Italian Holiday Recipe: Thanksgiving Citrus Turkey

Let's talk turkey, from an Italian-American standpoint.

Italian-Americans have assimilated to nearly every facet of U.S. culture over the last 140 years, but they draw the line at Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are rare in Italy, so when the first wave of immigrants streamed through Ellis Island, the American holiday and bird were viewed with a bit of skepticism.

Even today, you’re more likely to dine on antipasto, lasagna and meatballs, rather than turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

To help close the culinary culture gap, Tim Carman, of The Washington Post, interviewed seven chefs from around the world who offered up their take on turkey with flavors from their homeland.

Carman spoke to Chef Rossella Rago, host of Cooking with Nonna, to learn about her Italian bird recipe. He writes:

As a first-generation Italian American, [Rossella] Rago couldn’t help but notice how well Italians had assimilated into the United States — except, she says, on Thanksgiving, when everyone had to prove they were more Italian than their neighbors. The family might enjoy two different lasagnas before the turkey ever made an appearance on the table. But a few years ago, Rago’s mother-in-law, Maria Pesce, decided to introduce the turkey earlier in the meal, in an attempt to marry the Old World and the New World on Thanksgiving. Even her Thanksgiving Citrus Turkey recipe was a fusion: It incorporated flavors from the old country, including olive oil, garlic, rosemary, sage, navel orange, lemon and pinot grigio. Rago faithfully reproduced it in her cookbook “Cooking With Nonna: A Year of Italian Holidays.” So did the Italian-style turkey persuade Rago’s dad [Vito] to try a bite of the bird? Not a chance, Rago says. “He doesn’t eat it,” she says. “He looks at it.”


Share your favorite recipe, and we may feature it on our website.

Join the conversation, and share recipes, travel tips and stories.