Every single year we celebrate the Holidays with the exact same spread of foods. We eat turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and we eat a ham glazed with brown sugar on Christmas. Even though we only have these meals once a year, I’m growing bored and tired of the whole shtick. So this year, I’ve decided to do something a little unconventional, a little different, but still homey, delicious, and very filling. This year I’m making a holiday Lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner with my family. Just to be clear, I’m not proposing that we permanently replace these beloved holiday meals, I’m only proposing that we all take a year off.

Just think how much more you and your family will appreciate the traditional spread after waiting another entire year to enjoy it again. My Christmas lasagna will be accompanied by two choices of fresh salads, and toasty homemade garlic bread. These recipes will have your family asking for Christmas lasagna for years to come.

Classic Caesar salad

You can’t start an American-Italian meal without a rich and creamy classic Caesar salad. This recipe is sure to impress.

You’ll need:

  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled, and divided
  • 1 1/3 cup of mayo
  • 12 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 8 cups of cubed, day-old bread
  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce

First, we’ll make the dressing.

Into a bowl, mix mayo, 4 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and 6 cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and refrigerate until you’re ready to dress your salad.

Next, it’s not a Caesar salad without those infamous, jumbo croutons. In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat.

Chop and add the remaining 6 cloves of garlic, stirring and cooking until brown. Remove the garlic from the pan, and add in your cubed day-old bread. Once they’ve turned slightly brown, remove the bread from the pan and season with salt and pepper.

And finally, let’s toss that salad! Don’t forget to top it with your remaining 4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.

Strawberry spinach salad

For the health nuts in your family, this simple, 15-minute strawberry spinach salad is a fabulous and colorful alternative to the Caesar.

You’ll need:

  • 2 bunches of fresh spinach
  • 2 cups of sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup of Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup of olive oil
  • ground pepper and salt

First, let’s toast those pecans. Add the pecans, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and half a stick of butter (I promise this is the least healthy part) into a medium-sized frying pan. Cook for approximately 3 minutes or until all is mixed and the butter and sugar are caramelized. Then, spread your pecans onto a large sheet of wax paper to cool.

Next, we’ll make the dressing. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper into a bowl and slowly whisk your olive oil into the mix. Finally, combine your spinach, strawberries, Gorgonzola cheese, and completely cooled, toasted pecans into a large bowl. Drizzle with the dressing, toss, and enjoy!

Homemade garlic bread

What’s lasagna without garlic bread?

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of dried parsley
  • 1lb. loaf of Italian bread cut into 1-inch slices
  • 8oz of shredded Mozzarella

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (or 175 C). Next, melt butter, garlic powder, and dried parsley over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Then, set your slices of bread onto an appropriately sized baking sheet, and with a basting brush, coat the slices using about 2/3 of your butter mixture.

Then, bake for 10 minutes or until the bread is toasted to your preference. Remove the bread from the oven and brush on the remaining butter mixture and then sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese. Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted. Finally, remove your bread from the oven, sprinkle with a little extra dried parsley, and enjoy!

Christmas lasagna

Finally, the main event—Christmas lasagna. This recipe is meant for a single 13x9 inch baking dish, but if your family is as large as mine (and also love to each as much as mine), I recommend following my lead and making two 13x9 inch dishes of this lasagna. Worst case scenario, you’ll have leftovers. And there’s not a meal out there that makes for better leftovers than lasagna!

First, let’s get started on that sauce.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 lb. of lean ground beef
  • ½ lb. of Italian sausage
  • 3 shallots
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 6 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • ½ cup of chopped, fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon of white sugar
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 2 (14 ½oz) cans of whole tomatoes
  • salt and pepper

First, add ground beef and sausage into large pan over medium heat. When meat is a little less than half browned, add in shallots and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in tomato paste. Once meat is well-browned, add in basil, oregano, salt, pepper, sugar, and both cans of whole tomatoes (with juice). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours. But keep an eye out so that it doesn’t become too dry. You’ll probably have to incrementally add in water (1/3 to ½ a can portions of water at a time).

For the cheese mixture, you’ll need:

  • 24oz of cottage cheese (you may use ricotta if you prefer, but I like to use cottage cheese because it is less likely to turn runny and disappear in the lasagna)
  • ½ cup of grated parmesan
  • ½ lb. of mozzarella cheese
  • 2 beaten large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Evenly mix all of these ingredients together in a large bowl. Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F., lightly grease your baking dish, and begin to assemble the lasagna.

Coat the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of your homemade meat sauce, cover that sauce with four plates of cooked lasagna noodles, cover the noodles with your cheese mixture, pour your meat sauce over the cheese mixture, and then continue layering noodles, cheese, and meat sauce until the dish is full.

The final layer should be lasagna noodles, over which you’ll spread one last thin layer of meat sauce and cover with a ½ cup of grated parmesan and 1/3 to a 1/2 lb. of mozzarella cheese. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes. Then, remove the foil and continue baking for another 15-25 minutes or until the cheese topping is browned to your liking.

Finally, allow your Christmas lasagna to rest for 15-20 minutes and enjoy this new tradition with family and friends.