Donatella’s Holiday Feast

Whether your family is pure melting pot or has been here since The Mayflower hit Plymouth rock, it’s likely you have a great many recipes that are must-haves on the holiday table. They are delicious gold standards, and everyone loves them.

But wouldn’t it be fun to breathe new life into them this year? That’s exactly how Donatella Arpaia felt when she reimagined her Italian family’s Christmas dinner traditions.

She couldn’t help adding her own Iron Chef finesse to her mother’s phenomenal “baccalà” or cod fish. And of course the exquisite mozzarella cheese called “burrata” from Puglia (where her family is from) had to be included in the appetizer spread. But she added a pinch of microgreens to freshen up the favorite.

From a trio of unexpected bruschetta to elegant black truffled lasagna, this world-class chef and innovative restaurateur elevates the Italian classics to star status. Here are three of her delicious holiday recipes:

Bruschetta with Trio of Toppings


  1. 1/4 loaf ciabatta bread cut into 1/2” thick slices
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil (additional for drizzling)
  3. Heat grill to high, and preheat oven to 450°.
  4. Lightly brush ciabatta slices with 1/3 cup olive oil.
  5. Grill bread over high heat until grill marks appear on both sides.

Topping One: Burrata and Marinated Anchovies Bruschetta

  • 1 pound burrata cut into pieces
  • 1 small container of white marinated anchovies
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon zest

Top each slice of  1/3 of the bruschetta with 2 Tablespoons burrata, two anchovy fillets, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and chopped basil.


Topping Two: Bruschetta with Roasted Tomatoes

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (additional for drizzling)
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • Microgreens or fresh basil, chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix cherry tomatoes with 1/3 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes. Remove and cool.
  2. To assemble: Top each slice of 1/3 of the bruschetta with one Tablespoon ricotta, Two tablespoons tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with microgreens or fresh basil, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Topping Three: Wild Mushroom and Herb

  • 2–3 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (shiitake, cremini or oyster), sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1–2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 ounce Marsala wine (optional)
  • Microgreens or parsley to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.
  1. When pan is hot, add 1–2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the mushrooms. Let them sit undisturbed until they start to brown (2–3 minutes). Stir. Add garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, and rosemary and toss. Deglaze with Marsala wine (optional).
  2. When mushrooms are wilted, remove to a bowl, and spoon onto the remaining bruschetta. Top with microgreens or chopped parsley.

Truffled Lasagna


  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 quart milk
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • Fresh nutmeg, to taste
  1. Heat the butter and flour, stirring in a pan.
  2. Add minced shallots, and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add white wine and cook for 1–2 minutes.
  4. Add the milk, thyme, and fresh nutmeg and cook until thick (10 minutes).


  • 1 package Rana oven-ready pasta sheets
  • 2 cups grated parmesan (1 cup for ricotta mixture)
  • 2 ounces truffle carpacio
  • 1–2 pounds fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • 3 pounds ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • Truffle shavings
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Baby chives to garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To make the ricotta filing: mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of grated parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Coat bottom of 9″ x 13″ casserole with some béchamel. Cover bottom with two pasta sheets. Cover with 1/2 ricotta mixture. Scatter some truffle shavings. Top with some parmesan. Top with shredded mozzarella. Layer with two pasta sheets. Use the rest of the ricotta and add more parmesan and truffle shavings. Put béchamel over the top and mozzarella and parmesan over that layer.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Bake for 15–20 minutes uncovered or until nicely browned and heated through. Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting. Garnish with baby chives.

Seared Cod with Potato, Olive and Caper

blogDonatellaCooking_05Potato Base

  • 2 pounds Yukon potatoes, cut into small cubes (1/4–1/2” dice)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 large fresh and ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup pitted and rough chopped Cerignola or other green olives
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Place cut potatoes in cold water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until al dente (5 minutes). Drain and cool.
  2. Heat olive oil in saucepan, and fry the potatoes on all sides until golden brown. Lift from the olive oil with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
  3. Add the crushed garlic cloves, brown in the oil and set aside with potatoes. Add the diced tomatoes, and sauté until they begin to soften. Add back the potato and garlic. Toss and sauté. Add the chopped olives and capers. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat together, tossing. Finish with lemon juice and chopped parsley.


  • 3 pounds cod fillet—thickest part of the fillets, cut into 3” squares
  • 1–2 cups all purpose flour
  • Olive oil to fry
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oil in sauté pan. Place flour on a tray or shallow bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge cod portions in flour to coat, then gently pat excess off. Carefully place in hot oil.
  2. Let cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes until deep golden brown on one side. Do not crowd the pan. Use two pans if necessary.
  3. With a spatula, carefully flip the fish, and cook on the other side for few more minutes or until golden brown.

Buon appetito!

Donatella Arpaia

Donatella Arpaia is a chef, restaurateur, entrepreneur, and mother. She has built an empire of successful restaurants drawing on the skills, passion, methods, and love for food she learned from her family.