When it came to food the Thanksgiving celebration in our home was a little over the top. Usually by the time we got to the turkey, everyone was ready for a nap.
This was not an unusual occurrence in most Italian America families. Food, being of the utmost importance was certainly celebrated at Thanksgiving. It was also a time when the Holiday traditions kicked off.
First off, was my grandmothers kitchen table with the leafs added was moved to the living room, where it will stay through the New Years celebrations. That table would get a workout, between the holiday celebrations, Sunday meals and many a family card game.
The fireplace which was rarely used, would see its first flame on Thanksgiving and remain a steady fixture until the Holidays ended. Afterwards the flue would be closed till next year. Grandpa didn’t like the heat going out the chimney.
The Friday after Thanksgiving the lights came out and the house at 7 Monroe Street took on a new look. Truly a special time with special memories and the Thanksgiving meal kicked it all off.
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First thing to hit the table was my mom’s antipasto. She labeled it “The Farmers Antipasto,” don’t ask me why, she just did. Nothing fancy just basic stuff all thrown in together.
The bottom of her platter was covered with Genoa Salami, sliced very thin. Next came her three cheeses cut in chunks. Parmigiana Reggiano (the good aged stuff), Sharp Provolone and aged Asiago. On top of all this was jarred mushrooms, artichokes hearts and red roasted peppers. Throw in all the juices from the jars, and add some black and green olives and you got the Gracie’s Farmers Antipasto.
After the Antipasto it was soup time. Usually something out of the ordinary and I distinctly remember a Pumpkin Soup gracing many a Thanksgiving meal. Soup dishes gone, it was Pasta time and at Thanksgiving there was no holding back. Check out Gracie’s Stuffed Rigatoni recipe that appears in “7 Days Of Italian Cooking – Gracie’s Guide to Everyday Meals.” This was indeed a meal unto its self and believe me we took a half time break after this dish.
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk Ricotta cheese
- 1/4 lb. shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 lb. diced Panchetta
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the Rigatoni in a pot of salted water until almost al dente. Remember they are going into the oven to cook further.
Add all of your ingredients for the filling into a large bowl and mix well. Remove the rigatoni from the water and drain. My mom use to rinse the rigatoni in cold water, but I just try and let them cool down enough to work with
Carefully stuff each rigatoni with the mix and arrange in a casserole or baking dish. I put a little gravy on the bottom and cover the top with more sauce. Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Make sure the rigatoni does not dry out by adding sauce over the top if needed.
“Who’s ready for the Turkey,” my mom would ring out and most of the time everyone was too full to respond. It didn’t matter, out come the turkey and stuffing, sweet potatoes, Italian style green beans, corn casserole, cranberries sauce and mashed potatoes.
We all did our best to get through that meal, but the leftovers lasted a week and I didn’t even begin to talk about the desserts.
I always said Thanksgiving is about the “F” words, Food, Family and Football. I hope you all enjoy this great Holiday and wish you well for the remainder of the year!