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Italian Thanksgiving menu and recipes

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Go Italian with your Thanksgiving feast

Instead of the usual roasted turkey, stuffing and mashed potato Thanksgiving meal, give your Turkey Day feast an Italian theme with classic Italian flavors. We've got tasty Italian alternatives for your Thanksgiving side dish, dessert and drink recipes. We've even got a sweet potato recipe from Chef Fabio Viviani and a delectable dessert from Ron Suhanosky, author of The Italian Table.

Go Italian with your Thanksgiving feast

Italian roasted turkey with tapenade rub

A turkey is not a turkey until you dress it up and stuff it with flavorful ingredients. This Italian-inspired Thanksgiving turkey recipe features a homemade olive, garlic and herb paste.

Serves 8


  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • Generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon plus 2 lemons for stuffing
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for rubbing
  • 1 (12-pound) turkey, excess fat trimmed, rinsed, patted dry
  • 1 large onion, halved, cut into wedges


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. In a food processor, combine garlic, olives, basil, oregano, rosemary, red pepper, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper and oil. Blend into a paste.
  3. Slice the remaining two lemons into wedges.
  4. Place turkey breast side up in a roasting pan on a roasting rack. Slip your fingers underneath the skin at the breast to separate the skin from the flesh. Rub olive paste underneath skin onto the flesh. Stuff lemon and onion wedges underneath the skin and inside the cavity of the turkey.
  5. Rub the outside of the turkey skin with olive oil. Cover turkey and roasting pan in foil and roast for 30 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees F. and continue to roast for 2-1/2 hours. Remove foil and continue to roast for 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in a thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165 degrees F.
  6. Let turkey sit for 15 minutes before carving.

Sweet potatoes & ricotta cakes with caramelized shallots and mascarpone

I came across this Italian recipe in Chef Fabio Viviani's latest e-cookbook Did I Really Make Breakfast, 2nd Edition. Though it's in a breakfast cookbook, these cakes are amazing as a Thanksgiving side dish, especially when compared to plain old sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes.

Serves 8


  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 8 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (Chef Fabio recommends Eggland's Best)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Mascarpone, for garnish


  1. In a medium skillet, heat two tablespoons each of the olive oil and butter. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
  2. Boil sweet potatoes in water until cooked but still hard to the touch. Cool them down under running cold water.
  3. Grate the potatoes in a food processor fitted with a medium grating disk then combine them with the eggs and ricotta in a large bowl. Stir in the flour and season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining oil and butter. Shape the potato mixture into 16 equal balls. Then, in batches, put them in the skillet and press on each with a flat spatula to make a flat cake.
  5. Cook until first side is lightly browned, and then flip to lightly brown the second side. Flip to recrisp the first side then drain briefly on paper towels. Keep warm.
  6. Serve garnished with a large spoon of mascarpone cheese and the caramelized shallots.

Up next: More Italian Thanksgiving recipes >>

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