Feast of the Immaculate Conception: tradition and menu of December 8th in Italy

Dec 7 2022, 08:28 | by Michela Becchi
Time to put up decorations, but above all to inaugurate the season of family meals. Here's how and why we celebrate December 8th in Italy.

Festa dell’Immacolata - Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy

The real Christmas atmosphere in Italy traditionally begins on the 8th of December. It is the day dedicated to the decoration of the tree and more generally of the house, to family meals and the preparation of the holiday menu. According to the Catholic religion, the feast celebrates the absence of original sin and any type of sin in the Virgin Mary, but as often happens this recurrence has lost some of its religious significance over time, turning into an opportunity to be together. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, in fact, inaugurates the beginning of sharing food with friends and relatives, with different gastronomic traditions depending on the region. There is no specific menu, but we can still give you some suggestions for a good Immacolata lunch.

Appetisers of the Immaculate Conception: fried foods and savoury pies

In Puglia we start with pettole, fried leavened dough balls perfect as delicious appetisers, to be eaten alone or paired with cured meats and cheese. Of course, you can also prepare simple crostini, or bread canapées with goat cheese and smoked salmon mousse, or ricotta and dried tomatoes blended together. If you have little time available, unroll a sheet of puff pastry, prick it with a fork, stuff it with cooked ricotta and spinach and cook the savoury pie in the oven (for an even faster version, season the ricotta with a pinch of salt, pepper and then flavour it with fresh aromatic herbs).

Main course: lasagna and cannelloni

With pasta in the oven you are always on the safe side. And in Italy nothing is more synonymous with the holidays than a homemade lasagna: if you want to try an alternative condiment to the classic meat sauce, enrich the lasagna with pumpkin, provolone and speck, without forgetting a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano on the surface to create a decadent crust. You can also make it with radicchio, gorgonzola and walnuts; or artichokes and sausage. Cannelloni are delicious both stuffed with minced meat or with ricotta and spinach: in any case, you can dress these with tomato sauce and Parmigiano cheese, or bake them with only bechamel. If you don't like the idea of ​​making homemade pasta, prepare crêpes and stuff them with ricotta and mushrooms, season with a little tomato sauce and bake everything in the oven.

Sweets of the Immaculate Conception: Sicilian recipes and more

In Sicily for dessert you cannot miss the Sfincette dell'Immacolata, fried leavened dough desserts covered with a mix of sugar and cinnamon and enjoyed piping hot. Otherwise, you can choose among the options available in the great tradition of Italian Christmas desserts, starting with the Christmas yule log, without forgetting typical biscuits such as mostaccioli. If you want a quick pudding, prepare a good pastry cream and serve it with fresh fruit and chopped hazelnuts; or work some ricotta with sugar and place the cream in a nice bowl together with apples cooked in a pan with sugar and cinnamon.

Pettole recipe

500 g flour

1 cube brewers yeast

8 oil packed anchovy fillets

2 Tbsp. brined capers

100 g black olives, pitted

2 spring onions


Extra virgin olive oil


Finely chop the spring onions, anchovy fillets and olives. Dissolve the brewer's yeast in warm water and then add it to the flour. Add water until the mixture has the consistency of batter. Add the chopped ingredients, the capers and then leave to rest, covered. In 60/90 minutes the dough will have doubled its volume. With two spoons, shape the pettole and fry in extra virgin olive oil.

by Michela Becchi

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