When we think “Thanksgiving,” we usually don’t think Italian food. Meals are highly social events in Italian culture, though, so a celebration of gratitude that’s as much about the people as it is the food make the cuisine a natural fit. Here, we present 16 delicious Italian Thanksgiving dinner ideas — so you can add a few Italian dishes to your usual meal or go all-in on an Italian Thanksgiving. Let’s start with a sample menu.
1. Pomegranate arancini goat cheese fonduta
One of the friendliest ways to add an Italian dish to your Thanksgiving meal is with an appetizer. The trick, though, is to serve solo un morso — just a bite — to tide patient dinner guests over without overfilling them before the main meal.
This pomegranate arancini goat cheese fonduta from Cooking for Keeps is just the thing. Arancini is Italian for rice balls — proof that everything sounds better in Italian. They’re the Italian solution to leftover rice or risotto, but they’re so delicious that making a new batch of risotto is well worth the trouble. The sharpness of the fonduta — made with goat cheese and half and half — perfectly balances the richness of the risotto and the tartness of the pomegranate.
The main course
2. Sicilian braciole
Braciole (/bra-zhul/) are cuts of lean meat — typically, beef, pork, chicken or swordfish — pounded thin and stuffed with spinach, cheese, breadcrumbs and pine nuts. The stuffing varies by region and can include raisins and vegetables such as eggplant. Traditionally, the braciole is first seared, then stewed in marinara sauce for several hours.
Look for braciole meat at the grocery store, or substitute flank steak pounded thin. If you include prosciutto, go for the highest quality you can afford; cheaper versions are usually salty and very chewy.
This Sicilian braciole from Baker by Nature represents Italian comfort food at its best. It’s a delicious departure from the turkey main dish we’re so used to.
3. Italian-style stuffing
Stuffing is to Thanksgiving what apples are to pie; however, Italian cuisine, with its traditional pastas and sauces, doesn’t really leave room for many stuffing recipes. Filling the gap is Host to Toast’s Italian-style stuffing, which uses Italian ingredients in a unique twist on an American favorite.
The ingredients make all the difference. Ciabatta is a terrific choice for stuffing, with its tough crust and lighter-than-air middle. Italian sausage provides body, while garlic, onion, fennel and rosemary lend the distinctive tastes of southern Italy.
4. Pumpkin cannoli
Traditional Thanksgiving meals end with pie — lots and lots of pie. And the quintessential Thanksgiving pie is pumpkin. We’re talking Italian here, though, so how about pumpkin cannoli instead?
This pumpkin cannoli recipe from A Treats Affair is a fun, lightly spiced variation on the Turkey day staple. It does require some advance prep, especially if you’re using fresh pumpkin, which is rather bland in its natural state. As with all gourds and squashes, though, roasting brings out its sweet, rich flavor. (Of course, canned pumpkin is always an option.) Set aside a little time for draining the ricotta, too, so your cannoli shells don’t get soggy.
To make the dish more festive, try setting up a cannoli-filling station with a couple different fillings and toppings such as chocolate chips, sliced fruit and powdered sugar. Your guests can fill their own cannoli and customize them to their hearts’ desires for a fun, memorable dessert experience.