RALtoday’s holiday cookbook

Last week, we asked y’all to send in your favorite holiday recipes so that we could compile a RALtoday cookbook. From cocktails to sides, desserts, and casserole recipes, we’re getting a taste of your favorite traditions.  

So, whether you’re looking for inspiration for your Thanksgiving Day meal, just need a dinner idea for tonight, or want to indulge in a neighbor’s concoction, check out these holiday recipes from our local master and at-home chefs in the Triangle. ⬇️

🌽 Side dishes

Braised meatballs

Braised meatballs | Photo courtesy of Coronato

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by Chef Teddy Diggs, Coronato
🔪 Prep time: 20 minutes
🥘 Cook time: ~2 hours
✍️ Editors’ notes: Chef Teddy always makes these meatballs as an appetizer or snack item for Thanksgiving guests to nibble on while they are waiting on turkey.


  • 2 pounds ground chicken, pork, beef, veal, and/or lamb
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, fresh coarse ground
  • ¼ cup+ extra virgin olive oil; 
  • 1 ½ teaspoon crushed red chilies; 
  • 1 small Spanish onion, diced small
  • 2 ribs celery, diced small
  • 1 large carrot, diced small
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Tomato sauce, as needed
  • Fresh basil leaves to taste


  1. Place ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Once the oil has come to temperature add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, rosemary and one tablespoon of the salt. Sautee the ingredients, stirring frequently so that the vegetables do not brown.  After about 10 minutes, the vegetables will have become soft and will smell delicious. Add chili flakes and black pepper to taste. Cook for about one more minute. Turn off the heat and allow the vegetables to cool down in the pan. Remove the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
  2. In a large bowl combine the milk, eggs, breadcrumb and the remaining salt. Add the ground meat(s) and cooled vegetable mixture and combine with your hands until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Cover the meatball mixture and place in the refrigerator until chilled, at least one hour. 
  3. Roll the meat mixture into desired ball size. We use a golf ball size at Coronato.
  4. Place ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil in a large pot and place over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, sear the meatballs in batches until they are golden brown. Once all of the meatballs have been seared, put them all back in the pot and add the tomato sauce. Add the basil and enough water to cover the meatballs. Cover the pot and simmer the meatballs over low heat for 30 minutes. Allow the meatballs to cool in the sauce before reheating and serving. 

Buttermilk biscuits

Buttermilk biscuits | Photo by Felicia Perry Trujillo

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by Chef Sean Fowler, Mandolin
🔪 Prep time: ~45 minutes
🥘 Cook time: 20 minutes
✍️ Author’s note: Biscuits should be part of every Thanksgiving table in the South, and these are my favorite.


  • 5 cups pastry flour
  • 1 ¼  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 ¼  teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ ounce instant yeast
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup butter (frozen)
  • ½ cup lard (frozen)
  • 1 pint + 1 ounce of buttermilk
  • 2 ounces melted butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and salt into the bowl and mix together .
  3. Grate the frozen butter and lard into the flour mixture. Use your fingertips or a biscuit cutter  to break the fats apart so that there are no pieces larger than a pea. (Use your fingertips as opposed to your palms, so that the heat of your hands does not melt the fat) 
  4. When your fat flecks are broken into pea sized pieces, add the buttermilk. Mix the dough, just enough so that the buttermilk is incorporated and the dough comes together. Do not overwork it. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a well-floured table.
  5. With a rolling pin or your hands roll/press the dough to 1“ thick. Mentally divide the dough into thirds. Fold the left third onto the center third and then the right third onto the left third. 
  6. Repeat step 4 one or two more times. Allow the dough to rest under a damp towel for 10 minutes. Roll it out to 1” thick and cut out your biscuits. Place them on parchment paper on a sheet pan so that they are touching each other.
  7. Cover the biscuits with a towel and let them proof in a warm space for 20-30 minutes, until they double in size.
  8. Cook for the biscuits for 10 minutes, spin the pan, and cook for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and brush the melted butter over top of your biscuits. Serve warm, makes ~16 biscuits.

Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes)

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by reader Kayla D.
🔪 Prep time: 15 minutes
🥘 Cook time: 1 hour
✍️ Editors’ notes: Did you know? Carolina colcannon is a Southern American adaptation of the traditional Irish dish. The word colcannon is from the Gaelic cal ceannann’ which literally means “white-headed cabbage.”


  • 5 pound bag of Yukon potatoes
  • 2 sticks of butter (~16 tablespoons)
  • ½ cup of milk
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 package of bacon
  • Half head of Napa cabbage
  • 2 cups kale
  • A few tablespoons of chopped green onion to taste
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of dark beer (i.e. Guinness or Big Boss Brewing Company’s Bad Penny)
  • 2 tablespoons of grainy mustard


  1. Start by peeling and chopping your potatoes. Add to a large pot and cover with water. Boil until tender then drain in a colander. Put drained potatoes back in the pot.
  2. Add one and a half sticks of butter (saving four tablespoons for later) to the pot of potatoes along with the milk, salt, and pepper. Using a hand mixer, mix until desired consistency (of mashed potatoes). Put aside.
  3. Chop the bacon and add to a skillet over medium heat. As the bacon cooks, chop your shallots and add in with the bacon to cook.
  4. Chop the Napa cabbage, kale, and green onion, adding it to the bacon and shallot mixture. 
  5. Add the chicken stock, dark beer, grainy mustard, and remaining butter to the veggie mixture. Cook until the veggies are tender. 
  6. Pour the veggie mixture over the mashed potatoes that were put aside and serve.

Dennis family casserole

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by reader Maggie S.
🔪 Prep time: 20 minutes
🥘 Cook time: 30-40 minutes
✍️ Author’s note: This recipe has been a family tradition since at least the 1960s when my Aunt Lucy first served it — it is always on the table at Thanksgiving (and Christmas). It’s creamy, silky, crunchy, and lovely. But don’t count calories with this one!


  • 2 cans (14 ½ ounces) French style green beans, drained
  • 2 medium (or 1 jumbo) white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 16 ounces Velveeta cheese, divided into 2 equal portions and grated (or melted)
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) petit pois peas, drained
  • 2 cans (10 ¾ ounces) condensed mushroom soup
  • Ritz crackers, crushed (about 1 sleeve)
  • Spray butter


  1. Spray or brush a 13x9x2″ casserole dish with cooking oil.
  2. Layer as follows: one can of green beans, a layer of sliced onion, half of the Velveeta cheese, and one can of green peas. Repeat layers.
  3. Pour mushroom soup over the top, spreading well over the top. Sprinkle cracker crumbs over the top and spray evenly with spray butter. ProTip: the butter helps the crackers to brown.
  4. Bake at 375℉ for approximately 1 hour, until it bubbles all over and the top starts getting golden brown. Serves 8 to 10 average portions.

Green bean casserole

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by reader Shirley L.
🔪 Prep time: 12 hours
🥘 Cook time: 45 minutes
✍️ Author’s note: This recipe can be doubled for larger gatherings. It’s so delicious, we never have any leftovers.


  • 1 can French cut green beans
  • 1 medium onion cut into rings
  • 8 strips bacon
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Drain beans and put into a one-and-one-half quart casserole dish. Place onion rings over beans. Fry bacon strips and reserve drippings. Cut bacon strips in quarters and lay over onion rings.  
  2. Sprinkle almonds over bacon.  Add sugar and vinegar to bacon drippings and heat.  Pour over the casserole. Marinate in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes at 350℉.

Julia Child’s cranberry sauce

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by reader Krissa J.
🔪 Prep time: 10 minutes
🥘 Cook time: 1 hour
✍️ Author’s note: After discovering this some 30+ years ago, we’ve not had one Thanksgiving without it! Enjoy, and wishing you all a day of gratitude, in spite of all we’re collectively going through.

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries 
  • ⅔  cup sugar 
  • ⅔  cup light brown sugar 
  • 1 orange, zested + ⅓  cup freshly squeezed orangejuice 
  • ½  tablespoon cinnamon 
  1. Place all in a roomy saucepan stirring to mix well. Bring mixture to a boil, stir up, cover  and boil just until the cranberries burst — about 5 minutes. Sauce gels when cold.

Spicy sweet potato salad

Spicy sweet potato salad | Photo courtesy of Sassool

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by Mounir Saleh, Sassool
🔪 Prep time: 20 minutes
🥘 Cook time: 40-50 minutes
✍️ Editors’ notes: We recently asked y’all whether sweet potatoes or mac and cheese are your must-have side for the holidays. Reader Annette T. had this to say — “Mac and Cheese may be eaten more throughout the year, but sweet potatoes are a MUST at Thanksgiving! End of story.” 


  • 2 large NC sweet potatoes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cup red-wine vinegar
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ tablespoon grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup sliced scallion
  • ¼ cup minced fresh mint leaves
  • 1 minced jalapeño
  • 3 tablespoons raisins


  1. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Cut the sweet potatoes into bite-size pieces. Put them on a baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until ready to dress.
  2. While the potatoes cook. Put the remaining six tablespoons of oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and zest if you’re using it. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.
  3. Toss the warm potatoes with the scallion, mint, jalapeno, and raisins if you’re using them. Add ½ cup of the dressing, and toss to coat, adding more if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

🍗 Entrees

Butternut squash ravioli

Butternut squash ravioli | Photo courtesy of Il Palio

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by Chef Adam Rose, Il Palio
🔪 Prep time: 20 minutes
🥘 Cook time: ~1 hour
✍️ Editors’ notes: Someone could serve this flavorful fall dish as a side or an entree at a less traditional Thanksgiving gathering.


  • 2 butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Pinch of dried chili pepper
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh grated nutmeg to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh chopped marjoram
  • Fresh pasta sheets or substitute wonton wrappers 
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • ¼ cup chopped chives


  1. Mix olive oil, garlic and chili pepper. Rub into squash halves. Place cut side down on baking sheet and roast until soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Scoop out flesh and mash until tender.
  2. Sweat garlic in olive oil until lightly golden.  Add in butternut, mascarpone and parmesan.  Season with salt, pepper, grated nutmeg and chopped marjoram leaves picked from the stem.
  3. Place one heaping teaspoon of squash filling mixture in the middle of the wrapper.  Fold in half, sealing with damp fingertips. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the ravioli and cook for 5 minutes. Melt ½ stick butter and saute shitake mushrooms and shallots.  Drain ravioli, plate and spoon over with brown butter vinaigrette (recipe below), garnish with sautéed mushrooms and shallots.  Sprinkle with chopped chives.

For the brown butter vinaigrette —


  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup of aged balsamic
  • 8 sage leaves, chiffonade


  1. Cook butter, over low heat, until browned.  
  2. Add sage leaves and let cook for 3 minutes.  Deglaze pan with sherry and balsamic.

🥧 Desserts

Aunt Dot’s Jell-o Salad

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by reader Ahbi B.
🔪 Prep time: 12 hours
🥘 Cook time: 15 minutes
✍️ Author’s note: This is an easy recipe and fun to do with kids. Bonus: Save the drained juice from oranges and pineapple for a delicious beverage!


  • 12 oz, 1 tub of cool whip
  • 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
  • 15 oz. can of mandarin oranges, drained
  • 8-12 oz. of cottage cheese
  • 6 oz, 1 box of orange Jello
  • 2 envelopes of Knox unflavored Jello


  1. Mix well and refrigerate overnight. 
  2. Garnish with fruit and nuts (pecans go well). Save the drained juice from oranges and pineapple for a delicious beverage.

🍸 Drinks

Corpse Reviver No. 2

Corpse Reviver No. 2 | Photo courtesy of Durham Distillery

🧑‍🍳 Submitted by Melissa Katrincic, owner of Durham Distillery
🔪 Prep time: 5 minutes
🥘 Cook time: None
✍️ Editors’ notes: If you don’t feel like making this one at home, you can order it off the menu at Corpse Reviver, either before or after the in-laws get to town.


  • ¾ ounce Conniption Navy Strength Gin
  • ¾ ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce Cocchi Americano
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice


  1. Rinse a chilled coupe glass with absinthe and set aside. Add the first four ingredients to a shaker. 
  2. Add ice and shake until very cold, about 15 seconds. Strain into the glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.