Reinventing Thanksgiving With Olive Oil and Ricotta


Faith Willinger

To try Faith's recipe for cornbread with a Tuscan twist, click here.

I've been inspired by Regina Charboneau's post about reinventing Thanksgiving. I've always loved making the meal and sharing it with American and Italian friends, but the first time I made a Thanksgiving turkey in Italy I had to measure my oven (small) to make sure the bird (large by Italian standards) would fit. And I discovered that my family and friends didn't really like turkey (leftovers seemed eternal) but loved the stuffing. So I started to modify Thanksgiving for my husband's Tuscan palate.

I bought a turkey breast and sliced away, making a large, not-too-neat one-inch-thick scallop. I piled plenty of stuffing in the middle, then wrapped the turkey around it and stitched loose ends together (I'm not good at sewing) to make what looked like a roast, then wrapped the whole thing in caul fat (subbing for turkey skin, adding a porky element, always a good idea). The result, when sliced, was a strip of moist turkey that surrounded the stuffing. It was a big hit.

I made cranberry sauce (cranberries from the U.S. are always in my freezer), which amused Italians and thrilled Americans, since it's rarer here than white truffles. Apple pie is familiar to Italians—it's the torta that Donald Duck's grandmother makes in the Topolino comics. My version is piled high with apples, lard crust. I take full advantage of just-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, almost phosphorescent green, peppery, like Tuscan wasabi. I make cornbread with last year's extra-virgin, baked in a cast-iron skillet schlepped from the U.S. Mashed-up ripe persimmons, served in a shot glass, are topped with ricotta cream—ricotta and a little milk blended with an immersion mixer to the consistency of sour cream, sweetened (or not) to taste.

Here's my menu and the recipe for olive-oil cornbread. Buon Giorno del Ringraziamento!

    • Tuscan kale crostini
    • Chicken liver crostini
    • Fettunta with just-pressed extra-virgin
    • Winter squash soup
    • Tuscan turkey with cornbread stuffing
    • Cranberry sauce
    • Tuscan cornbread
    • Beans with just-pressed extra-virgin
    • Swiss chard with garlic and peperoncino
    • Fruit salad—pears, apples, pomegranate seeds, black pepper
    • Apple pie
    • Persimmons with ricotta cream

Recipe: Tuscan Cornbread

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at
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