Two Thanksgiving Day traditional foods

A Thanksgiving Meal tradition in my family, which I’ve never seen elsewhere, is what we call “antipasto.”

I’ve seen antipasto in other places, but it’s not the same thing we prepare. Oh, those strange divergent Napolitani…  Our “pizzelles” aren’t the same thing as your pizzelles either, for the record. 

So, for the antipasto, which is served first: You layer a serving dish with rolled slices of salami, then load the top of that with olives (black and green), sliced roasted peppers, capers, chunks of provolone cheese, artichoke hearts, and I forget what else.

It’s basically a vehicle for salt, and yes, it’s pretty much an entire meal on its own.

THEN my mom serves the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, squash, green beans, bread, mushrooms… Hooboy.

Mushrooms?, you ask me. What mushrooms?

Stuffed mushrooms. And regardless of what my mom says, I make the best ones. I’ll tell you so you can do it too.

Pull the stems from the mushrooms. Whirl the stems to smithereens in the food processor, or just chop them up real small. Chop up some onion and garlic the same way, and fry the onion and garlic in butter. Add the mushroom smithereens to the frying pan, and fry those. When that’s done, lower the heat a bit. Add shredded mozarella cheese, and then add bread crumbs.

Mix all that goop together in the pan and you get mushroom stuffing.

Then stuff the mushroom caps. Kiss your fingers goodbye if you do this too soon, because that stuffing will be HOT.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the lot. Bake in the oven until the mushrooms are cooked (about 15 minutes) and grab a couple before everyone else does. You might want to have a chef’s knife on hand to keep people at bay until the mushrooms get to the table.

(And yes, we’re Italian to the point that it used to be, my grandparents would serve a lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. But they felt unAmerican just to have pasta on Thanksgiving Day. So after the lasagna was eaten, my grandmother would clear away the pasta dishes and then serve an entire turkey dinner! My mother’s friend tells me, “By then everyone was so full that they’d just look at it,” but I don’t believe her. I’ve heard tales of the way my grandfather could eat. I’m betting they didn’t have anything leftover at the end of the day.)

Seriously, go out and buy some nice mushrooms (they don’t have to be stuffing mushrooms; any kind will do) and make some for your family. It costs like two bucks and takes fifteen minutes, and you can prepare them ahead of time. I did this for my in-laws the first year I spent Christmas with them, and all the mushrooms vanished. The next day, when we were making the leftover second-day version of Christmas Day dinner, I opened the fridge to find…a second package of mushrooms! We figured that was my FIL’s way of telling me he approved without actually having to say, “Those were good, Philangelus.” So I made them again.)


  1. Ivy

    My great aunt used to make antipasto the same way. So does my cousin’s husband, and he Italian not in the “my parents/grandparents moved here from Italy” sense, but rather he is a citizen of Italy living in the US.

    My aunt also made (and I have never met another person who has any kind of recipe for) stuff artichokes. Do you have a recipe for that?

  2. Lirioroja

    Multicultural Thanksgiving dinners can be very interesting. I’m first generation, and my parents’ generation adopted the practice when they came to this country. Thanksgiving dinners usually had two kinds of meat – the turkey, and pernil. Pernil is roast pork. See, a lechon (the whole pig) is traditional for feasts in Latin America. Since with the turkey it’s too much meat, we opted for only the haunches (pernil). As for the sides and dessert, they either didn’t like the traditional American fare or they didn’t know how to make them, so we had our own sides: potato salad, rice and beans, regular salad, chorizo, meat stuffing (similar to what they stuff tamales with), arepas (flat cornmeal cakes), flan, and rice pudding. My mom learned to make a killer lasagna and soon that was added too.

    I did have an Italian Thanksgiving one year when a friend invited me to her home for the dinner. Yes, there was antipasto just like you described it. And I never say no to stuffed mushrooms.

  3. Cricket

    My FIL didn’t like the taste of roast birds; he said they tasted boiled. Oma would sometimes buy turkey parts and roast them with paprika and garlic, but more as a concession to American tradition than because they liked it. Finally, she apologized profusely and offered to bring rouladen.

    I love rouladen! It’s hard enough to make that we don’t get too much of it. It’s best cooked the day before. She cooks it the 24th, then brings it to our place. I’ve never cooked a big holiday meal!

    We invite friends who live near the cottage over for Thanksgiving. They love it because Oma’s not stuck in the kitchen cooking (like my grandmothers were), and they don’t get too much turkey.

    I should try those mushrooms. Daughter loves cooked mushrooms.