Friday, November 15, 2019

Thanksgiving Food and Traditions in America and Italy

by RENEE ROSE | November 9, 2019

While Thanksgiving may be a distinctly American tradition, Italian Americans practice Thanksgiving traditions that are a representation of both cultures--blending America and Italy together. Each family of Italian heritage has their own take on Thanksgiving culinary traditions, but there are a few common ingredients used widely by Italian Americans.

Italians, much like Americans, love holidays that bring friends and family together to appreciate a good meal. While an American Thanksgiving and an Italian Thanksgiving look quite different, the love and tradition of giving thanks remain the same. In that way, they really aren’t so different.

Today, we’ll be exploring the culinary traditions that make up both an American and Italian Thanksgiving. When gathering around the dinner table this holiday season, you are sure to impress with these Italian takes on some of the most common American traditions.

Thanksgiving in Italy

If you find yourself in Italy during the Thanksgiving season, you will quickly notice that replicating some of the most common American dishes can be a bit complicated. La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks), the closest version of Thanksgiving in Italy, is centered around giving thanks and honoring patron saints. This Italian tradition is celebrated much differently than an American Thanksgiving and that extends to the most common dishes.

While Americans are accustomed to cooking up a whole turkey on Thanksgiving, this isn’t so easy to find in Italy. When celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy, you’ll need to visit a local butcher shop weeks in advance to secure a turkey. Most ovens in Italy are also fairly small, so roasting a whole bird can be a challenge to say the least but, that’s not to say turkey can’t be enjoyed during a Thanksgiving in Italy. Stuffed turkey breast is a common holiday menu item in Italy and makes a great alternative to the traditional American classic.

Candied yams, canned pumpkins, and cranberry sauce are a few more time-honored traditions in America. When in Italy, however, these items are next to impossible to find. While this may feel a bit odd for Americans spending Thanksgiving in Italy, it’s a great chance to immerse themselves in Italian culture and try other dishes that are just as savory.

Delicious Recipes For an Italian Thanksgiving

As you can see, Thanksgiving celebrations in Italy and America are very different but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Italian recipes and traditions that any American would love. For Italian Americans who honor the most common culinary traditions of America and Italy alike, there are many Italian fall dishes that fit perfectly into any Thanksgiving celebration. If you’re looking to add something different to your “Turkey Day” this holiday season, here are a few Italian-inspired dishes and traditions that you can enjoy during this year’s Thanksgiving feast.

Vino Cotto Pumpkin Soft & Chewy Cookies Recipe

If you’re looking for an Italian-inspired dessert to enjoy this Thanksgiving, look no further than this delicious fall cookie recipe. These pumpkin cookies are a take on an American classic with a unique, scrumptious Italian twist.

This delectable dessert is a variation by Deena Montillo of Libby's® Soft Pumpkin Cookies recipe but adds Vino Cotto to the mix. Vino Cotto is a naturally-sweet cooked wine syrup originating in Italy. Known for its smooth taste and texture, Vino Cotto is the secret ingredient that makes these pumpkin cookies a Thanksgiving delight.

Classic Sicilian Arancini Recipe

Antipasto, the Italian term for an appetizer, is a popular component of any Italian celebration. This makes the Classic Sicilian Arancini a great choice for your Italian-inspired Thanksgiving feast. Serve this recipe alongside your main course for an appetizer you won’t soon forget.

Arancini is well-loved in Sicily and has spread through Italy and beyond as a delicious treat in the form of rice balls stuffed with sauce and peas. An arancini offers you the chance to get creative as it can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients ranging from mushrooms to your favorite meats.

In this particular Italian-based Thanksgiving recipe, the filling consists of peas, mozzarella, and a meat ragu and each rice ball is rolled in breadcrumbs for a satisfying texture. Whip up this Italian classic with this recipe from Spruce Eats for an appetizer that brings the taste of Italy to your Thanksgiving table.

Vincotto-Glazed Turkey Breast with Peach and Green Bean Salad Recipe

When in Italy, eat as the Italians do! As we discussed earlier, securing an entire turkey when celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy can be difficult. Turkey breast, however, is popular in the country and is a tasty alternative. When working with a turkey breast for your Thanksgiving feast, use this recipe to serve up a main course the entire family will enjoy.

This recipe involves poaching and grilling the turkey breast to make the meat especially tender. Vino cotto (vincotto) is then used as a glaze, bringing the flavor of Italy to this replication of an American classic.

Vino Cotto Cranberry Fruit Conserve Recipe

We’ve discussed that cranberry sauce is hard to find in Italy but that doesn’t mean that Americans can’t enjoy a Thanksgiving dish that represents Italian and American traditions. It’s also a great alternative to whip up when celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy.

The Vino Cotto Cranberry Fruit Conserve is an alternative to a whole berry cranberry sauce that can be served with your Thanksgiving turkey. It is made by combining sweetened dried cranberries, apple, peach, lemon juice, pine nuts, a little bit of water, and, of course, Vino Cotto di Montillo.

By using the Italian recipes listed here, you can create the perfect mix of American and Italian Thanksgiving traditions and make your holiday festivities something special. Be sure to take a look at our other delicious recipes and pick up your own bottle of authentic Vino Cotto. Our versatile gourmet syrup is used as a condiment and ingredient in sweet or savory dishes from meat, seafood, vegetables to desserts. Use it to make homemade balsamic vinegar, too! From all of us at Montillo Italian Foods, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

How To Make Pignolata (Struffoli) - An Italian Christmas Favorite

One of our family's favorite treats at Christmastime is eating pignolata (peen'-yo-la-ta) also known as struffoli (stru'-fo-lee).  Others serve it on New Year's Eve.  These are tiny pieces of light-textured fried dough drenched in honey, strained, then decorated with sprinkles and sliced almonds.  Over the years, we've had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying this wonderful dessert made by our dear cousin, Clara.  Last year she generously shared her recipe with us. , so we gave it a try. While my husband, Greg, was made them, I recorded his time-saving technique.

Of course, there are many recipes available online for this traditional Italian favorite. Check out this one by Pina Bresciani. No matter which pignolata (struffoli) recipe you try, consider following our technique.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Surprise: Cannoli Martini Recipe Is In!

What's this in my mailbox? It's a book with an envelope attached to the front of the box, but, I didn't order a book. Alright, I've seen this before. The envelope will disclose that I have two options; 1) keep the enclosed book and pay the shipping cost; or 2) send it back within so many days or else receive a new book every month until I cancel the subscription. I let the box sit on my shelf unopened for several days.

Last Sunday I passed by it for the last time. I opened the envelope to see what my options were. It read, "Greetings and good news! We are delighted to inform you that you are receiving a copy of the "Taste of Home Christmas 2011" cookbook, which includes your recipe on page 138. This complimentary copy is yours to keep free of charge. It's our way of saying "Thank you!" for contributing to this one-of-a-kind holiday collection." What?! Is this for real? You never saw anyone tear open a box quicker than I did. Inside was this beautiful, full color cookbook.

I had absolutely no idea which one of my recipes they were referring to, so in a flash I flipped to page 138. Amazing! It was my Cannoli Martini Dessert recipe! At this moment I am just stunned. All I could do was gaze at page 138.

I rushed to show my son, and he pointed out that a cannoli martini is showcased in the "Enchanting Endings" photo (front left) and that it's the first recipe in that section of the book. Unbelievable!

I created the Cannoli Martini Dessert recipe back in December 2009 to compete in the online “Make it Fabulous with Fillo” Recipe Contest! sponsored by Athens Foods, the world's largest producer of fillo dough. I wanted to come up with a fancy dessert that incorporated my family's authentic vino cotto, a naturally-sweet, cooked wine gourmet syrup.

Out of 10 Finalists my Cannoli Martini Dessert recipe came in 1st Place, and it came in 3rd Place as the Fan Favorite in the Athens Foods' online vote. This was the first time I ever entered a recipe that I created into a contest. I was completely surprised to win the competition.

Two years later, I had no idea the same recipe would appear in the distinguished Reader's Digest Taste of Home Christmas 2011 cookbook.

Note: When you compare my original recipe to the one in the cookbook, you'll spot two variations that were made. To achieve the same results I do, I recommend using Vino Cotto di Montillo instead of reducing three cups of dry red wine. As for the garnish, I simply inserted a square of delicious Lindt® Intense Orange dark chocolate positioned at an angle. They went with kumquats as their garnish of choice. A kumquat is a small, oblong fruit whose taste is similar to that of a tangerine or clementine. Their thin skin is sweet and edible, which is definitely a perfect complement to this dessert. No matter which garnish you go with, I hope you'll love this elegant dessert.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix

Looking for a new snack mix?  You've got to try the Ultimate Italian Snack Mix!  Italian-seasoned Crispix® cereal with zesty pepperoni, Pecorino Romano, Provolone and Grana Padano cheeses make this munchy a crowd pleaser.  Looking to put an Italian twist to Kellogg's I developed this recipe in April 2011 and have received great reviews for its robust flavor.  Is it the ultimate snack taste sensation?  You be the judge!

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups Kellogg’s® Crispix® cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • pinch of dried parsley flakes
  • hot red pepper flakes, finely ground (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup Provolone cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/2 cup pepperoni 1-inch round stick, casing removed, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  2. In a glass measuring cup, add the olive oil, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, then stir. Microwave on high for 40 seconds, then stir to dissolve most of the salt.
  3. In a large bowl, add the Crispix® cereal.  Stir the seasoned oil mixture, then drizzle it over the cereal.  Immediately toss to evenly coat each piece of cereal.
  4. In a 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish, add the seasoned Crispix® cereal.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Optional:  For a spicier snack mix, also sprinkle with hot red pepper to taste, toss to combine.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, toss, repeat, until the cereal is crunchy, about 20 minutes.  Transfer the cereal onto a paper towel lined cookie sheet, and cover with a layer of paper towel.  Allow to cool completely.
  6. In a large bowl, add the seasoned Crispix® cereal, cheese squares, and pepperoni pieces.  Toss to combine.  Transfer to a serving bowl. Enjoy!
NOTE:  The seasoned Crispix® cereal can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container.  Do not refrigerate.  Add the cheese and pepperoni just before serving.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is It A Salad Or Dessert?

I was craving a salad, and it had to be something different.  Getting tired of the same old thing, I rummaged through the refrigerator looking for ideas.  I found some thinly-sliced prosciutto and a bag of mesclun mixed lettuces and greens--then bang, it hit me!  Off to the store I went.  In my carriage went a package of dried apricots and goat cheese.  Meandering through the aisles wasn’t an option this time.  I was hungry and my creative juices were flowing. 

The combination of tender lettuces and greens with tangy, yet sweet pieces of dried apricots and the saltiness of fresh prosciutto was amazing.  The sweet fig-like flavor of the authentic vino cotto drizzled over the salad pulled the whole thing together, minimizing the piquant taste of the goat cheese.  Was I eating a dessert?  No, but it certainly tasted like one.

This salad was quick and easy to prepare and made a delightful presentation, perfect for any holiday table or dinner party.

Mesclun Mix with Goat Cheese, Apricots, Prosciutto and Vino Cotto Recipe

    1. Cut a prosciutto slice in half lengthwise, then cut into thirds crosswise (6 sections per slice).  Tightly roll up each section, then cut it in half.  Repeat. 
    2. Onto each salad plate, add a handful of lettuce, a few morsels of goat cheese, apricot pieces, and prosciutto rolls. 
    3. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and vino cotto, then top with black pepper.  SERVES 4

      Mesclun Mix with Goat Cheese, Apricots, Prosciutto and Vino Cotto

      vino cotto