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Turkey Who? Make This Menu if You're Sick of Thanksgiving

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Set yourself free from a traditional Thanksgiving spread: Host a meatball party, crank the Italian crooners, stock up on olive oil. Let your freak red- and white-checked tablecloth fly.

If at least one of the following things describes you, this menu is for you.

Photo by James Ransom
  1. You work in the food industry, and it’s plausible that you’ve already cooked and consumed 3 hulking turkeys, your weight in stuffing, and enough potatoes to feed the citizens of a small town before the month of November actually began.

  2. You don’t have your great aunt’s jello salad requirements to contend with, or a cousin who can never not bring mashed parsnips, or a mother who says she wants to "get creative" but you both know that really means pulling down the patterned gravy boat instead of last year’s cream one (YAWN!).

  3. You like meatballs. You really, really like meatballs.

  4. Turducken who? Your culinary white whale is a timpano.

  5. Every year, immediately after you put in your order for a bird on holiday autopilot, you screech-yell-exclaim in your head that turkey isn’t even that good and why couldn’t this tradition have been started with rib-eye or meatloaf or practically anything else and god I’d take anything else as long as it won't dry up like shoe leather almost reflexively. You stuff those thoughts deep down inside yourself, much like you will soon stuff that dry bird, and you look for this year’s ultimate best amazing brine. That will do it, you think.

  6. You pray at the altar of olive oil.

  7. You often find yourself saying things like this would be soo good with breadcrumbs in it or can you pass the bread or I don’t understand why every salad doesn’t have croutons? (Apologies to Allen Miglore: Your salad is sacred, but not too sacred to add croutons to.)

  8. Sometimes when you’re making Italian food you, you go all Giada and explain—to the air, to the kitchen, to no one—that you’re now placing the RIGOT into the SPAGHETT and you’re going to grate in a little PARMEHSAAN for that salty bite. Wouldn’t this be just so good with PROSCIUTT??

The Mains:

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Rao's Meatballs

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2,608 Save Recipe
Makes 28 meatballs
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup good quality olive oil, for cooking
  • Your favorite marinara sauce (we like Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, also on Food52)
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Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

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4,138 Save Recipe
Serves 6, enough to sauce 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta

For the Sauce

  • 2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, prepared as described below, or 2 cups canned imported Italian tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt to taste

Making Fresh Tomatoes Ready for Sauce

  • fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (or other varieties, if they are equally ripe and truly fruity, not watery)
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Saltie's Focaccia

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Makes one 18 x 13-inch pan, or enough for 8 to 10 sandwiches
  • 6 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
  • Coarse sea salt
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The Green Sides:

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Rapini with Vin Cotto

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192 Save Recipe
Serves 4

For the vin cotto

  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the rapini

  • 1 pound rapini (broccolini), washed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
  • 2 peperoncino intero (about 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, fresh ones!), halved
  • generous pinch kosher salt
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Allen Miglore's Caesar Salad

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209 Save Recipe
Serves 4 (you'll want seconds)
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed (or grated or mashed into a paste with a pinch of salt)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) anchovy paste or finely chopped anchovies (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon (I always use a full lemon)
  • 1 head crisp romaine lettuce, washed, dried, torn or chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 stalk celery (2 stalks if small), sliced into half-moons
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to taste
  • Salt, if needed, and lots of freshly ground pepper to serve
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Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad

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553 Save Recipe
Serves 4-6
  • 7 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 pound mushrooms, delicate varieties such as cremini, oyster, or shiitake are best, wiped clean as sliced as thin as possible
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ribs celery, shaved paper thin (use a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1 cup shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
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The Cheese (a.k.a. #fourthside):

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Lemon + Olive Oil Marinated Fennel with Burrata + Mint

85bbfd70 2ea4 44cd aa1d 6ea93883a2dd  image mg 3058 CarolineWright

497 Save Recipe
Serves 4
  • 2 medium heads fennel, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 6 strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 ounces burrata
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Grilled or broiled bread slices, for serving
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The Dessert:

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse

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90 Save Recipe
Serves 8 to 12
  • 1 heaping cup (170 grams) hazelnuts, toasted with most skins rubbed off, divided (see step 1 for instructions)
  • 1/3 cup (85 grams) cream cheese (or mascarpone)
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut liqueur (such as Frangelico)
  • 8 ounces (225 grams) 60 to 66% chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup crème fraîche, cold
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Affogato allo Zabaglione

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246 Save Recipe
Serves 2 to 4
  • 1 pint premium vanilla, coffee, or chocolate ice cream or gelato
  • 1/2 to 1 cups hot, freshly brewed espresso
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Moscato D'Asti or Marsala (optional)
  • 4 lady fingers (optional)
  • Frangelico, Kahlua or liqueur of your choice (optional)
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Grated bittersweet chocolate (optional)
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The drink I'm hoping you already have in your hand:

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The Negroni

6c970ad5 6248 4b10 8290 29ba5fccadd2  dsc 0193 Erika Kotite

273 Save Recipe
Makes 1
  • 1 ounce smooth gin (I like Tanqueray or Plymouth)
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Ice
  • Orange peel (for garnish)
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Tags: anti-thanksgiving, italian feast, red sauce, italian