Each year, our entire family comes together to create a casual, entirely participatory and incredibly delicious Christmas. Here’s how we make it easy
The holidays have a hum that I just love: kids running around, grown-ups jockeying for space in the packed kitchen, and everyone else raising glasses (and laughing) in the living room. It’s chaos in the absolute best way. My grandchildren are happy and healthy, and there always seems to be a beautiful new baby to pass around. The one with the calming force is my mother, Nonna Dina, who’s forever tweaking dishes to make sure they’re to our liking. I see members of my immediate family almost every day—my three grown children are always milling around the stores—and we have meals together regularly. But the holidays are the best opportunity for all of us to reconnect with one big, hands-on Italian Christmas. And like all families, we have our traditions. The ritual aspect of the holidays is comforting. It’s also easier to follow a game plan you know like the back of your hand.
Here’s how I do Christmas. I keep my decor fairly classic—green, red, silver and gold with one big tree, put up early before the mad in-store rush. Christmas Eve is the biggest Pusateri family bash, with around 30 family members in total. Most of us are exhausted from a very long day helping out in the store, so we don’t make anything too complicated. It’s an Italian tradition to serve seafood and fish: I love jumbo shrimp, butterflied and seasoned with breadcrumbs, alongside a white fish (like halibut), zuppa di pesci, pasta and hearty veggies. The next day, we get together for breakfast with the kids and grandkids. Then comes church, followed by a late lunch.
Christmas Day dinner tends to be the culinary showstopper. It’s also a participation sport. Everyone has their role in the meal prep and we keep it as stress-free as possible. We always start with a charcuterie platter full of my favourite cheeses from Pusateri’s: parmigiano-reggiano, with a mix of a soft brie or boursault, a bold gorgonzola and a sharp cheddar. We add beautiful meats—prosciutto, salami, bresaola—as well as cerignola olives, figs and candied nuts for sweetness.
Dinner’s centrepiece is a spiral ham from the store. It comes cooked and sliced—a Christmas miracle!—so all you have to do is pop it in the oven and glaze it every once in a while. We’ll serve roasted potatoes, green beans with pomegranate for a festive pop of colour, pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and Pusateri’s delicious apple-andshallot stuffing.
Dessert is a second feast, with my mother’s tiramisu, which is the same recipe we make in our stores, plus freshly piped cannoli and two panettone—a pandoro classico for the purists and a newer discovery by Fratelli Sicilia in pistachio. This year’s showstopper is a frutti di bosco tart with fresh berries and cream filling. So, so delicious.
For all of our at-home celebrations, some of my favourite times at the holidays are in our stores. The hours run long, but I love seeing customers—all the hugging, kissing and well-wishing. We feel a responsibility to make everyone’s festivities special. Even with the mayhem, we find the time to pop a bottle of champagne and toast our team members. Some have been with us for 10, 20 and even 30 years—our chosen tribe, our loyal crew, our people. At the end of the day, we’re one big family.
Stuffed Shells With Ricotta and Spinach
- 1 package Jumbo dry pasta shells (about 25 shells)
- 1 package or bunch Fresh spinach
- 1 lb Fresh ricotta cheese
- 2 oz Parmigiano-reggiano, grated
- 3 cups Fresh mozzarella, shredded and divided
- 1 Medium garlic clove, minced
- 1-litre jar Pusateri’s Semplice Tomato Sauce
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp Freshly ground pepper
- Pusateri’s Delicato Extra-Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook shells to al dente (slightly undercooked). Carefully remove shells using a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water. Drizzle shells lightly with olive oil and set aside.
- Roughly chop spinach and sauté with garlic and olive oil over medium heat until soft and wilted. Drain in paper towel and cool.
- Drain ricotta in cheese cloth to remove excess liquid.
- In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the grated parmigiano-reggiano, plus salt and pepper. Stir well.
- Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread 1 cup of Pusateri’s Semplice Tomato Sauce in a layer on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Using a spoon, stuff each shell with the ricottaspinachfilling and lay in one even layer on top of the tomato sauce.
- Top with remaining tomato sauce, mozzarella and grated parmigiano-reggiano.
- Bake until shells are heated through and cheese is bubbling and lightly browned on top, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve.
Rapini with Garlic and Lemon
- 1 bunch Rapini
- 2 tbsp Agrumato Citron Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Lemon
- 2 Shallots, minced
- 2 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/4 tsp Lemon zest
- 1 tbsp Sarafino Hot Pepper Spread
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Rinse rapini well.
- When the water reaches a boil, add the rapini and boil for approximately 7-8 minutes until the stalks are “fork tender”. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When heated add the shallot and garlic and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Add the rapini and saute for 5-7 minutes until full heated through.
- Plate, spoon over hot pepper spread and sprinkle with lemon zest.
- 6 Large egg yolks
- 1 cup Granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ cup Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 ¾ cup 35% cream
- 1 Package of ladyfingers
- 1 cup Brewed espresso, cooled
- 1 ¼ cup Coffee liqueur
- 1 ½ tsp Cocoa powder/li>
- Brew the espresso by pouring boiling water over espresso powder
- Using a stand or hand mixer, whip cream and ½ cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Over a hot water bath, whisk egg yolks and ½ cup sugar until a thick ribbon is formed.
- Fold egg yolk mixture into softened mascarpone, until combined.
- Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture in two parts, until fully combined.
- Mix brewed espresso and coffee liqueur together in a flat bowl.
- Dip each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture and arrange in an even layer in a flat, rectangular dish.
- Pour cream mixture over the ladyfingers and spread
- Dust with cocoa powder before serving.
Ingredients available at Pusateri’s Fine Foods