A Taste of Italy for the Holidays: Creating Italian-Inspired Menus

by Carolyn Brandt | Published October 8, 2023

Food Connects Us

Italian traditions are inevitably around the table during the holiday season. Any occasion is an excuse for Italians to spend time together and always with food as the theme. Italian cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and hearty dishes, making it the perfect choice for creating memorable meals with family and friends. To elevate your dining experience, we’ve curated a collection of recipes and menu ideas inspired by Italian traditions, perfectly complemented by a selection of exquisite Italian wines: Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barolo, and White Barolo.

Nebbiolo: Paired with Bruschetta al Pomodoro and Osso Bucco

While Nebbiolo’s heartland is in Piedmont, Italy, the grape has gained popularity worldwide. Some winemakers in regions like California, Argentina, and Australia are producing Nebbiolo wines that express their own unique terroirs while paying homage to the traditional Italian style.

Portalupi’s Nebbiolo (a wine club member favorite), on the nose, has unique red berries and rose petal aromas. Once on the palette, you are taken aback by the bold tannins, balanced acidity, and the distinctive flavor of hand-crafted leather, roses, smoke, and strawberries. It gets slightly “truffley” towards the end.

Nebbiolo is a grape variety that produces wines of exceptional character, complexity, and longevity. Its unique combination of aromatics, acidity, tannins, and aging potential sets it apart in the world of wine. For those who appreciate wines with depth and a true sense of place, Nebbiolo is a variety worth exploring.

Nebbiolo wines, with their high acidity and tannins, pair remarkably well with rich, hearty dishes. They are a classic match for Piedmontese specialties like truffle risotto, braised meats, and game. 


Appetizer: Bruschetta al Pomodoro


  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Toast the baguette slices in the oven until golden.
  2. Combine tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar in a bowl.
  3. Spoon the mixture onto the toasted baguette slices.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Main Course: Osso Bucco


  • 4 veal shanks
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef or veal broth
  • 1 can (14 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Gremolata (zest of 1 lemon, 2 cloves garlic, and 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley)


  1. Dredge veal shanks in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown shanks on all sides. Transfer to a slow cooker.
  3. In the same skillet, sauté onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until softened. Add to slow cooker.
  4. Pour in wine, broth, crushed tomatoes, and add rosemary sprigs. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  5. Prepare gremolata by combining lemon zest, minced garlic, and chopped parsley.
  6. Serve osso buco over risotto or polenta, topped with gremolata.

You can also use Jane Portalupi’s family recipe!

Arneis: Paired with Caprese Salad and Risotto ai Funghi (or Seriously Smokin’ Turkey)

Arneis is a white grape variety native to the Piedmont region of Italy. It produces wine with distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other white varietals. Arneis was historically known as the “little rascal” due to its challenging nature in cultivation. It was at risk of extinction until a concerted effort was made to revive and promote it in the latter half of the 20th century.

Arneis is renowned for its aromatic intensity. It is a unique and intriguing choice for both casual drinkers and wine connoisseurs alike. Portalupi’s expression of Arneis is a light-bodied, delicate white wine with flavors of green melon, lime, pears, and raw manuka honey with almonds. Subtle fruit and crisp with bright acidity. Very true Italian style from the Roero area of Piemonte.

The acidity of Arneis makes it a versatile food-pairing choice. It complements seafood, poultry, salads, creamy pastas, and lighter cheeses exceptionally well.


Appetizer: Caprese Salad


  • 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • ⅔ cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter, alternating.
  2. Tuck fresh basil leaves between the slices.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Main Course: Risotto ai Funghi


  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Arneis or another white wine
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, heated
  • ⅔ cup mixed mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Sauté onions and garlic in a large skillet until translucent.
  2. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Remove half for garnish.
  3. Stir in Arborio rice and cook for a few minutes until translucent.
  4. Pour in wine and cook until evaporated.
  5. Gradually add hot broth, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed.
  6. Continue until rice is creamy and cooked to your liking.
  7. Stir in Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper, and top with reserved mushrooms and parsley.

If you’d like to get really fancy and use Arneis to flavor your Thanksgiving Turkey, we highly recommend Jane and Tim’s Seriously Smokin’ Turkey recipe!

Barolo and White Barolo: Paired with Vitello Tonnato, Pappardelle al Tartufo, and Tiramisu

Barolo is a red wine produced in the Piedmont region of Italy. Barolo is often referred to as the “King of Wines” and “Wine of Kings” due to its remarkable aging potential. The wines are made from Nebbiolo grapes, generally high in acid and tannins. In Piedmont, Nebbiolo is one of the first varieties to undergo bud break and the last to be picked, with harvest generally taking place in late October. Barolo wines must be solely composed of Nebbiolo, with no exceptions. It pairs exceptionally well with Piedmontese specialties like truffle risotto, braised meats, game, and aged cheeses.

Just like its red counterpart, White Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape variety. This is a departure from the norm, as Nebbiolo is traditionally associated with red wines. Portalupi’s Arneis is referred to as our “White Barolo”, as it exhibits a complex aromatic profile similar to a White Barolo- which can include notes of white flowers, citrus fruits, stone fruits, and sometimes a subtle minerality. 

Due to its bright acidity and aromatic complexity, White Barolo pairs well with a variety of dishes. It complements seafood, poultry, creamy pasta dishes, and lighter cheeses. It can also stand up to more complex and flavorful dishes.

Barolo’s are a fascinating choice for wine enthusiasts seeking something out of the ordinary.


Appetizer: Vitello Tonnato


  • 1 lb veal roast
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Poach veal in a mixture of chicken broth and white wine until cooked through. Let cool.
  2. Blend mayonnaise, capers, anchovies, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Slice veal thinly and serve with the sauce.

Main Course: Pappardelle al Tartufo


  • 14 oz pappardelle pasta
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp truffle oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh black truffle shavings (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and toss with butter and truffle oil.
  2. Stir in Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Garnish with truffle shavings (if available) and parsley.


Dessert: Tiramisu


  • ⅔ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup strong espresso, cooled
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 package ladyfingers
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • Dark chocolate shavings (optional)


  1. Beat egg yolks and sugar until creamy.
  2. Fold in mascarpone cheese.
  3. Whip cream until stiff peaks form and fold into the mascarpone mixture.
  4. Briefly dip ladyfingers into espresso and arrange in a dish.
  5. Spread a layer of mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.
  6. Repeat layers, finishing with a mascarpone layer on top.
  7. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  8. Dust with cocoa powder and garnish with chocolate shavings before serving.

Buon Appetito!

Enjoy the great love affair of Italian food and wine around the table during the Holidays! From the robust flavors of Nebbiolo to the crisp elegance of Arneis, and the regal Barolo wines, each dish is perfectly complemented by its accompanying wine. Buon appetito!