This article was originally published in 2011.
Buon Natale! A classic Italian menu with a gluten-free and dairy-free twist.
I grew up in an Italian household where Christmas was a generous affair. The presents were piled knee-high underneath a massive ornament-laden tree that filled our entire front room. But the real center of our Christmas was the kitchen where my mother bent over bubbling pots, my aunts rolled pasta dough, my father filled glasses with homemade wine and my cousins and I decorated cookies. The result was a long dinner table crowded with delectable Italian dishes that marked the holiday as a mouth-watering celebration of culinary treasures.
I had planned to hand these traditions down to my daughters until I discovered I had celiac disease. After I was diagnosed, I wondered if these wonderful banquets would become a thing of the past. So much of the Italian experience involves gluten-rich food!
Rather than concentrating on what I could not eat, I decided to turn to the same cuisine for answers. I began a culinary quest that led to reshaping and re-creating classic dishes into delicious fare that everyone, including me, could enjoy.
Here’s a festive spread (antipasto, bread sticks, pasta dish, main course and desserts) that celebrates the very best of Italian tradition—without gluten and dairy. Add a fresh green salad and a side of mashed potatoes or polenta.
SERVES 8 TO 10.
This antipasto starts with a simple chickpea flatbread. Add roasted tomatoes, pan-fried artichoke hearts, roasted peppers and olives. Serve all ingredients on a large tray so that guests can help themselves. They’ll have fun building their own crostini.
Each crostini contains 218 calories, 13g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 22mg cholesterol, 869mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 6g protein.
MAKES 1 CUP.
Your favorite homemade gluten-free bread makes ideal bread crumbs for special dishes. Store crumbs in the freezer and use when needed.
MAKES 18 BREADSTICKS.
These breadsticks are family favorites and take only minutes to prepare.
Each breadstick contains 51 calories, 4g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 23mg cholesterol, 105mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 1g protein.
MAKES 6 CUPS.
My family has made this recipe for generations. My grandparents harvested fresh tomatoes from the garden, blanched them (removing the skin and seeds) and diced them fine to create a base sauce. Fortunately, whole tomatoes from a can achieve the same wonderful flavor.
Each ½ cup serving contains 67 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 236mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g protein.
Don’t be put off by homemade gnocchi. This delicious dish is quite easy to make. For a vegetarian option, omit the sausage.
Each serving contains 324 calories, 13g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 64mg cholesterol, 582mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 10g protein.
SERVES 6 TO 8.
Il secondo, the second course, is the center of every Italian holiday feast. This scrumptious dish calls for a whole chicken that’s deboned. Ask your butcher to debone it or use whole boneless chicken breasts with skin on. With nimble hands, this recipe can be prepared in less than 1 hour. The results are worth it.
Each serving contains 373 calories, 19g total fat, 4g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 90mg cholesterol, 928mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 28g protein.
MAKES 36 COOKIES.
Lemon extract makes these cookies burst with flavor. The dough holds up to any rolling pin.
Each cookie with icing contains 125 calories, 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 19mg cholesterol, 79mg sodium, 19g carbo-hydrate, 0g fiber, 1g protein.
My grandmother made this wonderful dessert at Christmas. The moist, rich center complements a crusty chocolate outside. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top and rim cake with fresh raspberries, strawberries or candied fruit. Slice cake thinly and it will serve a crowd. Recipe can be halved for a smaller group.
Each serving contains 301 calories, 24g total fat, 14g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 141mg cholesterol, 138mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g protein.
MAKES 6 CUPS.
A combination of white and brown rice flour lightens the texture of baked goods. For a more nutritious mix with lower glycemic index, use all brown rice flour, a total of 4 cups flour.