Thanksgiving side dishes are the highlight of every holiday table — Photo courtesy of VeselovaElena / iStock Via Getty Images
Home chefs shine at Thanksgiving as family and friends gather to celebrate the holiday with tradition and gratitude. Classic and well-loved family recipes are usually at the center of every Thanksgiving dinner (along with a big, juicy turkey), but sometimes you want to add something new to the mix. When you need to find inspiration elsewhere, turn to the professionals.
We’ve asked top chefs from around the country — including Charlie Palmer, Susan Spicer, José Andrés, Wolfgang Puck, Giada De Laurentiis, and Curtis Stone — to share recipes and stories behind their favorite Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts. Their Thanksgiving recipes are sure to jazz up any holiday table.
There’s a touch of Spain in Jose Andres’ family Thanksgiving recipes — Photo courtesy of Josh Telles
Born in Spain, the James Beard Award-winning and Michelin-starred chef José Andrés now counts Washington, D.C., as home. With his company José Andrés Group, the chef has numerous eateries around the country, including The Bazaar, Jaleo, and China Poblano. And his humanitarian efforts with World Central Kitchen, which strives to feed people affected by natural disasters around the world, is unparalleled in scope.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, Andrés melds his Spanish roots and adopted American traditions. “Instead of traditional pasta like elbows, this recipe is made from fideos, the short, thin, vermicelli-like noodle we use all the time in Spain,” Andrés says. “Adding Idiazabal cheese brings a little more of my homeland of Spain into such a traditional American dish.”
Topping the vermicelli with fried shallots adds a delicious salty, crunchy texture in every bite, similar to those crispy fried onions you love on green bean casserole. “This is a dish of memory, and I hope it brings back good ones and helps you make new ones,” the chef adds.
José Andrés’ recipe for vermicelli mac ‘n cheese
Jose Andres’ vermicelli mac ‘n cheese is elevated Thanksgiving comfort food — Photo courtesy of Katrina Frederick
Total time (prep and cook): 8-10 minutes
Serves: 2, so triple or quadruple for gatherings
1 shallot, peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
Rice flour, as needed
Oil for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup vermicelli
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Idiazabal cheese, finely grated
1/4 tablespoon fudgy egg yolk*
3 morel mushrooms
*Note: Andrés uses a sous vide method to make “fudgy” eggs, but you can do the same with this easy recipe for jammy eggs from Bon Appetit.
Place shallots in a bowl, coat in rice flour, then remove and shake off excess flour.
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, add about an inch of a neutral oil, like canola or vegetable oil, and heat until shimmering. Fry the coated sliced shallots to the hot oil until golden brown; remove to drain on paper towels.
Place another medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Heat the olive oil for a few minutes, then add the garlic clove and bay leaves. Next, add the vermicelli pasta and toast, tossing until golden. Add stock and heavy cream, and bring everything to a simmer. Turn heat to low and cook for 4 minutes. Turn off heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the garlic clove and bay leaves, and place the vermicelli pasta mix in a serving dish. Finely grate Idiazabal cheese over the pasta and top with swirls of egg yolks.
Cook the mushrooms in a small amount of oil over high heat. Add the fried mushrooms to the pasta dish, and finish with the crispy shallots.
Wolfgang Puck loves Thanksgiving and everything it stands for — Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Puck
Chef Wolfgang Puck is known for his restaurant empire, catering the Oscars Governors Ball after the Academy Awards, and his multiple James Beard Awards and Michelin stars. He loves celebrating Thanksgiving with close family and friends.
“I really enjoy Thanksgiving, because it’s one of the holidays where food really does bring people together,” he says. “Everyone comes together to celebrate with family, friends, coworkers. You create lasting memories during Thanksgiving.”
His favorite Thanksgiving side dish recipe isn’t from his native Austria; instead, it’s a recipe that’s quintessentially American.
Wolfgang Puck’s recipe for butternut squash casserole
Wolfgang Puck’s Thanksgiving creamy butternut squash casserole — Photo courtesy of Wolfgang Puck
Total time (prep and cook): 70-80 minutes
4 small to medium butternut squash, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons cold butter
3/4 cup tangerine or orange juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 to 20 fresh sage leaves, reserve the stems
1 cup cream
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the butternut squash in half, separating the neck and the body. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off the thick skin of the neck half. Slice the neck of the squash crosswise into thin slices, approximately 1/4-inch. (See Step 4 for what to do with the body half of the butternut squash.)
Shingle the squash slices in the buttered casserole dish, making sure the rows are neat and even. Season with salt and pepper across the slices and drizzle with the tangerine juice. Bake the casserole in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove the casserole from the oven, and tuck sage leaves randomly between several of the squash slices. The sage leaves both season the squash and contribute to the beautiful presentation. Drizzle cream into the casserole and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the squash slices are tender. Baking time will vary based on thickness of the squash.
Don’t waste the bulb ends of the squash! Scoop out the seeds, season generously with olive oil, salt, pepper, and brown sugar, and arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet. Scatter the leftover sage stems over the squash, and roast for 30 minutes in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes, or until soft and caramelized. Allow the squash to cool slightly and mash with butter and maple syrup for another delicious side dish.
Food memories are strong at Susan Spicer’s holiday celebrations — Photo courtesy of Susan Spicer
One of New Orleans’ treasures, Susan Spicer is the force behind famed restaurants Bayona, Mondo, and Rosedale. She’s also the winner of multiple James Beard Awards. Spicer is known for her sublime global tastes made with local ingredients and for bringing a unique twist to classic Louisiana dishes.
Her Thanksgiving recipe comes straight from the heart and home: Her mother Alice’s take on turkey stuffing, which takes her right back to her childhood.
“For me, making this stuffing is an example of how our sense of smell can bring back vivid memories and envelope you in powerful feelings,” Spicer says. “My mom, Alice, was one of those cooks who always kept a pot of chicken stock simmering on the back of the stove. When I am chopping the parsley, sage, and thyme, I can close my eyes and see her in the kitchen on Thanksgiving morning. The taste of this stuffing is like one of her warm hugs.”
Susan Spicer’s recipe for Alice’s herbed bread stuffing
Susan Spicer’s herbed bread stuffing is a must for Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Susan Spicer
Total time (prep and cook): 70 minutes
1/2 cup butter plus 1 tablespoon
1 bunch celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions (white and green), finely chopped
8 cups dried French bread, torn or cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 to 4 cups chicken broth, homemade or good quality store-bought
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add the celery, onion, parsley, thyme, sage, and half the scallions, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
Place the bread pieces in a large bowl, then add the vegetable and herb mixture to the bread.
In a separate saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Pour about 3 cups of the broth over the bread mixture, then add the remaining scallions, season with salt and pepper, and stir well to soak all the bread. Use a bit more stock if the mixture seems too dry.
Rub the tablespoon butter around a 2-quart casserole dish. Pour the stuffing mixture into the dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is crusty and golden brown. (Note: It’s a good idea to put a baking sheet under the casserole to catch any juices that drip.)
Giada De Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis combines Italian and American traditions for Thanksgiving — Photo courtesy of Giadzy.com/Giada De Laurentiis
After gaining culinary superstardom on the Food Network, today Giada De Laurentiis is a restaurateur, cookbook author, and empire builder. In addition to producing new shows with Amazon Studios, she also oversees Giadzy.com, a website devoted to all of Italy’s good things.
Born in Italy but a longtime resident of Southern California, De Laurentiis loves cooking for her teenage daughter and her extended Italian family. One of her favorite Thanksgiving recipes is a classic Italian dish, part of the multi-course feast she prepares for the holiday.
“I always do a baked pasta for holiday meals,” she reveals. “You can prep almost the entire thing in advance, then bake it off while the turkey rests. This version also happens to be vegetarian, with squash, one of my family’s faves. I like to use paccheri, because it’s a bit wider than other tubed pastas, which allows for more of the cheesy filling in every bite!”
Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for baked pasta with squash and goat cheese
Giada De Laurentiis’ favorite baked pasta with squash and goat cheese — Photo courtesy of Giadzy.com/Giada De Laurentiis
Total time (prep and cook): 60 minutes
For the topping:
For the pasta:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional salt for the pasta water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
8 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
One 10-ounce delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds discarded and sliced into 1/4-inch half moons
1 pound short pasta, such as paccheri
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix together the panko, olive oil, and salt and set aside.
Heat a large ovenproof and stove-friendly casserole dish or braiser over medium heat. Add the butter, and when melted, add the shallots, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook the shallots until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and stir to cook out some of the raw flour taste, about 2 minutes. Slowly begin to add the milk, adding a small amount at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce the heat and maintain a simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the goat cheese and 1 cup mozzarella and stir until combined. Add the squash and mix together until combined. Season with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season well with salt. Cook the pasta for about 6 minutes. You want it firm but al dente. Using a pasta spider, remove the pasta directly to the sauce, but do not yet stir it in.
Sprinkle the plain pasta with the Parmesan and stir to combine. Add the broccoli rabe to the pasta water and cook for 30 seconds. Use the pasta spider to drain the broccoli rabe well, then add it to the pasta. Stir everything together to evenly distribute.
Sprinkle the top of the pasta with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the panko mixture. Bake until it’s bubbly all over, 20 to 25 minutes. Switch to the broiler and broil for 5 minutes to brown the top, if desired.
Curtis Stone celebrates Thanksgiving with family in L.A. — Photo courtesy of Ray Kachatorian
Australian-born Curtis Stone found culinary success in London before coming to America. Here he found worldwide fame, thanks to a slew of television gigs; he also found love. Marrying an American actress means making Southern California home for his family and two Los Angeles restaurants, Maude and Gwen, which he owns with his brother, Luke.
Stone embraces Thanksgiving as one of his favorite holidays, despite being barely aware of it before arriving in the U.S. “I wasn’t terribly familiar with Thanksgiving when I came to America,” he says. “My wife Lindsay’s family indoctrinated me into their many traditions, including passing a bottle around the table during dinner and dropping a kernel of corn into it and saying something we’re thankful for.
“We use the same bottle every year, and it’s wonderful to see it fill up,” he adds. “And as much as I enjoy Christmas, Thanksgiving is all about the food. No mussing with wrapping presents, picking out a tree. I love that too, but stick me in the kitchen all day, and I’m a happy guy!”
Curtis Stone’s recipe for croissant hazelnut bread pudding
Curtis Stone’s luscious croissant hazelnut bread pudding perfectly tops off his decadent Thanksgiving dinner — Photo courtesy of Curtis Stone/Stone’s Food Inc.
Total time (prep and cook): 60 minutes
6 to 8 croissants, each cut into 6 pieces
1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spread the croissant pieces on a large sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes, or until dried out and crisp.
Meanwhile, spread hazelnuts on another sheet pan and toast for 8 minutes, or until golden and skins are blistered. Wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and let steam for 1 minute. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel to remove loose skins. Don’t worry if some skins don’t come off. Let the hazelnuts cool and set aside.
Increase the oven to 375 F. To make the bread pudding, in a large bowl, whisk the cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until well combined.
Arrange half of the croissant pieces in a single layer in a 12-inch casserole dish, and pour some custard over the top. Add the remaining croissant pieces to the bowl with remaining custard and gently toss to coat. Set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the croissants to soften and soak up the custard.
Sprinkle half the hazelnuts over croissants in the pan, then spoon half of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the top followed by the remaining croissant mixture. Spoon the rest of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the mixture, add the remaining hazelnuts and sprinkle with granulated sugar over everything.
Bake the bread pudding for 30 minutes, or until it’s puffed and golden brown on top but still moist inside. Cool slightly before serving.
Charlie Palmer is all about holiday traditions at Thanksgiving — Photo courtesy of Charlie Palmer
Chef Charlie Palmer has done it all in his long career, from winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef in America to holding 13 Michelin stars for Aureole, his now-shuttered legendary Manhattan restaurant. Today you’ll usually find Palmer in his various restaurants in Napa and Sonoma, Calif., and across the country.
The renowned chef is a big fan of Thanksgiving, especially as it gets his growing family together. “As both a chef and father — and recently a grandfather — of a large family, Thanksgiving is a special holiday to me,” Palmer says.
“Depending on the year, we celebrate at home in Healdsburg or in New York at Charlie Palmer Steak, and both are equally important family traditions for us,” he adds. “While the full menu may vary over the years, one thing is always the same — a smorgasbord of pies. And we always include this pear tarte tatin.”
Although the classic French tarte tatin is made with apples, Palmer says he prefers crisp pears because they aren’t as sweet, yet they caramelize the same way. And he says it’s fine to use frozen puff pastry, which makes this dessert a snap to pull together. Using a nonstick, ovenproof frying pan makes unmolding the tart incredibly easy as well.
“No sticking and no mess, and the pears will unmold in a perfect pattern,” the chef says.
Charlie Palmer’s recipe for pear tarte tatin
Charlie Palmer’s pear tarte tatin is the perfect ending to his Thanksgiving feast — Photo courtesy of Charlie Palmer
Total time (prep and cook): 60 minutes
3/4 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
flour, as needed
5 large firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1 piece frozen puff pastry, thawed*
Optional: serve with whipped cream, crème fraîche, frozen vanilla yogurt, or caramel ice cream
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup cold water in an 8-inch nonstick, ovenproof frying pan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Allow to cook at a gentle boil, without stirring, for about 6 minutes or until a golden caramel syrup has formed. Stir in the butter and cook, stirring, until well blended.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully arrange the pear quarters, cut sides facing up, in a slightly overlapping circle in the caramel.
Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface. Place the pastry onto the floured surface and, using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a shape large enough to cut out a 9-inch circle. Using a pastry wheel or pairing knife, cut out the circle and place over the pears. Fold the excess edge under to enclose the fruit. Using a paring knife, cut at least 4 slits in the center of the pastry to allow steam to escape.
Bake the tarte for 35 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown.
Let the tarte cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes to set. Using a small, sharp knife, loosen the edges from the pan, then place the serving platter over the pan and carefully invert the tart onto it. Remove the pan.
Serve the tarte warm, with a topping of choice if you like.
*Note: Both Trader Joe’s and Dufour make excellent frozen puff pastry. Find them at either store, online, or at other supermarkets and specialty food stores.