I Tried Marilyn Monroe’s Famous Stuffing and It’s as Luxurious as Expected

published Nov 21, 2023
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Marilyn Monroe's stuffing in pan
Credit: Lena Abraham

The holiday season is officially upon us, and this year we’ve been searching for the perfect stuffing recipe. A really great stuffing can outshine the main dish, and that’s the kind we want on our holiday table. 

This time our search has led us somewhere surprising: to the kitchen of a 1950s Hollywood starlet, who includes some very surprising ingredients in her stuffing recipe. The starlet? The one-and-only, Marilyn Monroe. The surprising ingredients? Well, there’s boiled chicken livers, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, and parmesan, just to name a few.

Adapted by The New York Times from an informal recipe scrawled on stationary from an insurance company, the stuffing’s unconventional ingredients are thought to have been influenced by San Francisco (Monroe’s home city at the time) and her then-husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio. 

Credit: Lena Abraham

How To Make Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing

Split a 10-ounce loaf of sourdough bread in half and soak it in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Wring out excess water over a colander and shred it.

Boil ½ pound chicken or turkey livers or hearts for 8 minutes in salted water, then let cool and chop until no piece is larger than a coffee bean.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown 1/2 pound ground beef in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat so no piece is larger than a pistachio.

Transfer the sourdough pieces, chopped livers, and cooked ground beef to a very large mixing bowl. Add 4 stalks chopped celery, 1 large chopped onion, 2 cups chopped curly parsley, 2 chopped hard boiled eggs, 1 1/2 cups raisins, 1 cup grated Parmesan, and 1 1/4 cups chopped nuts. Toss gently with your hands to combine. Whisk 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 3 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt-free poultry seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper together in a bowl. Scatter over the stuffing and toss again with your hands. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Refrigerate covered, until ready to use as a stuffing or to bake separately as dressing. To serve as a dressing, pile about two quarts of the mixture into a 9-inch square baking dish and bake at 350° until the top is evenly browned, about 1 hour.

Credit: Lena Abraham

My Honest Review of Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing

Though all stuffing recipes require a good amount of prep, this one is truly an undertaking. Beyond the usual chopping and slicing, you’re required to hard-boil eggs, boil and chop livers, cook off ground beef, and soak your bread in water before tearing it into pieces. 

I’d love to say that all the extra work paid off in the end, but unfortunately this one didn’t hit the mark for me. Though the flavors were good, I found this stuffing to be unpleasantly dry due to the lack of fat, eggs, or really any liquid at all. I imagine this recipe was intended to be stuffed into the cavity of a turkey, which definitely would have yielded a much moister result. 

However, there was also plenty to like about this stuffing. Intensely savory from the addition of livers and ground beef, with bright bursts of sweetness from the raisins and lots of herb-y flavor, it tastes a lot more classic than you’d expect. The hard-boiled eggs end up blending in and don’t contribute much in terms of flavor, and similarly the parmesan fades into the background, providing a slight tang that plays well with the sourdough. With so many finely chopped ingredients in this dish, there’s no shortage of texture — something I consider crucial to a good stuffing.

3 Tips for Making Marilyn Monroe’s Stuffing

  1. Choose fatty ground beef. A little extra fat would do this stuffing good! Skip 90/10 ground beef in favor of 85/15 (ground round) or 80/20 (ground chuck). 
  2. Top it with butter. If you’re not baking this inside a turkey, dot the top of your stuffing with cubes of butter before baking for added flavor and moisture. 
  3. Keep it covered. To maintain moisture and avoid burning the top of the stuffing, cover completely with foil for the first 30 minutes, then remove the foil and allow the top to brown slightly.