Pancetta and Leek StuffingNovember 15, 2016 By Cathy — 22 Comments
Crispy edged, buttery stuffing flecked with leeks and pancetta is the ultimate Thanksgiving side.
Stuffing IS Thanksgiving for me. I mean I love the turkey, the potatoes and all the sides. But Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without stuffing.
I remember being a kid and watching my mom prepare for Thanksgiving. We always used my grandmother’s china, the rose colored wine glasses and special dishes for the Waldorf salad and crudité. The sweet potatoes were candied, the potatoes smashed and the gravy never lumpy.
But when it was time to make the stuffing, she enlisted my brothers and me to help. We were instructed to wash up before sticking our hands into the big bowl to mix the toasted bread cubes with the onions, celery and stock. This was always my favorite part of the prep. I loved squishing the bread between my fingers and scooping it into the buttered baking dish.
When it came time to eat, my plate was always fifty percent stuffing covered of course with a big ladle of gravy. I kept careful watch over that dish throughout the meal, always hoping that our guests filled up on the beans and squash so there would be enough for leftovers the next day.
The stuffing that I grew up on is the base for this recipe today. I’ve tried different versions over the years (and thoroughly enjoyed most of them), but this is my favorite. I’ve tweaked our family favorite by adding pancetta, leeks and fresh, flavorful herbs instead of dried.
I like to add enough stock so the stuffing stays moist inside then drizzle the top with butter to get those crispy edges and top as it bakes. This recipe will easily serve eight, but don’t be afraid to make an extra pan if you have a stuffing-happy crowd or love the leftovers as much as me.
I’m looking forward to a big scoop of this stuffing on my plate this year. And I’ll be spooning it right onto my Grandma’s china as those dishes now grace my table. I love blending the traditions of my youth with the new traditions my family has created. This stuffing is a great example of that. You can taste the memories but welcome the updates. And the best news is there’s room for all of them on the Thanksgiving table.
- 1 lb rustic Italian bread, cut into ¾ - 1 inch cubes
- 4 oz pancetta, thinly sliced
- 1½ lb leeks (about 3 large), thinly sliced and washed thoroughly
- 4 celery ribs, cut into ¼ inch slices
- 1 large sweet onion, (Vidalia) diced
- 1 Tbsp chives, minced
- 1 Tbsp sage, minced
- 1 Tbsp thyme, minced
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 2 - 2½ cups turkey or chicken stock
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread bread cubes on a large sheet tray. Toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until just crisp, stirring the cubes so they toast evenly.
- Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Cook the pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium/high heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and reserve pan drippings in the skillet. Crumble the pancetta and reserve.
- Return the pan to the burner and add the leeks, celery and onion and cook over medium/high heat until golden and soft, about 10-15 mins.
- In a large bowl combine the bread, cooked leek mixture, herbs, eggs, stock, crumbled pancetta, salt and pepper. Start with 2 cups stock, then add a little more if cubes are too dry.
- Stir well to combine.
- Coat a 9x13 inch pan with cooking spray and spread stuffing evenly in the pan and drizzle with the melted butter. Cover with foil.
- Bake for 30 mins, then remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.