Every family has them. Recipes that have been handed down through the generations, only made for special family gatherings. Dishes that comforted us each night after a long day at school. Smells that evoke memories that immediately transport us to another place and time. Food that just HAS to be served on certain holidays, lest the whole experience be ruined. Your family has them, my family has them, and I’m going to share them—and the memories that go with them—just because, well, it’s my blog and I can.

Open Christmas

‘Tis the season, no? Time to make that long checklist of everything to get done before the holidays crash in on us. Aside from gift-giving, decorating, travel plans, and throwing diets in the trash, the planning for one large meal after another can wear one down, even if you’re someone who normally likes that part of the holiday insanity. Don’t forget the fun of trying to make everyone around the table happy—“But grandma ALWAYS made potatoes with peas in them for me!” The traditional meals, while wonderful and comforting and satisfying, planning for them can get one’s panties in a bunch. So it’s a relief to have at least one meal that has no stress involved whatsoever.

In our family, there is one dish in particular that just HAS to be served on Christmas Eve—lasagna. Now, we’re not Italian, or experts in pasta making or anything like that. We don’t have a recipe passed down from a long-gone Nona. This dish is a tradition because it was a) something my mom could make well-ahead of time, and b) a dish that she could put in the oven before leaving for Christmas Eve mass, and it was ready and waiting when we walked through the door. And so the tradition stuck.

This year, I am fortunate to have my folks and my brother coming to town for Christmas. Because they are making the effort to travel from so far away, I want to make sure that we’re keeping as many of the traditions intact as possible, even if we’re celebrating together in a different state. This recipe isn’t anything fancy, but for me, it just says “Christmas Eve dinner”. Hey, the hard work on Christmas Day dinner is enough to contend with. Why add to the inevitable holiday stress with something complicated for the night before as well? I am making this bad boy now (a week before Thanksgiving!), and it’s going to hang out in the freezer until I need it just over a month from now. Holiday checklist, take THAT! One down, and many yet to go!


Mom’s Lasagna (aka Christmas Eve dinner)


  • ½ # ground beef
  • 1/3 c. chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed black pepper
  • 3 8-oz. cans tomato sauce (I prefer using the no salt added variety)
  • ½ of one 12 oz. package lasagna noodles
  • 1 16 oz. container ricotta cheese (I use low-fat or part-skim)
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles according to package; drain and set aside, tossing with a little olive oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Brown the beef, draining excess fat from pan.
  4. Saute onions, parsley, oregano, basil, salt & pepper.
    Browned meat onions
  5. Add tomato sauce and simmer 10 minutes.
    Tomato Sauce
  6. Spoon sauce to cover bottom of 9×13 glass baking dish.
  7. Mix ricotta and egg to create smooth consistency.
  8. Layer ½ of noodles onto sauce; add layer of ricotta; repeat until all noodles are used.
    DSCN1143  DSCN1147
  9. Top with mozzarella and parmesan.
  10. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes; remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 additional minutes bubbly (note that your oven make take longer, so keep checking on it to make sure it doesn’t over-bake).

Serve with garlic bread, and you’ll be ready for a long winter’s nap before the big guy in red shows up late that night.

(Note: if you are making this easy, cheesy dish for a later time, do not bake lasagna. Cover tightly and freeze. When you’re ready to bake it, make sure you take it out of the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator overnight; add 10 minutes to baking time).

What are the dishes that your family just HAS to have for various holidays or get-togethers? Share them here so that we can all get a dose of your family’s holiday cheer!

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