Christmas Eve Lasagna

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. Stunning, delicious, festive, & celebratory, this Christmas Eve Lasagna is the perfect dish to make for any special holiday dinner this season.

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

Pin this Christmas Eve Lasagna recipe for later!!!

Christmas Eve Lasagna on a small white plate, surrounded by several DeLallo products (no-boil lasagna noodles, basil pesto, San Marzano tomatoes) & festive small Christmas ornaments.

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:

Unlike PWWB’s lightened-up bolognese, the bolognese used in this recipe is 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 is SO good!

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 | Plays Well With Butter
  • 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. 


Scale

Ingredients

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 13.2-ounce box DeLallo No-Boil Lasagna
  • 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 tablespoonolive 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 cuplow-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 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. 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!

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.

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Don’t forget to pin this Christmas Eve Lasagna recipe for later!!!

Christmas Eve Lasagna with graphic text overlay for Pinterest.

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. 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!!!

  2. 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