children to enjoy the holidays with all their grandparents. People continue to arrange meetings with friends and relatives, and enjoy hours of dining together from December 26 through January 6, the last day on the holiday.

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What does the Roman eat in Winter?

The Christmas holiday season, which lasts almost a month, has lowered temperatures. This means that Romans eat more extravagant and caloric meals and eat larger portions. It is still a long way to go before the swimsuit test…

Street food in Rome: Winter Version

People prefer to have a cup or two of hot chocolate with cream and Italian cookies with chocolate or marmalade instead of late afternoon aperitivo. Many gelato shops remain open in Rome’s historic center, but locals prefer warmer, more comforting sins such as the trapizzino.

What is Trapizzino?

The Trapizzino street food was born in Testaccio, a neighborhood in Rome. Stefano Callegari, a Testaccio pizza shop owner, created the first trapizzino. He used a corner of a tray of pizza bianca, a delicious and fragrant flatbread from Rome, to fill it with pollo alla Cacciatora, a second course of chicken that was sauteed in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then seasoned with water, vinegar, and finally, salt and pepper.

The idea was to be able to enjoy the delicious dishes of Roman cuisine in just a few bites without the need to sit down at a table. Paul Pansera, an entrepreneur, helped Stefano open six Trapizzino shops in Rome, Italy and one in New York. The most sought-after varieties include trapizzino stuffed with cuttlefish, peas, trapizzino ala parmigiana and trapizzino stuffed with onions and offal, and trapizzino stuffed with cod and peppers.

Trapizzino con Polpetta al Sugo. Source: Trapizzino

Fried Delicacies

Romans love “fritti”, a delicious selection of winter delicacies. This street food is often served with pizza and is also available in many restaurants.

The most famous fritto in Rome is Suppli. It’s a rice cylinder filled with tomato pork ragu, mozzarella, and then deep fried in hot olive oil. Locals love the baccala fritto, or fried cod fillet. The cod is soaked in water to remove excess salt. It then gets dipped into flour and fried in hot oil.

Supplì, a Roman street food that’s extra delicious in winter


Soups in Rome are most popular during the cold seasons. Minestrone is the most popular soup. It’s a mixture of fresh vegetables that can be found at market stalls and are ready to cook. Many Romans make their own vegetable soups at home. They add cereals like barley, spelt, legumes, chickpeas, beans and even pasta. You can then flavor the soup with lots of grated cheese, such as parmesan or pecorino.

Skate broth with Roman cauliflower, pasta is another soup from the Roman culinary tradition.

Popular Winter Vegetables in Rome

The countryside around Rome is blessed with abundant winter harvest. Broccoletto, or “cima de rapa” in Italy, is another vegetable that’s hard to find outside of Rome. It is a beautiful, spiral-shaped variety of Roman cauliflower. Broccolini is a long-preparation vegetable, so it’s easier to enjoy it at home than at restaurants. Half of the leaves are used for this vegetable, while the remaining stems are discarded. Broccoli should not be boiled to preserve its flavor. Instead, it should be cooked over low heat in a saucepan with a lid and some water, EVO oil, two garlic cloves, and a few spoonfuls of salt. This vegetable is great with second courses of pork.

Broccolini, a winter staple in Rome. Source:


Romans love Christmas dishes

Many of Rome’s piazzas are lit up by handicraft markets such as Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Mazzini. But the Romans are already planning their Christmas menu. Although they may vary from year to year, certain traditions remain the same. One thing is certain: the Christmas Eve dinner menu will be fish-based, while the Christmas lunch menu will be meat-based.

Christmas Eve Traditional Dinner Dishes

The Christmas Eve dinner preparation is a huge responsibility for the host, often a grandmother or mother. It is best to be there even a few hours before the event to assist with arrangements.

This appetizer must be hearty and include a mix of fried foods. Pieces of apple, ricotta, cauliflower, broccoli, cauliflower and cod are coated in batter before being fried in hot oil. Next, the starters are served with marinated anchovies or eel as well as a salad of octopus or potatoes.

The first course is a spaghetti dish , such as spaghetti with clams, or another type pasta that has been seasoned with tomato sauce. Skate soup with Roman Cauliflower is often the soup. The second course options are a little more diverse. There are two main options for second courses: prawns sauteed with Italian sparkling wine spumante, or roasted fish like sea bream or sea bass with baked potatoes.

After the main courses are over, the people continue to eat dried fruit and traditional Christmas desserts while playing games like Tombola. Pandoro and Panettone, both well-known in the world, are also very popular in Rome. The pangiallo or yellow bread is Rome’s most popular Christmas cake. It has an ancient origin. The ancient Romans actually offered it to the Sun god on January solstice. Pangiallo, a sweet bread made from dried fruits like hazelnuts and walnuts, almonds and raisins, figs and figs as well honey and cocoa, and colored with a saffron batter.

Christmas Lunch in Rome: What to Eat

It is tradition to eat Christmas lunch in Rome, which includes dishes that were eaten all year. Tortellini in chicken broth or stracciatella are the classic first courses. Stracciatella, a traditional soup from central Italy’s peasant cuisine, is one example. First, prepare a broth of beef or chicken to make stracciatella. Next, remove the meat and keep it aside. The water is then brought back to a boil. The eggs are now beaten with the parmesan cheese and pecorino. This is when the soup will be ready.

Romans love lamb as their second course. Lamb chops are best dipped in egg, breadcrumbs, and then fried in oil. This makes them crispy and delicious. For those with delicate taste buds, you can cook the lamb slowly in tomato sauce in a saucepan like a stew.

You might also like: How to make an Italian Christmas dinner

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