This Cornbread Stuffing puts a twist on the traditional by adding crispy pancetta and tangy sun-dried tomatoes for a delicious Thanksgiving side dish!
Thanksgiving can be a bit daunting…..so much planning, so much cooking. So much mess……. and so much that can potentially go wrong!
I still remember the first time I made Thanksgiving dinner. It was my senior year of college and I was in Vail, Colorado skiing with some friends. I’d watched my grandmother cook turkey and all the trimmings many, many times but I’d never actually done it myself. It didn’t seem all that hard – prepare the bird and then put the turkey in the oven for the appropriate number of hours. Well, when we checked on our lovely little turkey after a few hours, something seemed amiss. Turns out we put the turkey in the roasting pan upside down! Don’t ask!! The turkey sort of “exploded” from being upside down. That was my first experience with a significant kitchen mishap!
While I’ve cooked many turkeys, without incident, since then, I actually prefer making the side sides! Side dishes give you the ability to be creative and try new things each year though I do stick with a few modified staples I make over and over again. Having some unique versions of traditional side dishes makes for a much more interesting Thanksgiving dinner!
This cornbread stuffing is one of those recipes. It’s a great staple Thanksgiving side dish that’s easy to make but much more interesting than your average stuffing. Let’s face it, stuffing can be pretty boring….bread, celery, chicken broth, sausage….sound familiar? This cornbread stuffing with pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes is definitely not boring!
I came across the original recipe for this stuffing in Sunset Magazine many years ago. As soon as I read the ingredients….cornbread, pancetta, sundried tomatoes, water chestnuts, I immediately knew it would be a winner! I’ve modified it a bit since to add more flavor and make it a little less complex to prepare.
Putting together a small collection of side dishes you can make year after year will help to simplify your Thanksgiving – whether you are cooking for two or twenty – and take at least some of the stress out of the day. Perfecting those dishes and making them your own will leave people asking you for the recipes and you’ll look like a rock-star chef!!
Notes from the Kitchen
- Ideally, the cornbread is prepared the day before so it starts to dry out a little bit before cutting it into cubes. If you are using fresh cornbread you may get some crumbs, don’t panic, just toast everything and mix it into the stuffing.
- Using a jelly roll pan – a cookie sheet with sides – to make the cornbread, toast the cornbread, and mix up the stuffing saves time and dishes. Thus less mess!
- How much chicken broth you use in the stuffing depends on the consistency you like – more broth for a creamy, moist stuffing, less if you prefer it a bit more crunchy. Also, think about the circumstances under which it’s being served. This year I’m taking this stuffing to a Friendsgiving, where it’s going to sit out on a buffet all afternoon, so I’ll use more broth than normal to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
things may want for this recipe
Rimmed Baking Sheet – A rimmed baking sheet, or half sheet pan, is a cookie sheet with sides. A half sheet, which is the ideal size for this recipe, measures approximately 18×13. It’s great to have several these in your kitchen for various baking tasks, including making cookies.
This Cornbread Stuffing puts a twist on the traditional by adding crispy pancetta and tangy sundried tomatoes for a delicious Thanksgiving side dish!
For the cornbread:
- 3 boxes Jiffy Corn muffin mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 6 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 cup finely chopped celery
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 8 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups chicken broth
For the cornbread:
- This step is ideally completed the day before you assemble the rest of the stuffing. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Pour the corn muffin mixes into a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and milk.
- Stir until combined; batter will be slightly lumpy. Spray a half sheet baking pan (18×13) with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges begin to turn slightly golden brown and a knife or toothpick comes out clean.
For the stuffing:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut the cornbread into ~ 3/4″ cubes. Place cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until edges begin to turn golden brown.
- While cornbread cubes are baking, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook 8-9 minutes, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon remove the pancetta from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Leave the cooking fat in the pan.
- Add the onion and celery to the saute pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Remove pan from heat.
- When the cornbread is done toasting remove from oven. If serving the stuffing immediately reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees.
- Add pancetta, onion and celery mixture, water chestnuts, tomatoes, parsley, dried spices to the pan and melted butter to the pan. Carefully mix all ingredients together. Slowly add the chicken broth, about a 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition, until desired consistency is reached. For more crunchy stuffing you’ll want to use about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of broth. For chewier stuffing you’ll use the entire 2 cups.
- Spoon the stuffing into a 13×9 (or larger) baking dish. Either cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to bake, or place in an oven heated to 250 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately.
If refrigerating stuffing prior to baking, increase baking time to 40-45 minutes, keeping the stuffing covered for the first 30 minutes.