There’s a low-key expectation for the food served at holiday get-togethers to be phenomenal and pretty close to a restaurant standard.
But since we’re not chefs, and we also don’t want to let our loved ones down at the most magical time of the year, we’re looking to the experts for tips and tricks on how to prepare and serve an exceptional holiday meal.
As an extra sprinkling of seasonal luck would have it, chef Anna Olson has already done the hard part for us by creating a three-course cheesy holiday feast that has us rethinking whether we need turkey or pie at all this year.
To help you join Olson in this easy Cheesemas (sorry) cook along, we’ve rounded up the three recipes featured in her video — each made using all-natural, 100% Canadian dairy Tre Stelle cheese that delivers a pure, unrivalled taste.
Feliz Navi-Crab: Cheesy and Spicy Crab Dip
Every memorable holiday feast starts with a sensational appetizer. This warm, cheesy, and spicy Feliz Navi-Crab dip (how great is that name, by the way?) is decadent and destined to become your new holiday favourite. Olson brings two equally delicious kinds of cheese together for two different goals (one is for creaminess and the other for gooey melting). She notes that using tinned crab helps to keep the recipe costs down, too — a little holiday win.
Prep time: under 10 minutes
Ready in: 20 minutes
Serves: six to eight people
- 1 cup (100 g) Tre Stelle Shredded Mozzarella
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) cornstarch
- ½ cup (125 g) Tre Stelle Mascarpone
- ¼ cup (60 ml) mayonnaise
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) lime juice or jalapeno pickle juice (from the jar)
- 1 tsp (5 ml) celery salt
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) chilli powder
- ¼ tsp (1 ml) garlic powder
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- dash hot sauce (optional)
- 4 oz. (120 g) tinned crab meat, drained
- crostini, tortilla chips or crackers for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Toss the mozzarella with the cornstarch in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir in the mascarpone and mayonnaise followed by the parsley, jalapeno peppers, lime juice (or pickle juice), celery salt, chilli powder, garlic, Worcestershire and hot sauce (if using). Stir in the crab meat.
- Spoon the dip into a four-cup (one litre) shallow ovenproof dish, spread the dip, and bake for about 20 minutes until golden on top and bubbling at the edges.
- Serve immediately with crostini, tortilla, chips, or crackers.
Gnocchin’ Around the Christmas Tree: Ricotta Gnocchi with Squash, Sage, and Feta
If you’re as fond of gnocchi as we are, this recipe is a fun, cheesetastic take on an iconic Italian dumpling dish. Olson suggests making homemade gnocchi for two reasons: everyone gathers together to make it, and it’s low cost, high reward. When you use Tre Stelle ricotta, the gnocchi puffs up to the perfect little edible pillows. Then, ingredients like butternut squash and sage — with some crumbled feta on top for a little kick of salt — brings it together like magic. Pro tip: play a certain holiday song while making this dish.
Prep time: under 20 minutes
Ready in: under 15 minutes
Serves: four as a main or six as a starter
- 475 g (1 tub) Tre Stelle Traditional Ricotta or Extra Smooth Ricotta
- 4 large eggs
- 2 ½ cups (375 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 4 cups (1 litre) diced fresh butternut squash cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces (about 650 g)
- 3 tbsp (ml) olive oil or butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) chopped fresh sage (or 2 tsp/10 ml dried)
- 1 ½ cups (375 ml) halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 3 oz. (90 g) Tre Stelle Crumbled Feta
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- To make the gnocchi, beat the ricotta in a large mixing bowl by hand and beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the flour and salt and stir until evenly combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead for a minute until no longer sticky.
- Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece into a 16-inch rope about one inch (2.5 cm) thick. Cut into one-inch (2.5 cm) pieces and transfer to a flour-dusted baking tray
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the diced squash and boil for about six minutes, until almost tender.
- Drop the gnocchi into the same boiling water and cook for five minutes more, until the gnocchi floats to the top of the water. Drain the gnocchi and squash in a colander.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and stir for one minute.
- Add the gnocchi and squash to the pan along with the tomatoes and stir to coat with the oil. Season to taste.
- Spoon the gnocchi into pasta bowls or a serving bowl and sprinkle the crumbled feta on top. Serve immediately.
O’ Cannoli Night: Cannoli Cheesecake
It’s easy to get carried away with appetizers and main course dishes over the holidays, but be sure to remember one thing: always leave room for dessert. When you have even just one bite of Olson’s O’ Cannoli Night (try singing that for a moment) cheesecake, you’ll see why it’s a spiritual, sensory experience. It tastes like a cannoli, and you don’t have to worry about it cracking either since it’s made using ricotta, which eliminates that risk.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Ready in: 75 minutes
Serves: 12 to 16 (Makes one nine-inch/23 cm cheesecake)
- 2 ½ cups (280 g) chocolate or graham cookie crumbs (or crushed biscotti)
- ½ cup (120 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 ½ lb (675 g) Tre Stelle Ricotta Cheese (traditional or Extra Smooth Ricotta Cheese)
- 2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup (60 ml) sweet Marsala (optional)
- 2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract
- 1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp (5 ml) finely grated orange zest
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- 3 tbsp (45 g) unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup (85 g) mini chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 325 °F and lightly grease a nine-inch springform pan. Place the pan on a baking tray.
- For the crust, combine the crumbs with the melted butter and press this into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan, coming almost to the top. Bake for 12 minutes and cool while preparing the filling.
- For the filling, stir the ricotta by hand to smooth it out, and then whisk in the sugar, eggs, yolks, Marsala (if using) vanilla, lemon and orange zest, nutmeg, and then whisk in the melted butter. Stir in the chocolate chips and scrape the filling into the crust (it’s fine if the crust is still warm).
- Bake the cheesecake for an hour, until the edge of the filling is set but it jiggles in the centre when the pan is moved.
- Allow the cheesecake to cool for 90 minutes, then chill for at least three hours before serving.
- For an added holiday flair, top your cheesecake with sweetened whipped cream and grated dark chocolate.
When cooking over the holidays, Cheesemas doesn’t have to be stressful or intimidating; the entire process can be a breeze when you follow Olson’s drool-worthy, cheesy recipes step by step. Beyond the cheeses featured, you could also work Tre Stella Bocconcini, Paneer, or Halloumi into your holiday dishes this year.
After you finish the recipes in Olson’s YouTube cook along, you can find even more at trestelle.ca.