No matter what you celebrate – or where – one thing we all have in common during the holidays is that we gather with family and friends to celebrate the season. And, of course, food is central to those celebrations. It’s in that spirit that we turned to Jack Bishop, the Chief Creative Officer at America’s Test Kitchen and part of the team behind the new travel and food book Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey, to get his take on the holiday feast. Jack is an expert of Italian food and Italian cooking, so it wasn't a surprise to us when chose to present this authentic six-course Italian holiday menu featuring regionally inspired dishes. Photos and recipe text courtesy America's Test Kitchen.


CHEESE WAFERS | FRICO FRIABILE

Frico friabile is a one-ingredient wonder and a delightful antipasto—especially alongside a glass of chilled white wine from the region. Nothing more than grated cheese which is melted and then browned to create a light, airy, crisp, and impressively sized wafer, this simple snack highlights the intense flavor of the cheese. SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen

 


 

FRIED STUFFED OLIVES | OLIVE ALL'ASCOLANA

Attend a festival in Le Marche, and you may sample one of the greatest snacks you’ll ever have: olive all’ascolana. Crisp-coated, salty fried olives stuffed with a rich meat filling are a culinary marvel of taste and texture that originated in the town of Ascoli Piceno. We just had to try making these delightful bites, but we suspected it might be a challenge—after all, we’d have to figure out how to pit and stuff an olive! SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen

 


 

FREGULA WITH CLAMS AND SAFFRON BROTH

This soup of pasta and clams is a Sardinian classic that’s all about simplicity. It relies chiefly on the flavor inherent in the soup’s two main ingredients: chewy, toasty spherical fregula, and arselle, the small, briny, succulent hard-shell clams found along the coast. As a substitute for the Sardinian arselle, which aren’t widely available in the United States, we landed on diminutive cockles. which are sweet and readily accessible. To cook the clams perfectly, we used our standard test kitchen method of steaming them in a shallow covered skillet and removing the clams as they opened. SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen

 


 

BRAISED OXTAILS | CODA ALLA VACCINARA

A classic Roman peasant meal, coda alla vaccinara is a lush braise originally prepared by slaughtermen (vaccinari) who were often paid with the undesirable parts of the animal. It’s from these parts, like oxtail, that they made delicious dishes and proved the underestimated worth of these inexpensive cuts. Coda alla vaccinara is still served in Roman trattorias. When simmered slowly—traditionally for 5 to 6 hours—the tough, fatty oxtails transform into meltingly tender meat coated by a rich, deeply flavored sauce which is thicker than that of a stew. Tomatoes, tomato paste, and a touch of wine, along with a sautéed soffritto (onion, carrot, and celery, cut large to have presence in the final dish) make the base of a sauce that’s elevated to lustrous as the oxtails braise in it. SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen

 


 

FAVA BEANS PURÉE WITH SAUTÉED ESCAROLE

In wintertime and early spring in Puglia, locals combine their winter stores of dried fava beans with peppery wild chicory into a satisfying, hearty dish. Dried fava beans are typically cooked until they can be mashed into a smooth puree and then topped with sautéed chicory dressed simply with olive oil and salt. Wild chicory isn’t commonplace in American markets, but we still embraced the dish’s humble roots by using more readily available escarole, which is a member of the chicory family: It's easy to find, quick cooking, and offers a similar pleasant bitterness. SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen


 

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CAKE | TORTA GIANDUIA

Hazelnuts from Piedmont are truly something special with their fine flavor and extremely crisp texture. Although they're beloved in many dishes, the flavor combination of hazelnuts and chocolate, called gianduia, is a Piedmontese favorite. It's a favorite in cakes, and just about any cake from the region that features chocolate and hazelnuts might be called torta gianduia—some are dressed-up and multilayered, while others are low, lush, and glazed. We love the classic rustic version with a crackly, crisp top and a moist, dense interior that’s something like a nutty flourless chocolate cake. SEE FULL RECIPE Photo: America's Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen

The Splendid Table frequently visits with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.