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Buon giorno!

Clear the decks! Make room in the menu for Cranberry Composta. Quick! If attending a collective Thanksgiving, call the hostess and insist on bringing the Cranberries. If you are hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for la famiglia, prepare yourself for the adulation that is to come as a result of serving this dish. Not that you need any more enticement, but hear this: You can make it ahead and freeze it!

Now grab a bottle of Valpolicello (my father, Attilio’s favorite!) It is also referred to as a “baby Amarone”. It can be a Zenato Valpolicella, a Biscardo – whatever Valpolicella you prefer or fits your pocketbook. Set aside exactly one cup to use in the recipe to follow. Then breathe deeply, relax, pour yourself a glass of this wonderful jammy and not Chianti-dry red wine and prepare for a fun experience – sure to make you the hero or heroine of the holiday!

Of course, we know that Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Italy, and you certainly won’t be finding cranberries there. Probably the closest you’ll come to a cranberry in Italy is the Cranberry Bean. However, many of us “Italians in exile” and “Italians at heart” do celebrate and give thanks for the all of the benefits of living in this great land and the blessings we have been granted throughout the year. With that in mind, we will all need to come up with some alternative to the shivering red blob from the can, Cranberry Sauce, to which we have all become accustomed.

There are so many ideas out there for Cranberry dishes from the jelled to the frozen. Many in the South, where I now live, often make their traditional family recipe – maybe Great Aunt Betty’s Cranberry Compote which is usually some form of cranberries, orange, sugar, etc. My mother, Loretta, got “hooked” on Arctic Salad many decades ago – a delicious frozen concoction of cranberries, mayo, whipped cream, walnuts and pineapple – almost dessert and rather decadent. We were all thankful she did because it became a treasured special addition to her yearly menu.

I’d like to propose something a little different for our Cranberries this year, incorporating some of the ingredients we are familiar with in Italian cooking: fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, Valpolicella wine, anise, etc. Now for the hook! Dark Chocolate! Yes, I have added dark chocolate to this year’s cranberries, and I think the results are amazing!

This cranberry dish is fun to make and SOOOO easy. You can make it several days ahead or freeze it. Caution – don’t try to make this alone in your house. That would be one wasted experience. This is one dish that will draw “them” in. I must warn you in advance – this dish makes your kitchen smell divine –with rich, warm, spicy aromas. FANTASTICO!


12 oz package fresh cranberries

1 c. Valpolicella wine

Juice from a fresh orange

1 1/2 c. – 2 c. sugar – depending on how sweet you like it

Zest of one orange

1 orange segment stuck with 3 whole cloves

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 c. golden raisins

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of anise

1/2 c. brandy

1 c. candied orange peel – optional

1 c. toasted walnut halves

4 1/4 oz bar dark chocolate – cut into small pieces – optional


Fresh Basil for garnish


Pour wine into large saucepan.

Add the orange juice and sugar to the wine.


Bring the wine, orange juice and sugar to a boil – stir to help dissolve the sugar.


Add the zest of orange.


Add the orange segment stuck with cloves, cinnamon stick and balsamic vinegar.


Add golden raisins and anise.


Add the cranberries.


Bring back to boil and simmer about 10 minutes. Cranberries will pop. Give occasional stir.


Then add the brandy and candied orange peel. Simmer another 6 minutes.


Remove from heat. Remove the orange segment and cinnamon stick and discard.


Now Chill! It thickens as it chills.

When cold – add the toasted nuts and dark chocolate. Stir to mix in.


Can be made several days ahead or freeze. It freezes well.


When ready to serve garnish with chopped fresh basil. Gobble Gobble!



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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. This is so delicious .
    The addition of the chocolate adds the special something .
    Bravo !

  2. Ken Conoly says:

    Going to try this one Thanksgiving, add a little Mambo Italiano to our Thanksgiving Dinner.

    Millie Grazie!

    Ken C.