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Recipes to make Thanksgiving leftovers even better the second time around

Thanksgiving leftover frittata. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Thanksgiving leftover frittata. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

You spent all day cooking the big feast. You spent hours cleaning up. And, now, the weekend after Thanksgiving, you have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But, aside from the requisite turkey sandwich with hot gravy and cranberry sauce, you don’t really feel like eating leftovers.

I have two words for you: Transform them. Take all that beautifully cooked food from your Thanksgiving feast and turn it into something brand new. Don’t think of it as “leftovers,” but as possibilities for a brand new dish.

You can (and should) make turkey broth with the leftover turkey carcass. You could make soup and pot pie. But you could also try three new ideas for transforming those leftover mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, etc.

Polpettone alla Liguria

Polpettone alla Liguria. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

This Ligurian dish is ideal for this time of year.  According to Italian food writer Domenica Marchetti: “In the rest of Italy, polpettone means meatloaf, from the word ‘polpa,’ meaning ‘flesh’ or ‘pulp.’ But the word can also mean ‘mishmash,’ and in Liguria, polpettone is a baked mishmash of vegetables—artichokes, green beans, or zucchini—usually combined with potatoes, eggs, cheese, and herbs.”

I first tasted polpettone on a recent trip to Liguria and immediately thought it would be a great dish for Thanksgiving leftovers. Here I transform mashed potatoes and cooked vegetables (I used cooked string beans, zucchini and a few Brussels sprouts) mixed with grated Parmesan cheese and eggs. Polpettone is highly adaptable and will work with virtually any leftover mashed potatoes and vegetables. Think of it as comfort food, an Italian version of a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.

Serves 4 to 6.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh marjoram, chopped, or ½ teaspoon dried optional
  • About ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups of leftover cooked vegetables, like green beans, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, spinach, Swiss chard, etc., coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup Panko or breadcrumbs
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.


  1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate or 9 to 10-inch shallow casserole with 1 tablespoon of the oil or butter. Coat the bottom with ½ cup of the Panko or breadcrumbs.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, marjoram and nutmeg and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked vegetables (if there are big chunks you may want to coarsely chop them) and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Place the mashed potatoes into a bowl. Add the eggs and 1 cup of the cheese and mix well. Add the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and use a spatula to smooth the top. Use the tines of a fork through the mixture horizontally and then vertically to create a kind of tight tic-tac-toe pattern. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Panko or breadcrumbs on top and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil or butter.
  4. Bake on the middle shelf for about 30 minutes; the top should be golden brown and the mixture should be bubbling. Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes to give it a golden brown color. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into slices of wedges.
  5. The polpettone is delicious the next day and can be served hot or at room temperature.

Thanksgiving leftover frittata

Thanksgiving leftover frittata. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

A frittata is a baked egg dish that is so adaptable and forgiving that you can use virtually any leftovers you have on hand. Saute an onion or leek, throw in leftover greens or cooked vegetables or even stuffing, sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes. Whisk eggs with salt, pepper and grated cheese (I used sharp cheddar and Parmesan), pour over leftover vegetables and bake. That’s it. Serve warm or room temperature with crusty bread or leftover rolls.

Serves 4.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 leek, scallion, or small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked greens, vegetables (even leftover stuffing or chopped sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes), coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, basil, thyme etc., chopped
  • ½ cup grated cheese, see note above


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In an 8 to 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the oil or butter. Add the leek or onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Stir in the leftover vegetables, salt, pepper and the herbs and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. In a bowl whisk the eggs with the salt, pepper and cheese. Pour over the skillet with the vegetables.
  4. Place on the middle shelf and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly risen and no longer “wet” looking; you can gently jiggle the skillet to see if there are any raw eggs left. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Vanilla pudding with cranberry sauce

Vanilla pudding with cranberry sauce. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

There always tends to be a lot of cranberry sauce leftover after Thanksgiving. I love serving it on top of ice cream or yogurt, dipping cookies into it, or spooning it over a bowl of hot oatmeal. But this is a very simple vanilla pudding that is topped with leftover cranberry sauce; the mild vanilla-flavored pudding comes alive with the sweet, tart cranberry sauce.

The pudding needs to chill for at least three hours, so plan your time accordingly.

Serves 2 to 4.


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ vanilla bean, cut in half down the center, seeds scraped, optional
  • 4 small egg yolks, or 3 large
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • About 1 cup leftover cranberry sauce


  1. Make the pudding: in a medium saucepan heat the cream and milk with 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract and the vanilla bean seeds, if using, over medium-high heat, until bubbles begin to form around the edges but before it boils.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl and whisk vigorously. Add the sugar and whisk. Add the hot vanilla cream mixture, a bit at a time, whisking well. Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened. You’ll know the pudding is ready when you coat the wooden spoon with the mixture and run your finger along it and your finger impression remains for several seconds. It should take about 4 to 5 minutes to thicken. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and the salt. Place into 4 small (½ cup) ramekins or 2 large (1 cup) ramekins. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Serve cold topped with leftover cranberry sauce.

Find more leftover favorites here.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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