Preparing the Stracotto stew for Christmas Cappelletti is a big responsibility because expectations for the most anticipated meal of the year are always very high. This is how I prepared it to bring my whole family to the table… definitely feeling everyone’s eyes on me!

First of all, the stew should be prepared with three types of meat: beef, veal and pork. It’s a bit like doing no wrong to any of these meats, which at different times of the year brighten up our tables with extraordinary dishes.

As the name stracotto implies, the meat is cooked for such a long time that it falls apart simply by piercing it with a fork.

Once ready, the stew is blended or finely minced and the boiling cooking juices are used to wet the breadcrumbs that will be used to prepare the legendary Christmas Cappelletti, the meat-filled version of Anolini in broth.

And believe me, the type of filling is by no means an irrelevant matter! The tradition of eating one type of stuffing instead of the other is so ingrained that restaurants are obliged to put one or the other version on the menu according to boundaries dictated by custom, or else the menu would flop completely!

Here then is how to prepare Stracotto for fans and supporters of the meat version of this stuffed pasta, namely Cappelletti.

Stracotto for Christmas Cappelletti

negligible carbohydrates per 100g


  • 350g beef
  • 350g pork
  • 300g veal
  • 300g red wine
  • 50g onions
  • 50g carrots
  • 30g celery
  • 30g tomato paste
  • 30 g butter
  • 1/3 clove of garlic
  • 3 cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • water
  • salt


  1. Put the butter in a pan or earthenware casserole and melt it; add chopped onion, carrot and celery and brown it.
  2. Add the tomato paste and a third of a clove of chopped garlic, let the paste caramelise slightly, then place the three types of meat in the vegetable base, sealing the meat on all sides. Stick a clove into each piece of meat.
  3. Add the wine and pour in enough water to cover the meat, season with a pinch of salt, put the lid on and leave to cook on a low heat for at least 4 hours.
  4. After the time has elapsed, remove the cloves and add salt to taste. Remove the meat and put it in a food processor. Strain the cooking juices through a colander, add the remaining vegetable pieces in the colander to the meat in the processor and chop finely.
  5. Heat the liquid from the stew well and use it to scald the breadcrumbs of the Cappelleti filling.


Version with gluten of Stracotto for Christmas Cappelletti

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

Spongata is a typical Christmas cake whose preparation evokes sweet memories of family gatherings around the kitchen table and that is part of the Advent calendar of the Italian Food Blogger Association, which gives us a typical family recipe in every box.

For years, ever since diabetes and celiac disease have joined our family, I haven’t prepared it because of the challenge the traditional recipe poses in terms of sugar: so here is my gluten free and ‘sugar light’ Spongata.

Spongata: a sugary challenge

This year, for the first time, my daughter Gaia asked me: “Mum, what does Spongata taste like?” I was speechless, not because I couldn’t describe the taste of this sort of tart filled with nuts and spices, but because I had never thought of preparing it in a gluten free and, above all, low-sugar version… probably too busy trying to make a Panettone and Pandoro worthy of the name!

Well, since we can finally find gluten free Panettone and Pandoro on the market today that are much better than a few years ago, the focus has shifted to this humble, but fantastic Christmas preparation (as an alternative idea for the holiday season, try my Celebration Sacher).

My family tradition

When I was a child, the preparation of Spongata was a kind of ritual because these cakes were cooked in large quantities to enrich the baskets of food products to give as gifts to employees, collaborators, relatives and friends.

Spongatas were prepared long before Christmas. Once cooked and perfectly cooled, they were first wrapped in a sheet of parchment paper to protect them, then in an airtight bag (and maybe even in gift wrap to give them prestige) to allow all the flavours to mix well and achieve the perfect dough texture for consumption.

The preparation of the filling started a few days before the planned date of the big bake because ‘the longer the filling is left to macerate, the better the taste’. However, this filling is generally very rich in simple carbohydrates due to the presence of plenty of honey and sugar, even icing sugar to cover the surface once cooked.

So here is my ‘sugar light’ version, which remains however very high in calories!

My ‘sugar light’ recipe

The pastry I used is a gluten free adaptation of my friend and course assistant Lucia’s family recipe because in her version the sugar was really already reduced to a minimum. The filling, on the other hand, is an adaptation of my family’s recipe where 150g of honey and 2 heaped tablespoons of brown sugar in the filling have been replaced by 150g of jam: in this way, the filling manages to stay together a little despite the absence of the definitely stickier honey.

Another small note concerns breadcrumbs: in many recipes from the province of Parma they are added in the filling, but this ingredient has never appeared in my home version, so you won’t find it in this Spongata!

Finally, the surface. It is traditional to sprinkle the baked cake with a lot of icing sugar because the surface is hardly homogeneous: the name Spongata derives from the Latin word ‘spongia’, meaning sponge, precisely because of the irregular appearance reminiscent of a sponge. In keeping with tradition, I wanted to top one of my Spongatas with icing sugar to take the photo, but I kept the second one ‘au naturel’ and, I confess, I like it even better.


38.11g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the crust for 2 Spongatas of 18cm in diameter

  • 250g flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 125g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 40g white wine
  • 1 tsp baking powder*
  • a pinch of salt
  • water as needed
  • Ingredients for the filling
  • 150g fruit Mostarda*
  • 150g coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 150g jam without added sugar (your favourite flavour)*
  • 100g coarsely chopped almonds
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 25g raisins
  • a small glass of liqueur*
  • cinnamon powder*, cloves and nutmeg

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)


  1. Soak the raisins in liqueur.
  2. In a bowl, place the chopped fruit Mostarda with the aid of a rocking chopper or knife, then add all the other ingredients, including the soaked raisins and liqueur. Adjust the flavouring to your liking, cover the bowl with cling film and let the filling rest for at least a day.
  3. The next day, prepare the crust. Combine all the ingredients for the crust and knead adding the necessary water to obtain a smooth, homogeneous and rather soft dough. Cover the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator to rest for about 15 minutes.
  4. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll them out with a rolling pin. Line a mould with one part and fill it with half of the filling, distributing it evenly. Then close with a second disc. Prick the surface with a fork and bake in a convection oven preheated to 200°C for about 30 minutes. Bake and allow to cool completely, then dust with icing sugar if desired.
  5. At this point, seal your Spongatas tightly with a sheet of parchment paper and place them in a closed bag or cake tin until ready to use… which could be several days later!

My sugar-light Spongata

Version with gluten of Spongata

Replace the gluten-free flour with equal amounts of wheat flour, adjusting the amount of water.

Christmas is approaching and we would like to recommend a sweet preparation that can become a delightful gift to give your friends, an original placeholder for the table, or a small ornament to decorate home over the Christmas period: Cookie Christmas trees.

Moreover, baking Cookie Christmas trees is a wonderful opportunity to involve the little ones at home in manual and creative activities that will make the result even more special, whether to be eaten at breakfast on festive days or to be given as gifts to loved ones.

It takes dexterity and a little patience, but the result will give you great satisfaction.

Roll up your sleeves, let’s start making Cookie Christmas trees, and if you want to get creative, also try Christmas cookies and  Cookie handleouse.

Cookie Christmas Trees 

66g carbohydrates per 100g of cookie without icing

  • 400g gluten-free cake flour**
  • 150g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8g baking powder*
  • 1 pinch of salt, 1 pinch of vanilla

Ingredients for the icing

  • 150g icing sugar*
  • 25g pasteurised egg white

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)


  1. Put the flour, butter, sugar, salt and eggs in a bowl. Mix well, then add the baking powder and vanilla.
  2. With the shortcrust pastry, prepare cookies using 6 descending star-shaped moulds. Bake the cookies in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 10-15 minutes. Let them cool down.


  1. For the icing, mix the pasteurised egg white with the icing sugar until smooth and firm. Fill a pastry bag with the icing and decorate the stars as desired. Once the icing has hardened, stack the cookies on top of each other, securing them with a little icing to form a Christmas tree. If you want to make other cookies, check out this recipe.


Version with gluten of Cookie Christmas trees

Replace the gluten free flour with the same amount of standard cake flour.