Very different than our Italian-American tradition for Christmas Eve, which is to have a large, family meal often with fish, my cousins in Bagheria, Sicily have a simple meal for “La Vigilia.” Their tradition is to have sfincione Bagherese (pictured), pan-fried cardoon (artichoke thistle), and maybe a small serving of pasta. They reserve their large, family meal for Christmas Day.
Sfincione Bagherese is a marvelous bread (like a focaccia) that is baked in a wood-burning oven that has been heated by olive branches. Fresh ricotta, anchovies, onions, and breadcrumbs are cooked into a thick, spongy dough creating a carnival of flavors in your mouth. Eating it within an hour or so of it coming from the oven is something special.