When I was living in Italy, Turkey was not a common meal. It was reserved mostly for special occasions, like Christmas. The difference between the way of cooking Turkey in Italy and the US is mainly in the stuffing. In the US the stuffing is largely bread flavored with herbs and spices. In Italy instead, similarly to other poultry dishes, turkey is filled with meat.
Italian turkeys are generally much smaller than their American relatives, and the meat stuffing makes up for the difference. Therefore the purpose of the stuffing itself is dissimilar. In the U.S. it is considered as a side dish to the turkey, in Italy instead increases the amount of meat on hand. The meat stuffing is flavored with herbs, dry fruit (raisin and pine seed) and an abundant amount of chestnuts.
Chicken is normally de-boned before stuffing while turkey instead, because of its size, is left intact. The cavity is then loaded with the ground meat. The meat stuffing is later removed from the turkey, sliced and served alongside the turkey meat, the gravy, and some side dish of vegetables.
for the turkey
1 fresh organic free range turkey (approximately 15 lb)
salt and pepper
1 ½ lb ground beef (optional mix of beef and pork)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 oz parmigiano reggiano cheese
3 oz breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons golden raisin
2 tablespoons pine seed
1 orange grated rind
1 lb whole canned boiled chestnuts (½ lb finely chopped + ½ lb whole)
1 large spring sage leaves, half whole and half chopped
2 tablespoons butter
4-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 spring of rosemary leaves, finely chopped
½ cup cognac
1 quart chicken or turkey broth
for the gravy
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preaheat oven 325 F. Wash the turkey in fresh water and dry, patting with a kitchen towel. Season the outside with salt and pepper.
Place in a large bowl the ground meat, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, parmigiano, breadcrumbs, raisin, pine seed, orange rind, chopped chestnuts, salt and pepper.
Combine all the ingredients together.
Fill the turkey with the ground beef stuffing.
Place a few sage leaves under the skin of the turkey.
Seal the skin of the turkey with the special needles.
Tie the drumsticks together. Secure the wings against the bird.
Brush the outside of the turkey with butter.
Season with salt and pepper. In a dish combine the chopped sage and the chopped rosemary. Spread the rosemary/sage mix on the bird.
Transfer the turkey to a roasting pan. Spread the surface with the olive oil.
Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast for about 2 hours.
Remove the aluminum foil, add cognac, and set temperature to 360 F. When the cognac is evaporated add broth to the pan. Distribute the whole chestnuts in the pan.
Occasionally baste the turkey with its own cooking juices.
Cook until the temperature reaches 170 F in the breasts or 185 F in the thigh. In total a 15 lb turkey should cook for about 5-5 ½ hours.
Remove turkey from the pan and place on a serving dish. Remove the chestnuts.
To prepare the gravy: Transfer the cooking liquid to a fat separator. Remove the fat away.
Place the chestnuts in a food processor and reduce to a paste. Put the turkey cooking liquids in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the chestnut paste. When the gravy reaches a slow simmer, add the cornstarch dissolved in few tablespoons water. Cook for few seconds until the gravy thickens.
Filter the gravy through a colander.
Decorate the turkey with chestnuts, bay leaves, rosemary springs, orange slices, and serve lukewarm accompanied by the warm gravy