New Year's Food Traditions in Italy

Italians celebrate New Year's Eve, known as the Vigilia, Capodanno or Festa di San Silvestro, with a cenone (big feast), often featuring foods symbolic of wishes for the coming year, and of course washed down with plenty of Prosecco or spumante ("sparkling wine").

  • 01 of 07

    Lenticchie (Lentils)

    Lentils are a traditional New Year's food in Italy

    The star of many New Year's dinners throughout Italy is lentils; with their coin-like shape, they were traditionally believed to bring prosperity in the new year. They are commonly served with either cotechino or zampone (see below).

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  • 02 of 07

    Cotechino

    Cotechino and Lentils - a typical Italian New Year's dish
    Cotechino and Lentils - a typical Italian New Year's dish. Gary Friedman/Getty

    Pork is considered a lucky New Year's food because it's so fatty and rich -- again symbolic of prosperity in the days to come -- and the classic accompaniment for New Year's lentils in many parts of Italy is cotechino. Originally from Modena, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region, cotechino is a large sausage made from pork rind, meat, fat and spices. It's usually sold partially cooked or raw, and then simmered over low heat and sliced into rounds before serving.

    Try this recipe: Cot...MOREechino with Lentils

  • 03 of 07

    Zampone

    Zamponi - pigs' trotters stuffed with sausage

    A common alternative to cotechino is a zampone, a hollowed-out pig's trotter stuffed with a sausage made with pork rind, scraps and fat, just like cotechino. It's also boiled and sliced into rounds before being served with lentils for a lucky New Year's Eve dinner.

  • 04 of 07

    Risotto in bianco (White risotto)

    White risotto

    In Piemonte and Friuli, grains of rice represent coins, and while cooking, rice grows in the pot the way that you'd like your wealth to multiply in the new year, so a traditional New Year's dinner includes a risotto in bianco (white risotto). 

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    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Tortellini or Cappelletti in Broth

    Tortellini in broth

    In the Emilia-Romagna region, tortellini or cappelletti, small filled pasta dumplings, are often eaten on New Year's in a rich, meaty broth. Capodanno, one of the several Italian names for the new year, literally means the "head of the year" and cappelletti means "little hats," so perhaps that's why it's an appropriate way to "cap off" the old year and begin the new one. My relatives in the Lazio region would sometimes enjoy an Asian version of this dish on...MORE New Year's Day: won ton soup.

    Get the recipes: Tortellini in brodo and Homemade Cappelletti

  • 06 of 07
    A slice of sfincione, Sicilian pizza
    A slice of sfincione, Sicilian pizza. Creative Commons

    In Sicily, a New Year's treat that "non può mancare" (absolutely must be present!) is sfincione, a thick-crust, rectangular pizza made with onions, bread crumbs, and caciocavallo cheese, the ancestor of what is known as "Sicilian-style pizza" in the United States.

    This makes a great finger food for New Year's Eve parties!

    Get the recipe: Lo Sfincione - The Original Sicilian-Style Pizza

  • 07 of 07

    Veneziana or Pandoro

    Sweet veneziana bread for New Year's

    Veneziana is a sweet, buttery leavened cake similar to classic Italian yeasted Christmas cakes (Veronese pandoro or Milanese panettoneminus the candied fruit and topped with crunchy pearl sugar and slivered almonds and traditionally enjoyed in Venice on New Year's Eve. Long, thin slices of star-shaped pandoro are also often served at New Year's Eve parties, dusted with powdered sugar and perhaps dipped in melted dark chocolate.

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