Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

The Scordo family at our original home in New Jersey - eating together, including Thanksgiving, has always been one of best aspects of living as an Italian American
The Scordo family at our original home in New Jersey - eating together, including Thanksgiving, has always been one of best aspects of living as an Italian American

Scordo Thanksgiving Food Tradition

My immediate family immigrated from Italy in the early 1970’s and immediately adopted the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  My parents, who lived with my grandparents, tell me the first Scordo Thanksgiving meal featured a whole turkey, mashed potatoes, and something akin to sausage stuffing.  Of course, the meal included other “essential” best Thanksgiving side dishes such as an antipasto platter including salumi, cheese, and olives, a stuffed pasta dish (most likely lasagna or baked penne/ziti), additional vegetables, zeppole, and an abundance of fruit, nuts, and pastries for dessert.  I was told there was also grappa and stovetop espresso.

Our modern day Scordo Thanksgiving table looks similar to the above though with a much improved ingredient list and a larger table .  We’v also embraced a few more traditional Thanksgiving items such as sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce but our Italian Thanksgiving is alive and well.

Below you can find our guide on the Italian antipasto, aperitifs, and grappa, as well as a list of seven basic red wines that pair well with Thanksgiving type foods.  Finally, we’ve pulled a our favorite Thanksgiving side dishes from the Scordo archives.  Enjoy!  If you’d like to browse through all of our recipes please use our A-Z Recipe Index page.


Italian Antipasto – At times, the antipasto is better than a given meal and in our Italian house we feature a plate full of Italian delicacies designed to kick start Thanksgiving (including the best part of Thanksgiving; viz., the side dishes).

Aperitifs / Amari – We love a nice aperitif before dinner and it’s usually centered on a mild cocktails such as good red vermouth or, during the summer months, an Aperol Spritz.  Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to include an elegant cocktail (or two) before moving on to wine with the main meal.

Grappa – Ending a large meal with a glass of grappa can be mind blowing.  A good grappa will make you feel warm inside and is best savoured slowly.

Seven Red Wines for Everyone – Given the variety of foods served on Thanksgiving my advice is to drink what you like but maybe splurge a bit and a few more dollars to how much your normally spend on a bottle of wine.  We like red wine, so here are six varietals that may work for you.

Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes – Skip the butter and add a good amount of extraordinary extra virgin olive oil to your mashed potato recipe this year and you’ll surprise your guests with a flavor bomb.

Sweet Potatoes with Fennel Seed – Sweet potatoes are wonderful on their own (maybe baked with a bit of salt).  However, if you cube them, add olive oil and just the right amount of crushed fennel seed you’ll have rock star sweet potatoes.

Baked Artichoke Hearts – Packed with tremendous flavor this another perfect accompaniment to often dry and flavorless turkey.

Crocchette di Patate or Potato Croquettes –   Our potato croquettes are made with a mashed potato filling, stuffed with cubes of fresh mozzarella, and breaded with fresh breadcrumbs, dried oregano, and finely chopped parsley.  Thereafter, the croquettes are deep fried and served piping hot.

Spicy Baked Broccoli – Broccoli can be boring but if you add high quality homemade breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil, and plenty of red pepper flakes you’ll transform broccoli into a desirable side dish.

Fried Peppers or Peperonata – Our version can be made with friarelli (at times refereed to as green frying peppers) or standard bell peppers.  This side dish is a great compliment to often dry white turkey breast.

Grilled Eggplant with Basil and Olive Oil – Grilling eggplant is an easy and tasty way to get the most out of an often difficult vegetable to cook.  We use lots of basil and thereafter grate cheese on our grilled eggplant.

Barley Risotto – Barley is a great substitute for rice and it cooks much like any short grain rice although cooking time is a bit longer.  We like to use mushrooms or zucchini when making our barley risotto dish.

Arugula, ChickPea, Red Onion, Fennel, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad – Salad and turkey seem to work well together and our Thanksgiving salad utilizes a homemade dressing with dried oregano, thyme, and a bit of Dijon mustard.


  1. As a little bite, my mother would put out some fresh fennel and we would dip it in seasoned olive oil. Delicious. The restaurants now do it with bread. lol.

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