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  • Writer's pictureDiana Scalia

Angel Food: Nana's Sicilian Rice Dressing


Our grandmother’s “stuffing” for Thanksgiving turkey is probably one of our most precious family heirlooms, so I’m sure you understand how much it means to me to share it with you. This recipe will be included in my upcoming cookbook titled Angel Food: Love Made Visible on the Plate.


We grew up with this dish. When she was healthy and well enough, my dad’s mother, our Nana, made her dressing for our family Thanksgiving. She taught Mama, who made it for most of her life, always a day in advance. My sisters and I learned to make it over the years, as did my sister Suz's son and daughter.


In my own experience, I first made it for clients for their holidays and catering events. The first time I made it for a client, we could not stop tasting it before I gently and firmly put a lid on it (literally), and stored it safely for their meal the next day.


At my Spanish Bar, I served it with a fried egg on top and everyone was crazy for this. I even sent guests home with it so they could have it for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. I usually make some for myself each November and, don’t share it at all.


Especially since both my parents, and now my brother, have passed by now, I feel particularly blessed that we’ll always be comforted with this plate. It was one of our dad’s only real connections to his own mother once she passed. He was fine to never mind anything else on the Thanksgiving table, it was his favorite thing about the holiday at all.


I hope you will try making this for your own holiday table, now that you know how much love is in this tradition.


Here I’m going to describe these steps as best I can, as we only cook this from experience, not from a recipe! It is recommended you prepare this at least one day in advance.


Please watch my YouTube video (from November 2020) for a better understanding of how to prepare this, complete with more of my heartfelt color commentary!


Nana’s Sicilian Rice Dressing

2 lbs. white long-grain rice

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. bulk pork sausage; I use Italian sausage

Celery stalks from one entire bunch, chopped finely

1 large onion, chopped finely

Salt, pepper, poultry seasoning - to taste (we like lots of poultry seasoning)

Olive or vegetable oil for frying


In large stockpot filled 2/3 full with water, boil water over high flame. When water is rapidly boiling, add rice and lower flame. Stir rice occasionally and only cook for only about 5 minutes; until par-boiled (only slightly cooked). Drain rice in large colander and let cool slightly.


In a very large bowl, place rice, chopped celery and onion, ground meats. With clean hands, mix everything together thoroughly, which prepares this for frying,


In large – ideally nonstick – skillet over medium-high flame, heat up to ¼ cup oil to fry “first batch” of rice mixture. While meats are browning, season to taste with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning, and transfer cooked mixture to large baking dish. Be generous with the poultry seasoning!


Repeat this process until all ingredients are cooked, seasoning to taste.


From here you may cover the baking dish tightly and bake at 350F for 40 minutes. For your meal, simply reheat to serve this as a side dish only. Before your meal, cover and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes.


If you would like to stuff your turkey with the dressing, you may simply refrigerate the mixture until your turkey is ready to roast. Mama placed half the mixture in a cheesecloth bag and placed it in the turkey, so she could remove it easily. She baked the other half as a casserole before dinner was served (350F for 40 minutes) so that guests could choose to enjoy the dish infused with the turkey juices, or not.


You may also opt to bake and serve part of the dressing to share at your meal, and bake the rest later for other meals. Finally, this recipe may be halved or multiplied very easily with excellent results. It just depends how much you’d like to make. We always think more is better :))).


Yield is about 12-16 servings.

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