Last year, Giada De Laurentiis helped us conquer Christmas with her oh-so-Instagrammable crostini Christmas tree, her best budget-friendly wine recommendations and her bountiful Feast of the Seven Fishes menu. And this week, just in time to contribute to your final Turkey Day prep, the chef/cookbook author/Food Network star is back with a preview of what will grace her table this year.
Each year, De Laurentiis likes to put a new Italian-inspired spin on the classic holiday.
"Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Italy—matter of fact, Italians have their own endearing title for it: 'La Festa del Tacchino,' aka, 'the turkey party!' However, for everyone who celebrates the holiday, Italian dishes tend to lend themselves to the autumnal feast," the culinary ace explains on her Giadzy website.
Giada's Tuscan Thanksgiving menu includes shareable appetizers, two Northern Italian-style desserts, a unique riff on the turkey centerpiece, as well as a bounty of fresh vegetables. (The latter detail is right in line with De Laurentiis' latest cookbook, Eat Better, Feel Better, which details the strategies she used to improve her gut health.)
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Whether you choose a couple of your favorites to mix and match with your family heirloom recipes and Ina Garten's best Thanksgiving recipes, or opt to re-create the entire Italian feast for Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving, you will be living la dolce vita with these dishes in your arsenal.
For an ultra-easy appetizer, De Laurentiis has curated her favorite Italian aperitivo snacks into her just-launched Everything But The Formaggio box. Order the kit—which includes olives, jams, breadsticks, crackers, honey and even bowls to serve the drippy fixings in—add your favorite cheeses, and your spread is all set. Don't feel like dropping $161 on the box? Our guide for how to build a cheese board will walk you through everything you need.
Cheese on bread is good. But cheese on bread plus a jazzed-up jam is even better. To take sweet fig jam to new flavor heights, De Laurentiis loves to mix it with a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness and a spoonful of Calabrian chili paste "for a bit of kick."
Speaking of that bread, this yeast-leavened focaccia recipe is courtesy of Giada's pal Giancarla Bodoni, head chef at Monteverdi. The combination of toppings offers "the perfect combination of savory and sweet," De Laurentiis says. "I love the way the grapes burst in the oven, which seeps into the dough and gives it even more flavor."
Remix your turkey routine—and save so much time. This entree is inspired by porchetta, which De Laurentiis deems "one of Tuscany's greatest inventions: a slow roasted pork roast rolled up with herbs and spices." Calling for less than an hour of cooking time, this turkey breast is stuffed with fennel, orange zest, apples and shallots.
"World's best stuffing recipe! Seriously, my family looks forward to it every year," raves Giadzy fan Shawna. So what makes this so much better than the boxed stuffing mix? It's studded with chestnuts, "a beloved fall staple in Italy," according to De Laurentiis, "which add a delicious texture and flavor to this classic stuffing." Crusty ciabatta soaks up loads of flavor from the aromatic vegetables, savory pancetta, nutty Parmesan and fresh parsley in the mix, too.
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"Frankly, it's not an Italian thanksgiving if there's no baked pasta on the table," De Laurentiis avows. And even though there's a cornucopia of recipes to savor, chances are high that "everyone will want seconds" of these stuffed shells, she adds. The stuffing is a mix of spinach, pancetta, ricotta and Asiago. That stuffing, and the shells themselves, only gets better when doused in a garlicky cream sauce and baked until bubbly.
A fresh salad is a welcome contrast to the richer dishes on the Thanksgiving menu. With its vibrant jewel tones and variety of textures from earthy roasted beets, zippy orange segments, briny Castelvetrano olives, salty hazelnuts and tangy feta, this kale salad is definitely holiday-worthy. "You can shortcut by buying steamed beets at the grocery store, but roasting them alongside garlic and herbs does give them tons of flavor. I'll often roast a lot of them ahead of time and store them in deli cups or Tupperware—that way, they're prepped and ready for me," De Laurentiis recommends.
"Thanksgiving needs potatoes," De Laurentiis says, and we wholeheartedly agree. "Giada's Classic" spuds are simple, she says, as you only need a few key ingredients to take the essential side dish to the next level. "Mascarpone gives an incredibly rich, decadent texture, and chicken broth adds great flavor. A bit of garlic, Parmesan and butter seal the deal," and all of the above can be done in just 25 minutes.
Just as delicious at room temperature as they are warm, these maple syrup-glazed carrots get a bonus boost of brightness and texture from a nutty and herbaceous gremolata. They ask for zero oven real estate; De Laurentiis recommends cooking them on the stovetop while the turkey rests.
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Besides olive oil and salt, you need just four ingredients for this vegetable-rich side dish: arugula, mushrooms, walnuts and dried cranberries. "This combination of ingredients might seem interesting to some, but in Italy, it's very common to have raisins or dried cranberries cooked with your savory greens," De Laurentiis explains. "The result of this recipe is a highly flavorful side dish with tons of texture and interest," which is ready to devour in a mere 7 minutes.
Fresh cranberries burst in a saucepan as they simmer alongside zesty orange juice, warm cinnamon and sweet maple syrup. While it's a star on the Thanksgiving table itself, this easy homemade cranberry sauce might just be "even more delicious on leftover turkey sandwiches," De Laurentiis says. (ICYMI, here are our top 10 sandwiches that showcase Thanksgiving leftovers.)
Pumpkin and apple shouldn't get all the pie glory, De Laurentiis says: "With hazelnuts and chocolate chips, think of this pie as the northern Italian spin on pecan pie." Since it must chill at least an hour before slicing and serving, this is one pie that's actually better to make a day or two early.
This rustic, low-fuss cinnamon-spiced apple cake is a traditional dish in Tuscany, De Laurentiis says, and it's one that Giadzy fan Dona says is a "delicious and beautiful cake" that she "will definitely be making again." The bottom layer of apples caramelize beautifully as the Greek yogurt-infused almond cake bakes. Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar and à la mode (with gelato instead of ice cream, of course, to keep the Tuscan vibes going!).