Many people find themselves traveling in Italy over the Thanksgiving holiday. One can have trouble getting a perfect Thanksgiving meal because many ingredients do not exist in Italy such as sweet potatos and cranberries. These are just not part of the Italian table. Dishes can be substituted though and pumpkin is ubiquitous so one shouldn’t fear missing a good pumpkin pie or pumpkin tart for dessert.
While turkey can be found on some menus in Italy, there is no real culinary tradition that has turkey as its centerpiece except in a small town in the Abruzzo region called Canzano. Abruzzo is in central Italy and has both mountains and the sea among its treasures. It is known for its strong cuisine and hardy and stoic people.
Tacchino alla Canzanese is the most famous dish from this corner of Abruzzo near the city of Teramo. Canzano, a medieval hilltown at 500 meters above sea level with a stunning view of the Gran Sasso, Maiella and Laga mountains, has been making this turkey dish since the 1800s.
The turkey is cooked with peppercorns, salt, rosemary, garlic, bay leaves and veal bones for five hours in the oven. When the turkey, better if a female bird, is done, the gelatin from the drippings gets spread over the turkey and refrigerated. The dish is, in fact, served cold and is sliced turkey with a gelatinous covering. Apparently each family has their own recipe which is jealously guarded.
While Italians do not really celebrate Thanksgiving, there are many harvest holidays in the autumn months which celebrate different foods and the arrival or the end of the seasons. Tacchino alla Canzanese is generally eaten as part of the traditional Christmas meal in this part of Abruzzo.
Wines from Abruzzo tend to be made from one of two grapes: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. The first produces light white wines which can be paired with pasta dishes or served as an apertif. Sometimes it is made into a blend with chardonnay.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a red grape variety which makes medium bodied, fruity wines with nice acidity. This grape has come into favor in the past 10 years and is widely available in the United States. Two very well known producers are Emidio Pepe who has been making organic wines for more than 40 years and Giuseppe Masciarelli whose wines are constantly considered some of the best from the region.
Only one D.O.C.G. wine comes from this area and that is the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane wines from the Colline Teramane. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo could be a good wine with any type of turkey this Thanksgiving.