Expats celebrating Thanksgiving in need not panic. All they need is a little advance planning. Sourcing ingredients and staples for Thanksgiving dinner in Rome, complete with cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, yams, turkey and stuffing may seem a daunting task. But Thanksgiving tradition––much like Halloween––has caught on in Rome, and finding ingredients is easy.
Thanksgiving Day always falls on a regular work day and school night in Italy. This makes it harder for people to attend the traditional mid-day gargantuan feast. A widespread solution to this scheduling issue is to hold Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday instead of Thursday.
More advice on where to find all the mandatory ingredients for a perfect Thanksgiving dinner in Rome comes to readers from a local expat. Plus, we’re sharing a bonus recipe that can be made with locally sourced ingredients and that is pivotal to the Thanksgiving tradition: cornbread.
“Tacchino” is easy to find in Rome. But to purchase the whole bird for the holiday of Thanks it’s necessary to order it a week to 10 days in advance from a trusted butcher, because otherwise turkey is normally sold in pieces. I rely on the San Bartolomeo franchise from Tuscia (Viterbo) which has shops in the Trionfale and Parioli neighborhood markets. Tip: Make sure you know the exact measurements of your oven before ordering!
My classic bread, onion and sage stuffing doesn’t require “exotic” ingredients, but those of you who prefer to stuff their bird with chestnuts, sausage and other delicacies, neighborhood markets will surely be of service. Spices and seasoned salts can be found at Castroni.
Whether your Thanksgiving tradition pairs turkey with creamed pearl onions, brussel sprouts, potatoes and gravy or green bean casserole (or all of the above), Italian markets will have no shortage of these seasonal ingredients. For larger quantities it may be wise to pre-order.
Pumpkin and Cranberry Sauce
For one-stop shopping for these ingredients, Castroni is my best bet. The Cola di Rienzo store is stocked with canned pumpkin, all manner of spices and Ocean Spray cranberry sauce (not jelly). On occasion, I have turned to the IKEA food counter for lingonberry jam in place of cranberry. If you prefer making pumpkin pie from scratch and not from a canned mix, I suggest using butternut squash, which has firmer pulp and is less watery when roasted. The Circo Massimo farmer’s market and Nuovo Mercato Esquilino near Termini both sell butternut squash. In a pinch, I’ve also used zucca mantovana.
Yams and sweet potatoes can be found virtually everywhere in Rome. All the major farmer’s markets and international markets will sell them in autumn. I have found great organic yams at the NaturaSì health food franchise.
In our family we make a yam mash and top it with marshmallows. After baking in the oven, the candy melts into a delicious sweet crust. Until recently all the marshmallows I could find here were commonly pink, yellow and blue. When melted these turn to a nauseating mix of faded pastels. Fortunately, now I can find plain white (and giant-sized) marshmallows at the Tiger store.
Castroni sells small bags of pecans at an exorbitant price, so I get mine at either my nuts and dates seller at Nuovo Mercato Esquilino or at Emporio delle Spezie in Testaccio
I get all my party paraphernalia (balloons, centerpieces, bunting, confetti, faux leaves, etc.) at Party World, in the Prati neighborhood. Not far from here is also Peroni, where I stock up on cupcake toppers, candies and cookie molds.
¼ cup butter (1/2 stick), plus more to grease the pan
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal (polenta bramata*)
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
*Ground cornmeal is available in different grinds, from fairly fine to very coarse. A finer grind is good for baking a cake-like bread, while coarser grinds (like for polenta) can offer more texture and bite to your cornbread. I use the coarse “polenta bramata” because I like the crunch factor; but you can consider using a mixture of fine and coarse meals for a crumblier, more bread-like product.
Heat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan or 9-inch round cake pan.
In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the butter over low heat until melted.
In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, milk and egg with a wire whisk until well mixed. Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once; stir just until the flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy).
Pour batter into the pan; use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl clean. Spread batter evenly and smooth the top.
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm drizzled with maple syrup or with soft herb butter.
by Eleonora Baldwin
Azienda Agricola San Bartolomeo – http://www.pollosanbartolomeo.it/dove-siamo/
Castroni – https://www.castronicoladirienzoshop.it/dal-mondo/nord-america/
IKEA – https://www.ikea.com/it/it/catalog/products/10308626/
Nuovo Mercato Esquilino – Rome, Via Principe Amedeo, 184
Mercato Trionfale – Rome, Via Andrea Doria, 3
Mercato di Campagna Amica al Circo Massimo – http://www.mercatocircomassimo.it/
NaturaSì – https://www.naturasi.it/
Tiger – https://it.flyingtiger.com/
Emporio delle Spezie – https://www.emporiodellespezie.it/
Party World – http://www.partyworld.it/photoalbum/index.php?id=177
Peroni – https://www.peronisnc.it/