Christmas Capon (Cappone Natalizio)

Capon is basically a large teenage chicken which replaced swans and peacocks on the 16th century banquet table, thankfully. Since then, it has gradually become the centerpiece of holiday meals, especially Christmas. The original version of this dish was cooked on a manually turned spit over an open fire. Like the swans and peacocks of old, that too has been replaced, this time with roasting in an oven.

Italian Christmas Capon

Cappone Natalizio (Christmas Capon)

Much like the American turkey and German goose, Capon has become Northern Italy's go-to for major holidays and celebrations. Capon is another name for a large (6-7 pounds) teenage chicken. A small turkey can gracefully replace the capon. Served atop Tagliatelle with Caramelized Oranges and Almonds, this dish is not only a showstopper worthy of celebration, but relatively easy to prepare.
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Course: Gluten-free, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Northern Italy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • Low-rimmed roasting pan, slightly larger than the bird
  • Baster (optional)
  • Instant read thermometer


  • 7 lb Capon (or 10-12 lb turkey)
  • ½ large Lemon
  • tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
  • Salt and coarse black pepper
  • 3 oz Slab Prosciutto di Parma, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup Dry wine
  • ½ cup Dry Marsala wine (or replace with another ½ cup white wine)


  • Advance Preparation – 24 hours before roasting, season the capon. Rinse bird under cold water, inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels and trim away any excess fat. Rub everywhere with the lemon half. Sprinkle the skin and cavity with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Tuck the chopped prosciutto into the cavity and place bird in a shallow roasting pan just large enough to hold the bird. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight and until you're ready to cook.
  • Roast Capon – Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). Truss bird if desired. Lay it breast side down in the roasting pan. Roast capon 25 minutes per-pound (2½-3 hours). If using a turkey, allow 15 to 18 minutes per-pound. Bird will be done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°F. (77°C).
    After the first hour, begin basting the bird every 20 20 minutes, first with ⅓ of the white wine and then ⅓ of the Marsala wine and pan juices. With about 30 minutes left, turn the bird over breast-side up and baste.
  • To Serve – Transfer bird to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 minutes under a "tent" of aluminum foil. Pour the pan juices into a microwave safe bowl and place in the freezer. When ready to serve, separate the wings and drumsticks, slice the white meat into thick pieces and divide each thigh into three or 4 pieces. Arrange on a platter. Remove bowl with juices from the freezer and skim off fat from the top. Heat bowl in the Microwave until juices are hot. Pour over meat and serve. Scatter the prosciutto pieces over the meat and serve hot.


  • If the juices are drying out during Marsala basting, add a little water.


Calories: 701kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 122g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 364mg | Sodium: 720mg | Potassium: 1290mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 164IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 5mg