Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto Platters

 “over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go”
(a view of the road on the way to the acreage)
the fireplace mantel all decorated for autumn and Thanksgiving
the dining room centerpiece for autumn and Thanksgiving,
minus the place settings


Most Americans would be surprised to know that Italians also have celebrations in honor of giving thanksgiving as do Italian-Americans in the U.S.    Traditional ‘La Feste del Ringraziamento’ are well known as ‘festivals of giving thanks’ and refer to a variety of year-round religious holidays held throughout the year in Italy in honor of a town, village or city’s patron saints.  There are so many patron saints that Italians honor that it is impossible to list them all here.  Instead of one national day of Thanksgiving, Italians have numerous local, but very important days of thanksgiving.

a festival in Praiano, Italy (for the Feast of St. Luke) during my trip in in 2012


Truthfully, any time that Italians can get together to celebrate family, food and tradition is always a time of celebration and thanksgiving.  Italians love their new home country of ‘America’ and have happily included Thanksgiving in their favorite ways of getting together with family and expressing gratitude for this country.   Although we have the traditional turkey on the table, we always enhance the menu with Italian dishes from our heritage:  Antipasti, a first course (i Primi) of tortellini in brodo soup, Italian stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes heavily flavored with garlic and herbs, and Italian sweets to finish the meal.  Many Italians, similar to Americans, enjoy their turkeys stuffed with dressing, but my family prefers to bake the stuffing on the side for a more crisp texture.

This week guest poster, Bridget Sandorford, a freelance writer and researcher for writes about Italian culinary traditions alongside my photos of what we traditionally do for Thanksgiving in my family.  Bridget is currently a researching culinary arts pastry chef.  Bridget asked me if she could write a post regarding Italian cuisine and I was delighted to oblige!  Below you will find her perfectly timed thoughts regarding how Italians have embraced the American holiday of Thanksgiving in their own unique and delicious way:

Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday!

This holiday celebrates the harvest that the Pilgrims enjoyed with the Native Americans in the New World — something that is unique to American history.  However, Italians have a tradition that celebrates the harvest, dating back to ancient times in which the gods of the harvest were honored. Remnants of that tradition persist, and some expatriates living in Italy have adapted current Thanksgiving traditions.

Between the two, many Italians celebrate this time of year with a feast as Americans do for Thanksgiving.  Of course, these celebrations are a bit different than the feasts we enjoy on a traditional American Thanksgiving.

Here’s what you might expect to see for an Italian “Thanksgiving”:

Antipasti ~ ~ Appetizers

While raw veggies and dip make the rounds at an American Thanksgiving, Italians love to enjoy sausage, cheeses, stuffed mushrooms, and assorted olives. Traditional antipasti dishes are on display, including stuffed peppers and artichokes, shrimp, and roasted vegetables in olive oil. Any traditional Italian appetizers can be served.

This year’s antipasto platter(s) included:  Imported Italian Gorgonzola and Fontina cheeses, roasted red peppers in olive oil and red pepper flakes,
Genoa salami chunks, sliced Prosciutto, and Soprosatta.
marinated fresh mozzarella is always enjoyed!
Garlic-stuffed green olives, pearl onions, pepperoncini, black olives, baby carrots, marinated beets, and baby pickles.
marinated olives are always expected on an antipasto platter
because my children have a bit of Swedish blood from their paternal lineage,
we always include a huge bowl of extra yummy herring in onions!
artichokes, marinated beans, and prosciutto are mandatory in addition to
the cheeses, olives, and red peppers!
figs are still in season, so Gorgonzola stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto
are stars on an antipasto platter
fresh Italian bread brushed with garlic-butter and herbs
are a MUST for antipasti to be placed on in order to enjoy ‘small bites’
earlier in the day prior to the big dinner.


i Primi ~ ~ First Course

Traditionally, Italians include a soup before the main entree.  It would simply not be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter without this northern Italian specialty:  Homemade Tortellini in homemade brodo (Tortellini in Broth).  This year my mother and I made 1000 of these little navel-shaped stuffed pastas.  That’s nothing compared to our usual 3000 when we have all of the family over for a holiday dinner!

one test of how well the tortellini turn out is if to see if any of the little bundles
break during and after cooking.
This year, literally none of our little tortellini broke!
The dough that my mother made was absolutely perfect in texture!
My mother and I always try to twist the tortellini as small as possible, as is the tradition in my family in Italy.  What you see sold in the markets is far too large for Italians, and would be known as ‘tortelloni’ instead.  With the small spoon as a reference above, you can see how tiny tortellini can be when twisted on your pinkie finger!
tortellini floating in the brodo let you know that they are just about finished cooking
but you must taste to know if they are ‘al dente’ or not; never overcook pasta!
Secondi ~ ~  Entrees

Some Italians may opt for the traditional turkey, infusing it with Italian seasons such as oregano and rosemary. Turkey sausage may be served as an Italian variation on this classic dish. A pomegranate sauce provides a nice twist on the classic cranberry.

Traditional Italian pasta dishes also take center stage, including ravioli and other stuffed pastas. Pumpkin stuffed ravioli or pastas with winter squash and lentils are perfect choices for a Thanksgiving (or harvest) feast.

Contorni ~ ~ Side Dishes

Of course, a hearty salad with greens, fresh vegetables, and oils makes for a hearty and healthy side. Sprinkle on peppers and Parmesan cheese to taste.

sometimes we prepare garlic mashed potatoes for our gravy lovers in the family,
but more often we’ll prepare garlic and rosemary roasted potatoes.
these disappear faster than mashed potatoes every time!
Our traditional Italian-seasoned Prosciutto and Pepperoni Stuffing / Dressing
 infused with garlic, rosemary, Italian sausage, onions,
and a variety of Italian cheeses.
This is probably the next favorite recipe for Thanksgiving, after the tortellini!
another side dish for any holiday consists of fresh, sauteed vegetables,
enhanced with roasted red peppers, garlic,
and drizzled with olive oil and balsamico vinegar (never, ever cream of mushroom soup)


i Dolci ~ ~ Sweets

There’s no dessert that seems out of place at Thanksgiving. Try classic cannoli or tiramisu as the perfect after-dinner treat. Classic Italian pastries and tarts are delicious after any meal.   If you miss your pumpkin pie, try a pumpkin-flavored cannoli or even a pumpkin-flavored custard or ice.


There are delicious Italian wines that you can pair with any meal and any course. Select your favorites for both the main meal and your dessert. Try a dry Pinot Grigio with the main course and a hearty port wine for dessert.

While Thanksgiving may be an American holiday, Italians and others who love Italian food have found ways to adapt the tradition to their own culture. The resulting feast is a great way to celebrate the harvest or just good times with family and friends.

most Italians enjoy either a light after dinner wine or
liqueur such as Amaretto Di Saronno or Limoncello


I hope that you have have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday in both America and Italy . . . and anywhere around the globe!

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  1. says

    What a feast! You know I’d love those green beans with the red peppers – ooh, la, la. My kind of side dish. And the roasted potatoes with rosemary & garlic have my name on them…

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Roz.

    • says

      I knew you’d love the green beans. I loved the beans that you featured also! Thanksgiving was great – – laid back and relaxed; just the way I like it!

  2. says

    What a fabulous dinner, Roz. Once the antipasta hit the table, though, I doubt if anything would have been eaten except — dessert! I always make soup for Thanksgiving, always. Beautifully prepared food here. xo

  3. says

    A wonderful feast–transported me to holidays past when my family, along with cousins, aunts, and uncles, would gather at my grandmother’s house. We, too, had herring in cream sauce alongside the antipasto as my grandmother was widowed young and remarried a Swedish man.

  4. says

    The one thing on my list that I was hoping might be possible was to taste a fresh fig, even when I was told it was not possible, I still had 2 opportunities to eat figs picked ripe from two separate trees. What a feast! Italians sure know how to celebrate life!

  5. says

    Gorgeous autumn foliage photo – a perfect setting for enjoying those pumpkin cannoli.

    As always, I learn something by reading your posts, Roz. Interesting that Italians celebrate the harvest because the Japanese do as well.
    I suspect it’s a worldwide tradition called by many names…As the Bard says “A celebration by any other name would be as joyous!”
    Or maybe he actually said “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

  6. says

    a beautiful presentation of beautiful photos! I have been trying to leave a comment on your blog via my iphone for days now and it wouldn’t let me. Finally getting to a computer. Hope you had a wonderful and blessed thanksgiving and thank you for letting me be apart of your “blog life” each week! Much lvoe

  7. says

    Thank you Roz, this post is really interesting! It is so interesting to read how the traditional Italian Cuisine goes along with American Classic Celebration dishes!! This is new for me and I am very curious to see how the Italian Cuisine develops and integrates abroad. I left Italy almost 13 years ago and I wonder how my way to cook Italian abroad will change over time. Maybe my food blog is a way to remind me where I come from.

  8. says

    What a wonderful meal … I am always so impressed by the antipasto platters at Italian feasts! Such variety is astounding! I hope your Thanksgiving is joyous, Roz!

  9. says

    What a great post! No, I didn’t know that Italians had their own Thanksgiving, so that’s quite interesting. What a fabulous feast! Everything looks so good! I was thinking of antipasto for our Thanksgiving starters, then gave up on the idea. Now you have me reconsidering it. All of your wonderful, tasty ideas look very scrumptious! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Bridget and Roz!
    mjskit recently posted..Multigrain Sandwich BreadMy Profile

  10. says

    I hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving, my friend!!! Wishing you much joy during this holiday season.

    PS…will you adopt me? I want to spend the holidays being Italian!!! xo

  11. says

    Roz, I am just completely overwhelmed at the beautiful photos and amazing food! This was such a wonderful post comparing the Italian and American traditional foods. I learned a lot! I loved the potatoes, antipasto plate, green beans, and tortellini soup – really I loved everything you showed. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse of Italian tradition. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and got to be with your family and relax – at least after the cooking was all done!
    Shari Kelley recently posted..Food Gift Series – Hot Chocolate on a StickMy Profile

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