During the holly, jolly Christmas season, we like to indulge in the unique local foods in Catalonia. From a warming pasta soup to a round festive cake, learn about the traditional dishes and desserts that bring us comfort and joy in Barcelona and Catalonia!
Sopa de Galets
On Christmas Day, families all over Catalonia start their holiday meal with a warm soup, sopa de galets. This soup comprises of a nourishing meat broth with galets, a pasta shaped like an oversized macaroni. Sometimes, the galets are filled with meatballs. It makes for a cozy starter dish!
Escudella i Carn d´Olla
Translated as “soup and stewed meat”, the escudella is also eaten on Christmas Day. The main feature is the pilota, or the large American-football-shaped meatball. The pilota is sliced and shared at the Christmas table and is served on a platter. It’s also often accompanied with other meats like sausages, pork cheek, or chicken. On another platter, the family also digs into their healthy vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and cabbage.
Torró (in Catalan) is a brick-shaped confectionary made of almond nougat, honey, sugar, and eggs, also eaten on Christmas Day. Its history dates from the 8th century when the Moors introduced new ingredients to Spanish gastronomy. There are several varieties: the turrón (in Spanish) from Alicante is hard – as whole almonds gives it that extra crunchy texture. Turrón from Xixona is a soft, chewy nougat that will leave you with greasy hands to lick afterwards! Nowadays there are dozens of other flavors, like chocolate, yema tostada (“toasted egg yolk”), and even coconut.
Neules are also eaten for dessert on Christmas Day, accompanied with a sparkling glass of cava. They’re light, crispy wafers in a long, cylindrical shape. They’re delicious on their own, but they can also be covered in chocolate or stuffed with torró. Yum!
On El Día de San Esteve, or Boxing Day on December 26, Catalans eat canalons, a pasta dish that uses the leftover meat from Christmas Day. The meat is stuffed inside a tube-shaped pasta and is covered with a bechamel sauce (unlike a cheese and tomato sauce like the Italians do it). Canalons are actually eaten year-round in Spain, but December 26 is a good day to enjoy this filling dish!
Tortell de Reis
On the day of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day on January 6, family members gather together to devour the festively decorated tortell de reis. It’s a large, light, donut-shaped pastry topped with glazed fruit. The best part of eating the tortell is finding the prize hidden inside, which is usually a ceramic figurine. The person that finds it in their slice of cake gets to wear a crown, which comes from the bakery from which you bought your cake. However, if you find a field bean, you have to pay for the whole tortell. We don’t know anyone who really follows the latter tradition, but it’s fun to see who gets unlucky!
Have you tried any of these holiday dishes or desserts in Barcelona? Did you think they were delicious? Let us know in the comments!
December 22, 2019 | Words by Justine Ancheta for Eye On Food Tours