Carluccio’s Christmas – Quite Simply The Best Of Italy

 

One of my go-to places when Christmas shopping is Carluccio’s and it has been for many many years. Here I can find everything from Christmas presents for my foodie friends to stocking fillers and Secret Santa goodies to ingredients and products that make my Christmas entertaining that little bit easier and that little bit more Italian.

When shopping at Carluccio’s I know the products come from carefully sourced family businesses and speciality producers in Italy, many supplying Carluccio’s exclusively. Over 20 years ago the late great Antonio Carluccio and his then wife Priscilla started scouring the length and breadth of Italy for artisan produce made with real passion to sell in their shops and to this day Carluccios’s never use a middle man but go right to the source, from family bakeries in Veneto and Genoa, to farmers in the hills of Piemonte and clementine growers in Calabria.

So, what’s in store this year?

I love panettone, the distinctly shaped Italian Christmas cake – a great, and just as impressive, alternative to the traditional British Christmas cake. I like the lighter texture that is still full of Christmas flavours. Made to exclusive recipes from September through to December they are only found in-store at Christmas.

 

You can opt for the Panettone Tradizionale, full of plump sultanas, candied peel, natural yeast (from a starter dating back over 100 years) and finished with a hazelnut glaze, a chocolate version (1kg, £16.95) with milk and dark chocolate pieces taking the place of dried fruit and candied peel or this year, for the first time, the Gluten-Free Panettone, but my two favourites are the Panettone Al Limoncello filled with limoncello cream and candied lemon peel or the simply wonderful Panettone Alla Crema Prosecco ( yes, you read that right) made by three cousins who run a bakery started by their grandmother in Veneto, and carefully piped with a light creamy custard mixed with local prosecco.

When it comes to presents you really can’t go wrong with food, right? Everybody likes to eat and who can resist Italian food. Carluccio’s have the perfect gifts for all the gourmets (and gourmands) in your life, whether they prefer their treats sweet or savoury.

 

First up, and at the more luxury end of presents, is the Limited Edition Advent Calendar, choc-a-bloc full of Italian products from Carluccio’s core collection, including limoncello chocolates, truffle butter, aged balsamic vinegar, torrone pieces and porcini oil to name but a few.

I really would not mind finding Il Massimo under the Christmas tree –  an Italian box full to the brim with festive sweet treats like classic Milanese panettone; milk chocolate gianduja-filled stars; traditional amaretti biscuits from the same local baker Antonio used to visit as a child; decadent Florentine hot chocolate; a giant milk chocolate coin; apricot biscotti; candied clementine segments enrobed in dark chocolate; torcetti butter biscuits sprinkled with sugar and a bottle of Santa Sara prosecco.

 

If you know someone who loves their pasta (and who doesn’t?), Il Pentolone is a scarlet red ‘hat’ box, the perfect collection with four lesser-known durum wheat pastas: orecchiette, scialatielli, strangoloni and gigli. Mix and match with four of Antonio’s favourite sauces: spicy arrabbiata, porcini, venison ragu or vongole. A spaghetti-illustrated cotton tea-towel finishes off this stunning gift set.

And finally, if you really want to impress, Carluccio’s has the ultimate Italian hamper in its collection this year, Il Grandioso, and it is just that ‘grandioso’! You will find Prosecco and a selction of wines, a Panettone Tradizionale, pastas & sauces, balsamic vinegar and virgin olive oil, chocolates and biscuits including Chocolate Grissini and Clemente in Camicia. It really is splendid!

 

But, as I mentioned before, Carluccio’s is my go-to place for all presents, not just the big ones, and you can find something to suit all pockets. A bonus is that all Carluccio’s gift boxes come beautifully packaged and ready to go.

As a self-confessed cheese, mushroom and pasta lover, three of my absolute favourite gifts are Per I Formaggi, a beautiful wooden cheese board and serving spoon with a delicious fig jam made in small batches by the Zanuttigh family, which will go well with most Italian cheeses; Il Porcino Cestino, a basket filled with mushroom treats: truffle oil, mushroom and truffle sauce, porcini cream and dried porcini and Il Quadriello, a quartet of bronze-dyed pasta – mafalde, fusilli, bucatini and spaghetti – each accompanied by specially created recipes from the wonderful Antonio Carluccio.

 

There are so many sweet treats to choose from at Carluccio’s but I do have my favourites. I think the Clemente in Camicia is my Christmas treat of choice. Juicy candied clementine segments, double-coated in rich dark chocolate – these are fabulous (and now come in three weights to suit all sizes of family stockings). I also love the Grissini Ricoperti, savoury grissini sticks are covered in rich dark chocolate. These are made the traditional way, with lard, so not something for your vegetarian friends. And another favourite is Cantucci Vin Santo, traditional Tuscan almond and honey biscuits paired with Vin Santo dessert wine from Montalcino for dipping. Mmmmhhh!

Here are some other sweet gift ideas. Some of these make also wonderful table decorations.

Tarocco, a soft slab of delicious dark chocolate and Piemonte hazelnuts, slice and serve with an after-dinner espresso.

Cricchini, crunchy, caramelised cocoa bean-sized pieces of hazelnuts coated in dark chocolate.

Gianduiotto Grande Selezione, a selection of chocolates, that includes traditional gianduiotti, using the finest hazelnuts from Piemonte, as well as variations with dark chocolate, with white chocolate, with almonds and with pistachio.

 

Bauble di Gianduiotti/Bauble di Natale, see-trhrough baubles filled with either gianduiotti or milk chocolate hazelnut Santas.

Stelline di Cioccolato, a glass jar finished filled with gianduja gold chocolate stars.

Biscotti Tin

A biscuit tin filled with Tuscan biscotti in apricot, cocoa, and white chocolate & pistachio varieties.

Pandolce, an aromatic ‘sweet bread’ made in a family pasticceria in Genoa since 1780. A real labour of love, not only do they bake the cake, they also make the ingredients by hand– grinding the sugar, candying the fruit and roasting the pistachios.

You find these and many more Carluccio’s products and gift ideas  in-store and online at

www.carluccios.com

where you will also find product descriptions and prices.

 

BUON NATALE!

#CarlucciosUnwrapped

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