Italians living in Italy do not celebrate Thanksgiving as we do here in North America although they do have many holidays called La Festa del Ringraziamento (or Festival of Thanks), which refer to a variety of religious holidays held throughout the year to honor patron saints. I believe the closest Italians (living in Italy) would get to celebrating a Thanksgiving as we know it, would be their harvest celebrations they hold throughout the fall. Italians that have emigrated to North America however, have certainly embraced Thanksgiving and in their own unique way made it their own. Italians love any holiday that brings together friends and family (and of course food!), and every family of Italian heritage has their own unique traditions that to celebrate this traditionally North American holiday. As well as the expected turkey and side dishes most Americans are familiar with, an Italian Thanksgiving here in North America will often also include an antipasti (or a few), a pasta or soup course, as well as many different traditional sweets to complete the meal.
In Italy, whole turkeys are not easy to find, and in fact when we lived there 20 years ago we would trek down to the city center of Milan to a very large butcher shop weeks before Thanksgiving to order our bird. Most of Italian friends had very small kitchens containing very small ovens so that even if they were interested in roasting an entire bird (which they weren’t), it was an impossible task. Italian do however enjoy stuffed turkey breasts and I have found it a great alternative to roasting a whole turkey, and often have a stuffed turkey breast on my holiday menu with many other dishes included to create a complete meal.
Italian cuisine lends itself well to holiday entertaining as many dishes can be prepared ahead of time and simply cooked when needed. I am sharing a number of my own recipes below that I have used myself for holiday entertaining that would be perfect for any Thanksgiving dinner so you can pick and choose and plan your own unique menu.
Appetizers ~ Antipasti
Fried Sage Leaves
Offer your guests these crisp, tasty offerings with a nice glass of white wine as they arrive.
Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms
This stuffed mushroom is a little lighter than many of the other versions you will come across as the primary ingredient in the stuffing is creamy ricotta cheese.
Roasted Tomato Ricotta Bites
An easy appetizer that your guests can snack on while you are preparing the holiday meal
Baked Seasoned Olives
A bowl of these olives would compliment the sage leaves nicely.
Bruschetta With Roasted Squash, Cranberries, & Goat Cheese
Served on thin slices of toasted bagguettes, these tiny bites are great with a glass of wine.
First Course ~ Primi
Tortellini With Zucca
This pretty 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 garnish it with sauteed chopped chestnuts too!
Spiced Pumpkin Soup
A beautiful soup both in flavor and color that can be prepared the day before serving which helps with holiday organization.
Creamy Porcini Chestnut Soup
This delicious soup would be great served in small coffee cups and garnished with chopped fresh herbs.
Spiced Holiday Butternut Squash Soup
This soup lends itself well to holiday entertaining!
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 ~ Secondi
Spinach And Prosciutto Stuffed Turkey Breast
A nice alternative to a whole roast turkey, this is a great choice for those who appreciate white meat. Serve with baby new potatoes and a tender crisp green vegetable.
Mushroom & Chestnut Stuffed Turkey Breast
When you do not need an entire turkey or just prefer white meat.
Porcini Rubbed Roast Turkey
This is my favorite recipe for roasted turkey which entails first rubbing the bird in a mixture made of porcini mushrooms and butter. I continue the mushroom theme in the gravy, and stuff the bird with a flavorful fennel, sausage stuffing.
Who says you must have turkey for Thanksgiving? Here is another delicious option for those who appreciate red meat over poultry.
Duck Breasts in Cherry Port Wine Sauce
Don’t want to roast a whole turkey but want something special for the holidays? These easy duck breasts would be a great holiday main course.
Side Dishes ~ Contorni
Easy to assemble and enjoyed by all, this is a great side dish any time of the year.
Fennel in Béchamel Sauce With Parmesan Cheese
An often ignored vegetable, fennel is delicious roasted and made extra special cooked with béchamel sauce and grated cheese.
Baked Holiday Squash
This is my family’s favorite holiday side dish. It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without this dish at my house!
Rosemary Roasted Potatoes
I believe these potatoes go well with any meat dish, but particularly turkey and lamb.
Sweet And Sour Roasted Beets And Onions
This colorful side dish will impress your guests with it’s unique flavor.
Desserts ~ Dolci
Chocolate Panna Cotta With Espresso Cream
Light and delicious, this dessert can be prepared in the morning of your celebration.
My version of Tiramisu is light and delicious and a perfect choice for holiday entertaining.
Offer a couple of flavors of this easy and delicious Italian style pie and you’ll get rave reviews from your guests.
Chocolate Chestnut Cake
Sinfully rich, all you’ll need to end your holiday meal is a small slice of this chocolate treat.