What makes my Thanksgiving turkey soup Italian, you ask? Well, maybe it actually is an American soup – since turkey is the quintessentially American bird – but made with an Italian touch! Let me explain.
Of course, here in America it is not Thanksgiving without turkey. And, the Italian cook hosting Thanksgiving dinner will not want anyone to miss out on their fair share (read enormous share) of turkey. Which means a large turkey for every family size. Which means the best part of Thanksgiving – leftovers!
Working under the Italian traditions that demand: (1) no food be wasted and (2) all left overs be transformed into a new and delicious dish, one Thanksgiving evening I decided that it would be a waste to throw out the left over turkey bones with all the small bits of meat still clinging to them. Instead of putting the turkey carcass into the garbage, I broke it up a bit and put it into my large stock pot. Then I added a few coarsely chopped vegetables, left over fresh parsley, covered all with water and let the pot simmer on the stove top.
When my 6 year old daughter came down from her room on the second floor of the house and made her way back into the kitchen to ask why I was still cooking and what is was that smelled so good, I knew I had a hit! She insisted on having some of the soup that very night.
I have had a standing request from my family to make Thanksgiving turkey soup every year since that time. The slightly sweet, mild flavor of the roasted turkey comes out beautifully with the long cooking that a soup requires. And, with virtually no effort on my part, the family has a warm, easy meal to heat up themselves for the rest of the weekend.
For the quintessential “Italian” contribution to the soup, add a box of pappardelle noodles or small soup pasta in your favorite shape to make your Thanksgiving turkey soup complete!
I have broken up the steps to make my Thanksgiving turkey soup into two separate days, but once the family smells the broth simmering on the stove, they may want you to finish the soup for a light evening meal that very same night!
For the Turkey Broth
1 (12-16) pound roasted turkey carcass
3 carrots, each cut into 3–4 pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 3–4 pieces
2 medium onions, skin removed, cut into halves
1 small clove garlic, skin removed
1 large bundle of fresh parsley stems or 1/4 cup dried parsley
For the Soup
(for 16 -20 cups of broth)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped finely*
1 stalk celery, chopped finely*
1/4 cup dried parsley or 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and white pepper
4 rounds of pappardelle pasta, coarsely broken into desired length
(Granoro N. 134)
or 1/2 cup Ditali Rigati 59 pasta (Granoro brand)
or miniature pasta of choice
Pre-cooked, left-over turkey breast meat, chopped to desired size
*See below for note about how to chop soup vegetables.
Make the Turkey Broth (Day 1)
Put the turkey carcass and any left over bones desired into a large stock pot.
(This step can be skipped, but for the clearest broth: Cover the bones with cold water, bring to a rolling boil and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes and skim off the “froth” that will come to the surface. Pour out this water and then continue with the steps that follow.)
Add the vegetables and whole garlic clove into the pot with the turkey bones.
Note that these vegetables will be cooked until they have released all their flavor and will be removed before making the final soup, so there is no need to peel and chop them finely. Just wash, chop coarsely, and add to the soup pot.
Tie a bunch of parsley stalks together with food string and add them to the soup pot.
Turn the heat up to high and cover the pot to get it to boil. When the water comes to a boil, remove the lid and lower the heat to medium. Keep the water at a low boil/simmer and let the bones and vegetables cook slowly for 3–5 hours.
Skim any surface froth that may develop during cooking with a large spoon, but do not stir, or the broth will get cloudy.
Add additional water if necessary and continue cooking until the broth has the desired flavor. The broth should reduce during the cooking time, and the final amount will vary, depending on the size of the bird you start with and how long you let the soup cook. But expect enough soup to make about two pots of soup of 16 -20 cups each.
When the broth is done, the carcass should be falling apart, the meat should be falling off the bones and the vegetables will be very mushy.
Turn off the heat and let cool. Remove larger pieces of bone and vegetables with a straining ladle to leave the broth in the pot.
Pour the broth through a colander with fine holes to remove any particulate matter, then store it in a large plastic containers in the refrigerator overnight.
(I usually get enough broth to fill at least 2 large bowl-shaped plastic containers when using a turkey 12 lbs. or larger, so I put one in the refrigerator and freeze the rest to make turkey soup later in the month.)
Make the Soup (Day 2)
The next day, remove the broth from the refrigerator. Skim off the fat that will have floated to the top and hardened overnight and discard.
Place the desired amount of broth into a large pot.
Add the chopped carrot and celery and bring to a boil, cooking until the vegetables have softened a bit.
Add salt and a bit of white pepper to taste.
When the water is boiling, add the pasta of your choice, and cook according to package directions. The pappardelle pasta I use takes only 6 minutes to cook.
Cook to “al dente” (a little firm) according to package directions. If not serving the soup right away, under cook it a bit, because pasta will absorb water as it sits in the soup.
Prior to serving , add the pre-cooked, left over turkey breast (or dark meat if preferred) cut to desired size and chopped parsley to warm through.
Serve in a large soup bowl garnished with fresh parsley.
Refrigerate leftovers to eat later in the week, if there are any!
*How to Chop Soup Vegetables
Carrots: Cut lengthwise to half, and then lengthwise again to get quarters. Line them up side by side and then cut crosswise from the tips to the base of the carrot to get small, even pieces that look like quarters of a circle.
Celery: Cut lengthwise through each celery stalk as many times as needed to give pieces the same thickness as the carrot pieces. (You will need more lengthwise cuts at the thicker part of the celery near the base.) Then cut crosswise from the tip to the base to get small, rectangular pieces of celery about the same size as the carrot pieces.
— by Kathryn Occhipinti
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
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Thanksgiving Turkey Soup – That’s Italian!