Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Happy Thanksgiving" From Me To You & An Italian "Rice Stuffing" Recipe

My wish for you, my readers is a festive and thankful holiday, filled with family, friends, and all the fixings. I, among everyone else, have many things to be thankful for, especially to you my readers. Since I have started this blog in January, I have learned a lot and made so many wonderful friends. So, a big thank you, to my readers for enjoying my stories and trying my families’ favorite recipes.

While Thanksgiving is a holiday that America celebrates, Italian Americans have added a unique flavor to this holiday. In Italy, the Italians do not celebrate Thanksgiving as we know it here in America. They do have a few holidays called La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks). These are “feast days” referring to religious holidays held throughout the year to honor mostly patron saints. They do have harvest celebrations throughout their fall season. Many Italians that have immigrated to America have welcomed Thanksgiving, in their own distinctive way.

Italians love any holiday that brings together family, friends, and food. Every Italian family has their own traditions and recipes that are unique and make Thanksgiving special. As well as turkey and the trimmings, Italian Americans will often add to their dinner an antipasto, a pasta or soup course, and the desserts are not only your typical pumpkin pie, but sweets and pastries that Italians are known for.

In my family, Thanksgiving has the same menu as any other traditional Thanksgiving dinners, but we always seem to “Italianize” the food. Whether it was a Sunday or Christmas, our dinner starts at about 2:00 pm with maybe 15-20 people surrounding the dining room table. Then there was always a bridge table set up in the living room, for the children. This would insult the older kids as they wanted to sit at the adult table, “not until you are an adult,“ my mom would say. Finally that day would come and your rite of passage was complete. Our actual dinner would last about 3-4 hours, which would include Lasagna and all the other traditional Thanksgiving foods. But most of the time everyone sat at the table between courses, except for a few of the women who would clean up and bring out the next course. There was always conversation of sports, politics and what were we going to have for desserts. As some of the women would be cleaning up, my dad would go and get the penny tin (an old nut can, which was filled with pennies that we could use to play games with) and we would play Pokeno or a game that the children could participate in. Playing games was always fun and the laughter that was heard throughout the house was infectious.

After the games were played, and the children won some pennies, the dining room table began to be transformed into a sweet mountain of desserts. The coffee and demitasse (black coffee) cups were added to the table, plus the nuts, fruits, figs, hot chestnuts, and chocolates. Then in between these delectable treats, the cookies, pies, pastries and cheese cakes were placed on the table to complete our mountain of sweets. By this time, it would be about 9:00 pm and everyone was stuffed like a turkey, after their feeding frenzy. Then the cleanup would begin and everyone would start to go home. But in the far distance I could hear my mother say, “what shall we have for dinner tomorrow”. 

All I know is that every family whether it be of Italian heritage or not, has a different cuisine and tradition to celebrate the holiday. What matters most to me, isn’t what ingredients were used, or who won the game, but the opportunity for families to come together, have fun, and celebrate the season which will be a memory to last a lifetime.

As I end this post, I would love to share a recipe that my mom has used for Thanksgiving for many years. It is so delicious that we ask her to cook this dish even if it is not a holiday. This recipe has been passed down from my great-grandmother Sofia. It is called “Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage & Onions” My family loves this stuffing as it is made in a baking dish and not stuffed inside the turkey. The flavor is sweet from the onions and sausage plus has that savory taste from the cheese. It is a perfect marriage to have along side of your turkey dinner. So, as we say in Italian, “Abbondanza !!” (plentiful & abundance) Happy Thanksgiving to everyone…..

Great-Grandmother Sofia
Rice Stuffing: Rice, Sausage & Onions
By Sofia Puzelli (my great-grandmother)

1 1/2 lbs of sweet sausage bulk (out of casing)
2 cups of rice (uncooked) Uncle Bens
3 large eggs
2 large onions (sliced thin)
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté sausage in pan with a little oil. Before sausage is totally cooked add onions and finish cooking. While sausage is cooking cook rice. Drain rice and put in a large bowl. Next beat eggs in a small bowl. Then mix together cooked rice, raw beaten eggs, grated cheese, and cooked sausage with onions. Put in a baking dish.
Bake in a 350° for about 40-45 minutes until mixture sets.
Till Next Time………

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