Even at the Batalis, Thanksgiving was distinctly American -- whole roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, yams with marshmallows, cranberry sauce. And my mom was famous for her apple pie. Not her crostata di mela, just a plain old Washington apple pie.
If you've exhausted the roast or simply don't feel like roasting, consider adding a pasta to your Thanksgiving table. Though some might object to the exclusion of turkey entirely, variety at a Thanksgiving table is irreproachable. (Side note: If you are serving turkey, always brine it. It results in an impossibly succulent bird.)
Conchiglie ripieni dei "resti" is my easy take on a classic Italian cannelloni dish. It directly translates as shells stuffed with leftovers, but the uniquely Thanksgiving flavors make it perfect for the main event itself. The presentation is made perfect in a baking dish that travels easily from the oven to the table and looks like a million bucks. If you're making this for the holiday table, make your mashed potatoes and turkey ahead of time, and construct as instructed.
Part of the reason Thanksgiving dinner is so delicious is because it activates the receptors in your brain that conjure images of Thanksgivings past. But the other reason the simple vegetable sides are so tasty is because potatoes are in season. As are green beans and Brussels sprouts. This is the bounty of Thanksgiving all'Italiano.
This year, I'm highlighting Tuscany and Umbria -- there's a lot of Brunello I want to bring along.
Conchiglie ripieni dei "resti"/ Holiday stuffed shells
Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main.
1 pound largest shell-shaped pasta for stuffing
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
2 cups leftover turkey chopped in the food processor, preferably from the legs and thighs
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups spicy tomato sauce, a good brand like Emeril's
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Bring 8 quarts water to the boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Drop the shells into the water and cook until 3 minutes short of the suggested cooking time, and then drain them in a colander and shock them in ice water until very cold. Place in a colander lined with paper towels to dry and rest. Meanwhile, mix the spuds, chopped turkey, ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmigiano and the nutmeg in a bowl until homogenous.
Grease a 10- by 12-inch baking dish with the extra virgin olive oil and set aside. Carefully stuff each shell with 2-3 tablespoons of the turkey/spud mixture and lay each one open side up in the baking dish, next to one another but not too crowded to squeeze each other. Spoon a good tablespoon of the tomato sauce over each shell and then sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over all.
Bake in the oven till very hot and kind of dryish on the top, about 40 minutes. Remove and serve.
(Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind twenty-four restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo. In this column, Mario answers questions submitted via social media and by people he encounters daily in Downtown Manhattan. Keep asking!)
(c)2013, MARIO BATALI. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.