Our Thanksgiving food traditions started with my dad, who comes from a large Italian family. When I was growing up, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the tradition of Italian Americana. We started with a hearty bowl of minest, or Italian wedding soup—a sacred family recipe that’s served at every holiday meal. The soup is so hearty that I’m usually stuffed after one (or two) bowls. The soup was only the beginning of our Thanksgiving feast.
After the soup course was finished, we served Sunday Pasta. The pasta course is no small thing. In addition to ziti or rigatoni, the pasta sauce is filled with meatballs, braciole, pepperoni, and Italian sausage…and maybe a few pieces of chicken.
Once the pasta bowls were removed from the table, and we had time to digest the first two courses, we served the third course: chicken and potatoes. Most of us are usually hurting by the time this course is served, so we only ate a bite or two. We needed to save room for the rest of the meal.
Finally, after serving three courses that qualify for main course meals in our house today, we served the main course: roast turkey, bread stuffing (my grandmother made meat stuffing), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, salad, rolls, an olive tray, giblet gravy, and peas.
A good hour or so after the dishes were done and the leftovers put up, it was time for dessert. Ricotta pie (cheesecake), pumpkin pie, and fruit pies were among the many desserts served along with cups of strong coffee. It was nap time for sure, then on to a round of leftovers even if we were still full from the day’s feast.
Our family has changed a lot over the years, and so has our Thanksgiving meal. We’ve added a few new dishes and said goodbye to others. While we’re waiting for everyone to arrive, we nibble on fresh fruit, nuts, and antipasti. We still serve minest, or Italian wedding soup, as the first course, but we skip the pasta and the chicken and potatoes. (We make up for it with the fruit, nuts, and antipasti.) Oh, and we have plenty of good wine.
My sister in-law, who is from Massachusetts, added meat stuffing, rutabaga, butternut squash, pearl onions, and green bean casserole to our list of side dishes. We dropped the peas since the green bean casserole is more than enough. We sometimes have distance relatives and friends show up with different versions of stuffing or sweet potato casserole.
We also gave up whipped potatoes for rustic mashed potatoes, because I’m too lazy to peel potatoes when the kitchen is in the midst of Thanksgiving chaos. I’ve never had any complaints, so its a tradition that’s here to stay.
One of my favorite sides is sweet potatoes with marshmallow. I like to bake fresh sweet potatoes then scoop out the soft insides. The freshly baked sweet potatoes adds another level of flavor to this dish.
If we’re going to have more people than usual for dinner, I’ll make southern squash casserole, a dish that’s creamy and slightly sweet but savory, and cornbread dressing made with day old cornbread, sage, and chicken stock. We still have a war over whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce, so I make them both. We still pour mom’s giblet gravy over everything on our plates.
After the dishes are done, the food is put up, and the disposal containers and plastic doggie bags are lined up on the kitchen counter, we break out the desserts. We have several mainstay desserts and others that come and go. We always have pecan pie, coconut cream pie, fresh pumpkin pie, and dark chocolate pie. Sometimes I make an Italian Creme Cake or tropical fruit salad. (I know what you’re thinking…tropical fruit salad? It’s never that cold here in November, so yes, tropical fruit salad is in order.) Mom usually makes a cheesecake. There’s always an apple or blueberry pie, too. We have plenty of coffee while we drink shots of Limoncello and plan Christmas or talk about how much time we spent planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner and it’s over in no time.
Thankful Thanksgiving Recipe and Craft Link Party
What are your Thanksgiving food traditions? Join me and five other bloggers for the Thankful Thanksgiving Craft and Recipe link party. Post your old and new favorite Thanksgiving recipes, crafts, or DIY projects from November 1 – 24, 2016. Make sure you check out the blogs below for more fantastic recipes and crafts.
Olives & Okra (that’s me!)