The Art of ‘Italianizing’ Your Thanksgiving Table

From artisan appetizers to a perfectly seasoned bird, here are some ideas that blend Italian cooking with the annual American tradition.

The following article, written by Francesca Montillo, appears on The Lazy Italian

Growing up in Southern Italy, my mother, who had been raised in the U.S. years prior, would often tell my sister and I stories about Thanksgiving.

“There’s always a giant turkey,” she would explain to us, and everyone expresses what he or she is thankful for. I must admit, in hindsight, my eight- or nine-year-old self didn’t much grasp the concept of this Holiday.

For one thing, turkeys are rare in Italy, so I had never seen one, let alone stuffed!

Picturing one roasted was a bit hard! And why a day to say thanks? Can’t it be said every day? Despite my hesitation toward the holiday, I was very much looking forward to it in 1988, our first year in the States.

My mom, whose heart had always longed to return to Boston, was very excited about it, and eager to teach us what this Holiday meant.

It was her favorite one after all, and it would soon become mine as well.

Gaining some popularity in Italy as La Festa Del Ringrazziamento, Thanksgiving still remains to me very much an American holiday.

History suggests that the Pilgrims and Puritans, having settled in modern day Plymouth, MA from England, were celebrating a particularly good harvest.

To celebrate a period of fasting, a feast was born, one lasting several days!

And what better way to celebrate than with food and family? They had a lot in common with Italians!

I am often asked if my family and I eat turkey on Thanksgiving. I think they expect me to say no, but of course we do!

After all these years living here, our cultures have fully blended and “the giant turkey” my mom used to talk about in Italy gets an Italian makeover.

Our sides, or contorni, are traditional Italian dishes, (sorry cranberry sauce, no room for you at our Italian table!) and the meal typically ends with an Italian dessert or two.

I apologize in advance to the apple pie lovers reading this.

Here are a few ideas on how to Italianize your Thanksgiving this year.

Antipasto Plate

There’s nothing I love more than a good antipasto plate, to be displayed on the coffee table or kitchen counter and to be nibbled on while the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on in the background.

In this picture, you can see that we have prepared a platter of provolone and parmigiano chunks, cured salami, green olives, cherry tomatoes and some healthy grapes thrown in for good measures.

Parmesan crackers add a nice touch. Nibble, but don’t spoil your main course!

“The Giant Turkey”

Oh, what would Thanksgiving be without the star of the table?

To give your turkey an Italian twist, very generously season it with traditional Italian herbs and spices.

In this image from last year, we created a buttery paste by blending one stick of room temperature butter with dried oregano, rosemary, fresh basil, parsley and crushed garlic.

The paste is then gingerly rubbed underneath the skin.

This creates a super moist layer and ultimately helps in preventing from drying out, particularly the white meat.

The top is then rubbed with a similar paste and additional dried herbs are added on top.

Place the bird on a bed of onions, carrots, celery, lemons, and we added some white wine at the bottom of the pan to prevent burning.

The bird is stuffed with citrus fruits and fresh rosemary, which add flavor and moisture. You can remove and discard them after the turkey is cooked.

The juices create a very delicious gravy. Continue reading at The Lazy Italian. 

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