For a country as geographically small as Italy, there are more disparate Christmas culinary traditions than could probably fit in a single book. If you ask a room full of people from across the country what their family eats for the holidays, you would be hard pressed come up with the same answer more than twice. Drive a few miles in any direction on Christmas day and you’ll encounter wildly different delicacies stacked on top of dining room tables. But, despite this divide, there is one great equaliser: Panettone.
Ubiquitous during the holiday season, the fluffy loaf is slightly similar to the Anglo fruitcake or German stollen, but a bit more decadent. And, though you can usually find a Panettone on the table breakfast, lunch and dinner from Immacolata to Befana, in typical Italian fashion there are some very serious debates about how to serve it and where to source the best ones. So, we went to our in-house expert for some advice.
“It’s not a Panettone without candied fruits!” exclaims Rosita Missoni when asked about her top tips for the holiday treat. The Missoni matriarch is known for always delivering the highest quality and her Panettone is no exception. As for the age old question: gelato or mascarpone? Mascarpone, of course. For those not in the know, mascarpone is a sweet Italian cream cheese found on most dessert menus in the north of Italy, kind of like if the filling of a cheesecake were softer and creamier. In her version, which she makes from scratch and always serves super fresh, she mixes it to a creamy density and adds a good, high-quality rum – usually Santa Teresa 1796 from Venezuela. (Warning: this is an adults-only version of the dessert!) Once that’s all creamed together she carefully adds a few spoonfuls of powdered sugar and Voila! you’re doing Christmas like a Missoni.
Now that you’ve got the toppings sorted – where do you buy the thing? Rosita prefers to pick hers up at Pasticceria Massimo in Milan’s Porta Romana or Cova in Montenapoleone, whose Christmas catalogue is something out of a kaleidoscopic Christmas daydream. She also rates the pasticceria at Sant’Ambroeus among her top picks for their in-house decorated Panettone. Which, though they make take the fun out of devising your own creation, are veritable sculptures worthy of a Missoni holiday centrepiece.