Welcome to Christmas Eve Lasagna, the most festive lasagna you’ll ever encounter! A modern take on traditional lasagna bolognese, this dish features layers of ricotta cheese topped with basil pesto sauce and festive red and green colors. This Christmas lasagna is the ideal meal to prepare for any special holiday dinner this season. It is equally beautiful and delicious.
Ah, the Christmas meal. The holiday season’s culinary wild card. Christmas dinner is kind of a free-for-all, unlike Thanksgiving when tradition forces us to serve very similar dishes year after year. Families seem to establish their own traditions, and I just adore this!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Yield: serves 12–15
- nonstick cooking spray
- one 13.2-ounce box DeLallo No-Boil Lasagna
- Best-Ever Bolognese (below)
- basil pesto ricotta (below)
- 24 ounces shredded low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 6 cups)
- 12 ounces Italian cheese blend, such as asiago, parmesan, etc. (about 3 cups)
For the Best-Ever Bolognese Sauce:
- 2 large carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 ounces pancetta, roughly chopped (see Recipe Notes)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- one 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Chianti
- 3–4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 10–12 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- optional: 1 parmesan rind
- one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
For the basil pesto ricotta:
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese, whole milk, or part-skim as desired
- one 6.3-ounce jar DeLallo Simply Basil Pesto
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
Best-Ever Bolognese Sauce:
To the bowl of a food processor, add the carrot, celery, and onion that have been coarsely diced. Just enough pulses to break up the mixture into tiny bits. You should still be able to see small parts of onion, celery, and carrot in the mixture; it shouldn’t be completely puréed. Move to a medium bowl and leave aside.
No need to wash the food processor bowl before adding the pancetta and garlic to produce the soffritto. Just enough pulses to break up the mixture into tiny bits. Place aside.
3. Cook the pestata:
Over medium heat, add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot (with a minimum 4-quart capacity). When the pancetta has rendered and the garlic is aromatic, carefully add the pestata mixture from Step 1 and simmer for an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.
4. Brown the soffritto:
Soffritto that has been browned should be added to the pestata-and-soffritto combination in the pot from Step 1. Stir in 1 teaspoon of kosher salt before serving. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well-browned and fragrant. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low if the vegetables start to brown too rapidly. Push the pestata and soffritto mixture to the outer borders of the pot after it has browned.
5. Brown the meat:
Give the beef and pork a generous seasoning of 1 teaspoon of kosher salt each. The soffritto and pestata combination should be in the middle of the pot with the meat. Allow the meat to deeply brown for two to three minutes without touching it. For two to three minutes, flip the meat over and brown the other side. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces after it has been cooked on all sides. With the soffritto mixture, stir to blend. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring periodically, until thoroughly browned. Stirring to coat the meat and soffritto mixture, and add the tomato paste. To brown, cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Pour the red wine into the pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have built up at the bottom of the saucepan as you stir continuously. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the meat mixture nearly fully absorbs the wine.
If you don’t have kitchen twine, finely chop the herbs instead before adding them to the saucepan along with the bay leaves and parmesan rind, if using. Stir in the broth or water after adding the crushed tomatoes.
Simmer for 90 minutes while stirring occasionally over medium-low heat. Feel free to add a little more broth or water, turn the heat down even further, or cover the pot if the bolognese starts to decrease too much (lose too much of its liquid too rapidly).
9. Finish the bolognese:
Add the heavy cream and parmesan cheese by stirring. If necessary, add more kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper after tasting. Remove from the heat and leave aside, or place in the refrigerator for up to five days in an airtight container.
Basil Pesto Ricotta:
- Mix the basil pesto ricotta: Prepare the basil pesto ricotta while the bolognese sauce simmers. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients given above. Add 1/2 teaspoon of each kosher salt and ground black pepper, or more to taste. Stir everything together. Set aside or keep in the fridge for up to three days in an airtight container.
Christmas Lasagna Assembly:
1. Assemble the lasagna:
Apply nonstick cooking spray to a big piece of foil and set it aside. Using nonstick cooking spray, coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (see Recipe Notes, below). About 1 cup of the bolognese sauce should be poured into the baking dish, and it should be spread out to cover the bottom evenly. As the lasagna bakes, this keeps the noodles from adhering to the bottom of the pan. Lay out your lasagna in layers:
- Layer 1: First, arrange the lasagna so that it completely fills the baking dish. To properly fill your baking dish, you may need to get creative and break the noodles into an even layer that doesn’t overlap (see photos, above, for reference). Spread an even layer with half of the remaining bolognese before ladling it over top. Use about 1/4 of the mozzarella and Italian cheeses to sprinkle over top.
- Layer 2: Put the second layer of lasagna in place. Spread an even layer of prepared basil pesto ricotta over the top. Use about 1/4 of the mozzarella and Italian cheeses to sprinkle over top.
- Layer 3 & 4: Repeat stages 1 and 2 to create 4 bolognese and ricotta-alternating layers. Add any remaining mozzarella and Italian cheese as a final, generous sprinkle of cheese.
Add the prepared foil on top. Before baking, place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 12 hours.
3. Bake the lasagna:
Make sure the oven rack is in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Lasagne should be taken out of the refrigerator and placed on a big, rimmed baking sheet. The lasagna should be placed in the oven and baked for 60 minutes, with the last 10 minutes of baking used to carefully remove the foil from the baking dish to brown the top. If preferred, turn on the broiler for the final five minutes to give the cheese topping a very crisp and golden brown finish.
4. Rest, slice, & serve:
Take care when taking the lasagna out of the oven. Before cutting into 12–15 squares and serving, set aside to rest for 10–15 minutes. Enjoy!
1. Ingredient and Equipment Notes:
- Pancetta: Pancetta cured, unsmoked bacon from Italy. You may frequently find pancetta already diced up in a single container among the cured meats & bacon, or cut-to-order at the deli counter, at the majority of traditional grocery stores. If you can only locate ordinary bacon, feel free to substitute that instead; thick, center-cut bacon is ideal for this recipe.
- Baking dish: Using a 9×13 pan with a depth of around 3 inches, this recipe was tested and produced. Layer the lasagna using a bit less bolognese sauce than what is specified in Assembly Steps 2-4 above if your baking dish is a little smaller. Any leftover bolognese sauce freezes brilliantly and makes a deliciously simple pasta bolognese dish later on.
2. Make-Ahead Lasagna:
This recipe for Christmas lasagna has a lot of different parts, so making it ahead of time is a terrific idea for the hectic holiday season. Depending on the amount of time you have to prepare, you can choose between two make-ahead strategies:
- Make-Ahead Approach #1 – Prepping components in advance. This method is for you if you prefer to prepare the lasagna’s individual components and put it together later. When you’re ready to build your Christmas lasagna, prepare the bolognese sauce and combine the basil pesto ricotta, then keep the ingredients in separate airtight containers in the refrigerated for 3–4 days.
- Make-Ahead Approach #2 – Assemble the lasagna in advance. Christmas lasagna can be assembled and kept in the fridge for up to 4 days. (When an added plus, as the lasagna sets, the pasta soaks up any excess liquid, making it much simpler to slice & serve picture-perfect pieces.) To prepare the lasagna for dinner, just follow Steps 8 and 10 with the possible addition of an additional 5 to 10 minutes of baking time.
3. Storage, Reheating, & Freezing:
- Storage & Reheating: Any leftover Christmas lasagna should be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days. Warm up completely in the microwave after reheating.
- Freezer Instructions: Additionally, this Christmas lasagna freezes beautifully. These are my very favorite freezer containers, so transfer any cooled leftovers to one or divide them amongst several for smaller quantities. & freeze for three months at most. Set the frozen lasagna in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, or place the freezer container in a container of room-temperature water to thaw more quickly. Reheat quickly in the microwave until well heated.