Italian Recipes

Celebrating an Italian Thanksgiving Day

November 17, 2021

Italians who live in Italy don’t celebrate Thanksgiving like we do here in North America, although they have many holidays called La Festa del Ringraziamento (or Feast of Thanksgiving) which refer to a variety of religious holidays that are held throughout the year of the patron saint. I believe the Italians (who live in Italy) come closest to celebrating Thanksgiving as we know it, their harvest celebrations that they hold all autumn. Italians who emigrated to North America, however, have certainly embraced Thanksgiving and made it their own in their own way. Italians love every holiday that brings friends and family together (and food, of course!), And every family with Italian heritage has their own unique traditions for celebrating this traditionally North American holiday. In addition to the expected turkey and side dishes that most Americans know, an Italian Thanksgiving here in North America often includes an antipasto (or a few), a pasta or soup course, and a variety of traditional sweets to top off the meal.

Thanksgiving Whole turkeys are not easy to find in Italy, and when we lived there 20 years ago we wandered downtown Milan to a very large butcher shop to order our bird weeks before Thanksgiving. Most Italian friends had very small kitchens with very small ovens, so even if they were interested in frying a whole bird (which they weren’t) it was an impossible task. Italians like stuffed turkey breast, however, and I find it a great alternative to roasting a whole turkey and often have a stuffed turkey breast on my vacation menu with many other dishes to make up a full meal.

Italian cuisine is good for holiday entertainment as many dishes can be prepared in advance and simply cooked when needed. I am sharing below a number of my own recipes that I have used myself for holiday entertainment that would be perfect for any Thanksgiving dinner so you can choose and plan your own unique menu.

Starters ~ antipasti

Fried sage leaves
Offer your guests these crunchy, tasty offers with a good glass of white wine when they arrive.

Stuffed ricotta mushrooms
This stuffed mushroom is slightly lighter than many of the other versions you’ll come across as the main ingredient in the filling is creamy ricotta cheese.

Roasted tomato and ricotta canapes
A simple starter that your guests can enjoy while preparing their Christmas dinner

Baked Seasoned Olives
A bowl of these olives would complement the sage leaves nicely.

Bruschetta with roasted pumpkin, cranberries and goat cheese
Served on thin slices of toasted bagguettes, these small bites go perfectly with a glass of wine.

First course ~ Primi

Tortellini with zucca
This lovely pasta dish will appeal to everyone. Serve small portions as a first course.

Risotto alla zucca
Another first course that would be perfect for a fall celebration. You can also garnish it with sautéed chopped chestnuts!

Spiced pumpkin soup
A nice soup in taste and color that can be prepared the day before serving and that helps with holiday organization.

Creamy boletus and chestnut soup
This delicious soup would be great served in small coffee cups and garnished with chopped fresh herbs.

Spiced butternut squash soup
This soup is great for vacation entertainment!

Pasta with creamy goat cheese, butternut squash & bacon
Rich and creamy, just a few bites would be a great first course for the holidays.

Main course ~ second

Turkey breast stuffed with spinach and prosciutto
A nice alternative to a whole roast turkey, a great choice for those who appreciate white meat. Serve with new baby potatoes and a tender, crispy green vegetable.

Turkey breast filled with mushrooms and chestnuts
When you don’t need a whole turkey or just prefer white meat.

Porcini grated turkey
This is my favorite roast turkey recipe, which involves first rubbing the bird in a mixture of porcini mushrooms and butter. I continue the mushroom theme in the sauce and stuff the bird with a spicy fennel sausage filling.

Roast lamb
Who Said You Must Have Turkey For Thanksgiving? Here’s another delicious option for those who value red meat over poultry.

Duck breast in a cherry port wine sauce
You don’t want to roast a whole turkey, but want something special for the holidays? These simple duck breasts would make a great vacation main course.

Side dishes ~ Contorni

Zucchini Toss
Easy to assemble and enjoyed by everyone, this makes a great addition any time of the year.

Fennel in bechamel sauce with parmesan cheese
Fennel, an often ignored vegetable, is deliciously roasted and specially prepared with bechamel sauce and grated cheese.

Baked holiday pumpkin
This is my family’s favorite vacation side dish. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this dish in my home!

Roasted rosemary potatoes
I think these potatoes go well with any meat dish, especially turkey and lamb.

Sweet and sour roasted beets and onions
This colorful side dish will impress your guests with its unique taste.

Green holiday beans with almonds and pomegranate arils
Colorful and full of flavor, this side dish is perfect for every holiday table.

Desserts ~ Dolci

Chocolate panna cotta with espresso cream
This dessert can be prepared easily and deliciously on the morning of your celebration.

My version of tiramisu is light and tasty, and a perfect choice for vacation entertainment.

Offer a few flavors of this simple and delicious Italian cake and you will get rave reviews from your guests.

Chocolate chestnut cake
Sinfully rich, at the end of your holiday meal you only need a small piece of this chocolate treat.

Deborah Mele
Reposted November 2020

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