Parsnips. Butter. A little salt and pepper. Thirty minutes. That’s all you need to make Ina Garten’s Parsnip Purée, a gem from the Barefoot Contessa’s latest cookbook, Go-To Dinners. It’s creamy, comforting, and extremely make-ahead friendly—exactly the kind of recipe we want when we’re looking for ways to cut through the chaos of Thanksgiving dinner.
It goes a little something like this. You scrub parsnips and cut them into coins. (No peeling, no problem.) You chuck them in a pot with just enough water to cover, add a healthy tablespoon of salt, and simmer until soft. Then, you transfer the tender roots to a food processor and purée, drizzling in a generous amount of the well-seasoned and extremely parsnip-y cooking liquid until the mixture is luxuriously smooth. A knob of good butter, a little bit more salt, and a few cranks of black pepper, and you’ve got a fancy-feeling, holiday-worthy side that’s easy even by weeknight standards.
There are a few parts of this recipe that tickle in particular. For one, the fact that it’s the reserved cooking liquid, rather than dairy, that loosens the parsnips as they whiz around in the food processor. “It makes it creamier without adding cream,” Garten notes. That cooking liquid is packed with parsnip flavor, and makes for a purée that tastes more gloriously of the vegetable than it would if it was otherwise diluted. It also makes for a vegetable side dish that is refreshingly light—a welcome contrast to all the deep, rich, heavy flavors that typify Turkey Day.
But, deliciousness aside, it’s the make-ahead-ability that gets us going, a must for just about any side for Thanksgiving. Garten agrees: “Anything that requires me to make it at the last minute gets crossed off the list.” Her Parsnip Purée can be made at least a day ahead of time and simply reheated on the stove with a bit more of that reserved cooking liquid before serving—clutch on a day when oven space is at a premium. And unlike mashed potatoes, which can get gummy if stirred too aggressively when reheating, these parsnips only get more velvety.
So this year, when you’re getting that Thanksgiving menu together, consider the sides you’ve got on deck and take a beat. How many of them have as high of a deliciousness-to-ease ratio as this? How many make the most of the fewest possible ingredients? How many require so little thought to bring across the finish line in that final hour when you’ve got a turkey to carve and six other dishes that require your attention? The answer is none.