For the past couple of years I’ve tested new stuffing recipes as part of my pre-holiday meals. Now, I happen to be a big Stove-Top fan. It fluffs magically in five minutes flat, and reminds me of my childhood so I can’t give it up completely. But each fall, I do enjoy making stuffing from scratch as well. Right now I’m torn between two favorites: this, and Bon Appetit’s new squash version.
This ciabatta version was my first attempt at stuffing, so I might be partial to it for that reason, but then there are the herbs, and crispy Pancetta, and chestnuts, oh, and the Parmesan cheese…It’s completely different from say, cream butternut squash cubes melting in your mouth. That’s it, they’re just too different to compare. I can’t choose a winner. But I suppose that’s the beauty of the eight weeks of November and December – there is plenty of time to try more than one recipe, so you’re bound to stumble on one that you can’t live without. (Oh, and no one will tell if you boil a batch of Stove-Top and hover over the stove to eat it by the forkful.)
Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta
Recipe courtesy Giada de Laurentiis
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
8 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (7.4-ounce) jars roasted peeled whole chestnuts, coarsely broken
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 pound day-old ciabatta bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
*Note: One year I didn’t have chestnuts and tossed in cashews instead. They provided a lovely crunch, so I sometimes add them to contrast the creaminess of the chestnuts.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 15 by 10 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a large bowl.
Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and garlic. Saute until the onions are very tender, about 12 minutes. Gently stir in the chestnuts and parsley. Transfer the onion mixture to the large bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread and Parmesan and toss to coat. Add enough broth to the stuffing mixture to moisten. Season the stuffing, to taste, with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.
Transfer the stuffing to the prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down, and bake until the stuffing is heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the top is crisp and golden, about 15 minutes longer.