Christmas Eve Lasagna

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Say hello to the most festive lasagna you'll ever meet: Christmas Eve Lasagna! A twist on classic lasagna bolognese, this lasagna boasts festive red & green layers of rich & hearty homemade bolognese sauce & basil pesto ricotta. Equally stunning & delicious, this Christmas Eve Lasagna is the perfect dish to make for any special holiday dinner this season.

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Christmas Eve Lasagna on a small white plate, atop a white surface surrounded by small Christmas ornaments & a glass of red wine.

Ah, Christmas dinner. The culinary wildcard of the holiday season.

Unlike Thanksgiving, when tradition has us all serving pretty similar menus over & over, Christmas dinner is sort of a free-for-all. Families seem to adopt traditions of their own, revisiting them year after year. (& I freakin’ love it!)

I asked the PWWB community about Christmas traditions over on Instagram a few weeks back & the responses were deliciously diverse, ranging from a casual “build-your-own-bowl” chili bar, to homemade tamales, to a feast of different pasta dishes & seafood, to the fanciest prime rib dinner.

And despite it potentially outing me as a major nerd, gosh, I think that’s beautiful. It’s one of my absolute favorite things about the season.

At our house, the Christmas dinner menu varies from year to year, but we always have lasagna at some point during the holiday.

Lifting a slice of lasagna out of its metal baking dish.

A tradition that started with my mom back just after my first niece was born, we love our Christmastime lasagna so much that we come back to it year after year. It…

  • is easy to prep in advance,
  • feeds a crowd of hungry adults & picky kids without much protest,
  • & reheats really, really well, making for an easy second meal at some point during our visit without any extra effort.

This year, I decided to kick our classic lasagna dinner up a few notches, making it extra special & extra festive for the holiday. Behold, Christmas Eve Lasagna!

Christmas Eve Lasagna in its baking dish, with one slice taken out of the bottom left corner.

Christmas Eve Lasagna Layers (Classic Lasagna Bolognese, with a twist!)

A twist on classic lasagna bolognese, this Christmassy lasagna boasts the most festively red, green & white layers:

  • homemade bolognese sauce, rich & hearty as ever, having been slowly simmered for a few hours to create mega flavor…
  • basil pesto ricotta, so creamy & so herbaceous, it’s borderline addictive…
  • plenty of cheese, of course! I like using a combination of mozzarella, parmesan & asiago for optimum meltiness & flavor….
  • & perfectly al dente lasagna, without any of the fuss of boiling, thanks to our genius friends at DeLallo!
Christmas Eve Lasagna in a baking dish, showing the layers of bolognese sauce, pesto, pasta & cheese.

How to make lasagna bolognese:

Here’s the deal: this lasagna recipe is likely one of the most involved recipes I’ll ever share here on PWWB. Lasagna, by its very nature, is sort of an involved thing to make, especially if you have your hand at making any of the layers from scratch.

But! If there’s any occasion that warrants a little extra effort to make something totally special, it’s Christmas dinner, right?

& just because it takes a little time, doesn’t mean this lasagna is difficult to make. It comes together in 5 straight-forward phases, which you can spread out over the course of a couple of days, or take advantage of extra helping hands & make a family event out of it:

  1. Make a batch of bolognese sauce
  2. Make a batch of basil pesto ricotta
  3. Lasagna assembly
  4. Rest
  5. Bake & serve

First, the bolognese sauce:

The bolognese sauce used in this recipe is one I’ve dubbed the Best-Ever Bolognese, a real-deal Italian bolognese, made with ground beef & pork, wine, & San Marzano tomatoes. The sauce bubbles & simmers on the stove for a couple of hours, developing intensely rich & hearty flavor. It’s my signature recipe, & it is so good. You can read more about it here.

Next up: basil pesto ricotta! It’s as simple as adding ricotta cheese, pesto, parmesan, and eggs to a mixing bowl & mixing until smooth.

Both the bolognese & the pesto ricotta can be prepped ahead of time, so you can feel free to prep either or both & store them in the fridge for 3-5 days.

From here, it’s all about lasagna assembly

This Christmas Eve Lasagna has 4 layers, alternating between bolognese & pesto ricotta. When you build a lasagna, I always suggest making sure your lasagna covers the entire length & width of the pan. This will result in a sturdier lasagna. You may need to break some of the pasta to get a perfect fit (see the left photo, above).

Once the lasagna is assembled, let it rest in the fridge overnight, or for at least 12 hours. This gives the layers some time to meld together a bit, resulting in a lasagna with better texture and flavor – it won’t ooze all over the place when you plate it.

& lastly: bake & serve! Bake the lasagna at 375 degrees F for about 1 hour, until the cheese is all melted and the lasagna is bubbling around the edges.

Christmas Eve Lasagna in its baking dish, with one slice taken out of the bottom left corner.

I hope you give this Christmas Eve Lasagna a try this holiday season – it’s a complete Christmas showstopper!

If you do make this lasagna recipe, please leave a comment with a star rating below, & you can also snap a picture & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing from you, & seeing your PWWB creations is just about my favorite thing in the world.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve Lasagna on a small white plate, atop a white surface surrounded by small Christmas ornaments & a glass of red wine.
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Christmas Eve Lasagna on a small white plate, atop a white surface surrounded by small Christmas ornaments & a glass of red wine.

Christmas Eve Lasagna

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 1215 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Say hello to the most festive lasagna you’ll ever meet: Christmas Eve Lasagna! A twist on classic lasagna bolognese, this lasagna boasts festive red & green layers of rich & hearty homemade bolognese sauce & basil pesto ricotta. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 13.2-ounce box DeLallo No-Boil Lasagna
  • Best-Ever Bolognese (below)
  • basil pesto ricotta (below)
  • 24 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (about 6 cups)
  • 12 ounces Italian cheese blend, such as asiago, parmesan, etc. (about 3 cups)

for the 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
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Chianti
  • 34 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1012 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • optional: 1 parmesan rind
  • 1 28-ounce can DeLallo San Marzano Style Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the basil pesto ricotta:

  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese, whole milk or part-skim as desired
  • 1 6.3-ounce jar DeLallo Simply Pesto
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

First, make the bolognese:

  1. Prep: 
    1. Soffritto: Add the roughly chopped carrot, celery & onion to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just until the mixture is broken down into fine pieces. The mixture should not be puréed; you should still be able to see small pieces of carrot, celery & onion. Transfer to a medium bowl & set aside. 
    2. Pestata: Add the pancetta & garlic to the bowl of the same food processor used to make the soffritto (no need to wash it!). Pulse just until the mixture is broken down into fine pieces. Set aside.
  2. Cook the pestata: Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot (at least 4-quart capacity) over medium heat. Once hot, carefully add the pestata mixture from Step 1 to the pot. Cook, stirring ocassionally, until the pancetta renders, 4-5 minutes. 
  3. Brown the soffritto: Add the soffritto mixture from Step 1 to the pot with the pestata. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring ocassionally, until deeply browned & fragrant, 15-20 minutes. If the veggies begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low or low. Once browned, push the pestata & soffritto mixture to the outer edges of the pot. 
  4. Brown the meat: Generously season the beef and pork with 1 teaspoon kosher salt each. Add the meat to the center of the pot with the soffritto & pestata mixture. Do not touch the meat for 2-3 minutes, allowing it to brown deeply. Turn the meat over and brown the second side for 2-3 minutes. Once browned on both sides, use a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small pieces. The meat will still be pink in the middle; that’s totally fine. Stir to combine with the soffritto mixture. Cook, stirring occassionally, until browned completely, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the meat & soffritto mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes to brown. 
  5. Deglaze: Increasing the heat to medium-high, pour the red wine into the pot. Stir constantly, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed at the bottom of the pot. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the wine is almost completely absorbed into the meat mixture. 
  6. Aromatics: Tie the herbs together using kitchen twine (or finely chop if you do not have twine), then add to the pot with the bay leaves & parmesan rind, if using. Add the crushed tomatoes & broth or water, stirring to combine.
  7. Simmer: Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occassionally, for 90 minutes. If the bolognese begins to reduce too much (losing too much of its liquid too quickly), feel free to add in a splash more broth/water, reduce the heat further, &/or cover the pot.
  8. Finish the bolognese: Stir in the heavy cream and grated parmesan. Taste and season with additional kosher salt and ground black pepper, as desired. Remove from the heat and set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Meanwhile, prep the basil pesto ricotta: 

  1. Mix: Add all listed ingredients to a medium mixing bowl, seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and ground black pepper, or to taste. Stir until combined. Set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Assemble the lasagna: 

  1. Prep: Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray & set aside. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray (see Recipe Notes, below). Ladle about 1 cup of the bolognese sauce into the baking dish, spreading it out to evenly coat the bottom. This prevents the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the dish as the lasagna bakes. 
  2. Layer 1: Start by arranging the lasagna such that it covers the bottom of the baking dish. The pasta should create an even layer without overlapping – you may need to get crafty & break the noodles to fill your baking dish nicely (see photos, above, for reference). Ladle half of the remaining bolognese over top, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle some the mozzarella & Italian cheeses over top, using about 1/4 of the cheese. 
  3. Layer 2: Arrange a second layer of lasagna. Top with 1/2 of the prepared basil pesto ricotta, spreading into an even layer. Sprinkle some the mozzarella & Italian cheeses over top, using about 1/4 of the cheese. 
  4. Layer 3 & 4: Repeat Layers 1 & 2, creating 4 alternating layers of bolognese & ricotta. Finish with one last generous sprinkling of cheese, using any remaining mozzarella & Italian cheese. 
  5. Rest: Top with the prepared foil. Transfer to the refrigerator to rest for at least 12 hours before baking. 

It’s Christmas Eve Lasagna time!

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the lasagna from the refrigerator, & set the baking dish on a large rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Bake the lasagna for 60 minutes, carefully removing the foil from the baking dish in the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the top. 
  3. Rest: Carefully remove the lasagna from the oven. Set aside to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
  4. Serve: Slice the lasagna into 12-15 squares and serve. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Baking dish: This recipe was tested & developed using a 9×13 pan, roughly 3 inches in depth. If your baking dish is a little smaller, layer the lasagna using slightly less bolognese sauce than described in Assembly Steps 2-4 above. The extra bolognese sauce will freeze beautifully & will make for a wonderfully easy Pasta Bolognese dinner down the road. 

Keywords: Christmas Recipes, Beef recipe, pork recipe, Pasta Recipes

More festive holiday recipes to love…

If you love this Christmas Eve Lasagna recipe, be sure to check out these equally festive & delicious dishes:

Christmas Eve Lasagna on a small white plate, atop a white surface surrounded by small Christmas ornaments & a glass of red wine.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 12.26.21
    Katie said:

    I love that, as described, I could stretch the cooking of this recipe across 3 days, and finishing it off on Christmas Day was completely stress free! Even if this were more work to cook (which really, it’s not), it would totally make up for it with the ridiculously rich and satisfying taste. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe that our family will enjoy for years to come!

  2. 12.24.21
    Pamela McCoin said:

    Didn’t see the note about letting it sit in the fridge over night. Ooops! but I’m making it for dinner tonight so wish me luck!
    The sauce, so far, tastes amazing!!

    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Pamela! Hope all went well & that you enjoyed!! 💜

  3. 12.23.21
    Holly T said:

    I made this for dinner last night and it was absolutely amazing. Best lasagna I’ve ever made.

    • 12.29.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Holly! Thanks so much for sharing – it is a PWWB fave!!

  4. 12.22.21
    Sidney said:

    Have you tried to freeze it? I am planning on making an extra for an easy dinner but don’t want it to be ruined.

  5. 12.15.21
    Debra Lanci said:

    This recipe was delicious. I made it without the meat and it was great. Coming from an Italian family it is important to make a good lasagna. My mother in law made a great lasagna and even my picky husband loved it!

    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Debra! Thanks so much for leaving a comment & review! It means so much to hear that you enjoyed the recipe & that your family enjoyed too! 💜

  6. 11.13.21
    Gaby said:

    Can this lasagna be frozen before is cooked? I’m trying to think of different dishes I can actually freeze and then simply bake. After leaving this overnight, can I just freeze it?

  7. 10.31.21
    Pamela said:

    I can’t rate this recipe since I haven’t made it yet. It looks delicious. Can this be made in advance and frozen?

  8. 1.5.21
    Tanya said:

    Amazing lasagna! The best we’ve ever had actually… the only way to improve would be if I made the pasta from scratch.🎯 It’s an easy to follow recipe and worth every step. Thanks for the wonderful new recipe💃🏻

  9. 12.27.20
    Caroline said:

    I was looking for some inspiration for Christmas Eve dinner (my first time cooking it for the family) and this recipe was both easy to execute and still impressive! It was delicious and honestly may be a new tradition in my family.

    • 1.27.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hey Caroline! We are so so glad it was a hit – this is a great recipe to serve the whole family! Thanks for trusting us with your first Christmas Eve dinner!!

  10. 12.25.20
    Lisa said:

    I made this lasagna for my family for Christmas and it was a big hit! It was super nice to be able to make the bolognese and pesto ricotta earlier in the week and then assemble the day before so that on Christmas Day I didn’t have to spend it in the kitchen! The fillings were really flavorful and creamy and delicious! Definitely will be making this my go-to lasagna recipe!

    • 3.17.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Lisa, thank you SO much for sharing! We are so glad to hear that this lasagna was a hit & that you got to take advantage of the make-ahead aspects of this recipe & enjoy your Christmas day!!

      • 12.15.21
        MommaofTwo said:

        Can I assemble and freeze? Or must I cook it, cool down, then freeze?

        Thanks a mil!

  11. 12.25.20
    Maria said:

    Made this for Christmas Day since it’s just me, my husband and our son this year. My husband just learned he’s 20% Italian (I’m jealous!) so I thought this was called for! It’s well worth the effort and I enjoyed making it. Thank you for sharing.

    • 1.27.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Maria! Such a wonderful way to celebrate & glad you enjoyed making it & sharing with your family!

  12. 12.23.20
    Sara said:

    I don’t know how you fit all of this into a 9×13?!! (I only have pyrex or an aluminum one that is the same depth as pyrex 9×13) I had a feeling that wouldn’t work, so I used a 10×15…and it is packed above the rim!! I hope it bakes up ok tomorrow! I’m so excited! I know the sauce is bomb, I couldn’t stop taste-testing it! I’ll update later.

    • 1.27.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Sara! Great call out – this recipe was tested & developed using a 9×13 pan, roughly 3 inches in depth. If your baking dish is a little smaller, you’ll want to layer the lasagna using slightly less bolognese sauce than described in Assembly Steps 2-4. Then we recommend freezing the extra bolognese sauce. It make for a wonderfully easy Pasta Bolognese dinner down the road. Hope the lasagna was a hit!

      • 11.28.21
        Sarah said:

        Well I completely forgot to update, until I see my comment because I’m totally making this again this year, and I’m already drooling about it!! Such a delicious lasagna!! And I do remember the 10×15 dish worked fine; but I’m looking to buy a deep dish 9×13 haha.

  13. 10.16.20
    Megan said:

    I’m not even a big lasagna person, but I loved this so much. I can’t wait until it is safe to host again, this is at the top of my list of recipes to serve to a group you want to impress.

  14. 10.16.20
    Rachel said:

    I was so proud to serve this lasagna to my family at Christmas, and it was a hit! My husband and I kept stealing samples of the bolognese as it simmered all day, and have talked about it for months since then. Can’t wait to make it again this holiday season!

    • 3.12.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thank you for sharing & including PWWB in your holiday celebration – that means SO much! & haha sounds like you have a good built in taste-tester at home. Again, so glad you enjoyed!!

  15. 10.15.20
    Melanie said:

    Looks delicious! But I would probably change the title of this recipe. Italians do not eat meat on Christmas Eve!

    • 10.15.20

      Melanie, thanks for the comment. As I mention in the blog post, it’s a tradition at my home & that’s what inspired the recipe.

      • 10.16.20
        Melanie said:

        Yes I read your blog post, I was mostly just referring to the “Eve” part of the title. Nothing wrong with calling it “Christmas Lasagna”! 🙂

  16. 4.13.20
    Sarah said:

    This recipe is expensive to make and a lot of work, but WORTH IT FOR THE BEST LASAGNA YOU’VE EVER HAD. I use GF noodles so that it’s not a gluten bomb and it still turns out delicious. (Side note- i first made this around Christmas, and am making it again now in April because it’s that good!)

  17. 2.15.20
    Jodi said:

    Do not sleep on this recipe. It the best lasagna I’ve ever had! You haven’t lived until you’ve had basil pesto ricotta!

    • 2.18.20
      jess said:

      Haha, I’m so glad you loved it, Jodi! Basil pesto ricotta on everything, please!!!

      • 12.26.21
        Deb Wilson said:

        Decided to make this for our Italian themed Christmas Eve dinner….wow….it was perfect and delicious! I used regular noodles not no boil and it turned out perfectly after sitting in the fridge assembled over night. This is a keeper for sure. Thank you!

        • 12.29.21
          Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

          We LOVE the idea of an Italian themed Christmas Eve dinner & are so happy to hear you enjoyed! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment – it means so much!

  18. 1.4.20

    Everytime I see this recipe on Pinterest I seriously start droooooling. Those layers are INSANE!

    • 1.5.20
      jess said:

      Aw, thanks so much girl!! xx

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A side angle shot of pasta tossed in San Marzano tomato sauce that is plated on a creamy white speckled plate. The pasta has been garnished with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil. The plate sits atop a creamy white surface with a light blue linen napkin tucked underneath the plate. A set of silverware rests alongside the plate and a few loose basil leaves and a small wooden pinch bowl filled with parmesan cheese rest just above the plate.