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