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Christmas Eve Stories and a Chocolate Panettone

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copyright 2011 art of living, PrimaMedia,Inc/Maria Liberati


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Here is a Christmas Eve excerpt from the Gourmand World Award winning Book The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition. Hope it brings you warm Holiday reading as I know anticipating Christmas Eve… most of my readers are either anticipating  both cooking  and eating dinner or just anticipating eating the dinner!

Either way  Have a Delicious Christmas Eve ( Vigilia) dinner and  hope you get to Celebrate a Feast of the Seven Fishes with some of the Holiday Recipes I have been posting.


By the time 3:00 p.m. arrives, the kitchen is all aflutter with activity. The oven is baking and the stove is filled with many pots a–brewing. Sauces are being made, fish is being fried and sautéed, and everything is filling the air with a wonderful aroma. Inevitably, someone always yells out, “What do you think, should it stay a little longer?” and at least five of the family cooks run over to make their call.


On the other side of the kitchen table, the freshly breaded and lightly fired smells have just arrived, and the food will be finished before any of the cooks can attempt to taste it. But no fear, as in all Italian feasts there are plenty more where that came from and no shortage of cooks willing to fry up a fresh batch.

vigilia 1

In different parts of the house, hugs and kisses are still being exchanged with arriving guests who quickly follow their noses to have a taste at of what’s being brought to the kitchen table.

After everyone has settled in, all of a sudden things become quiet, like in between acts at an opera. We are now waiting for our second act—dinner. The quiet is soon broken by the sound of wine bottles popping open and the first “Saluti!” Glasses filled with our favorite family wine, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, clink together, and the opera continues with a symphony of dishes being passed around, and new and old memories being shared.

Our favorite dessert is Panettone di Cioccolata. This is a new dessert that has now become one of our family traditions. I hope it becomes one of yours.

Panettone di Cioccolata


excerpted from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd edition and The Basic Art of Christmas Dinner both are available here or in digital ebook version exclusively on

(Chocolate Panettone)


  • ½ a large panettone
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate (70-90% cocoa), broken into small pieces or chopped
  • 4 chopped dried figs
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 fresh lemon rind, grated
  • Powdered cocoa

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Break or pull apart panettone into small cubes.

Place one layer of panettone cubes in an 8 inch round or square glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with chopped chocolate pieces, chopped fig pieces, cherries, and raisins. Cover this layer with remaining panettone cubes.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, and lemon rind together. Pour liquid over panettone cubes. Gently push down on top to be sure liquid soaks into all layers. Let sit for 10 minutes, then bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes or until firm and golden on top. When cool, dust with powdered cocoa and serve.

Buone Natale, Buone Feste

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