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My married family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve. When my sibs-in-law started getting married, my mother-in-law decided that her immediate family would celebrate on Christmas Eve, so that her kids could celebrate with their married families on Christmas Day. The trade-off was that her immediate family would always celebrate Thanksgiving together.

A few months after Bacon Slayer & I began dating, I met his family on Thanksgiving. Boy, I was so nervous! But my (then future) in laws were so friendly, that they put me at ease right away. At the end of the evening, we left with hugs, and cries of “See you for lasagna on Christmas Eve!”

Wait. What?! Lasagna on Christmas Eve? I’d never heard of such a thing. Ham? Sure. Kielbasa? Of course. Turkey? Sometimes. But lasagna? Never.  I had to get to the bottom of it. I mean, I really liked this guy, but if there were weird food things going on…that would just be…weird. As soon as we got in the car, I asked Bacon Slayer about it.

“So what’s with lasagna on Christmas Eve?”

What do you mean? We have lasagna on Christmas Eve. (He says looking at me like I’m the nutty one.)

“But why lasagna? Why not ham or something?”

I don’t know. We just have lasagna. (Now laughing at me.)

Huh. Okay, then. Lasagna.

I still thought it was a bit odd, but I went with it. I’m flexible like that.  But you know the thing about lasagna on Christmas Eve? It’s good. Really, really good.  Everyone in the family has their own recipe. Here is mine. I’ve made friends and influenced people with this lasagna recipe. True story!

You can, too!

1 ½ quarts Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce (or use your favorite sauce)

1 (9 oz.) package Barilla brand lasagna noodle sheets

2 Tbls. chopped flat leaf parsley

½ tsp. Kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

8 oz. ricotta cheese

4 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled (Boursin is great!)

1 ¼ C. freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 C. freshly grated Asiago cheese

1 large egg, lightly beaten

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grab a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking dish, and set it on the counter. We’ll be needing it soon.

Put the ricotta and the herbed goat cheese into a large bowl. Break up the goat cheese into small chunks. One of the things that make this lasagna so good is the herbed goat cheese. Consider it a super-secret ingredient–it gives an interesting depth to the flavor that no one will be able to pinpoint. It’ll keep ya wondering, and wanting another bite.

Toss in 1 cup of the parmesan, the Asiago, and the freshly chopped parsley. I usually use a flat leaf parsley, but I used curly parsley this time. Just trying to shake it up a bit. Fold the parsley into the cheeses until combined. Save the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan for the end of this recipe.

Pour in the beaten egg. Sprinkle the kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper over top.

Fold it all together until the egg is incorporated. Set the cheese mixture aside.

Ladle 1/2-3/4 cup of fire roasted tomato sauce into the bottom of the 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish.  You can use your favorite sauce, but please, please, pretty please make sure that you add 1/2 pound of cooked sweet Italian turkey sausage.  Just cook it up like you would brown ground beef, then stir it into your favorite sauce. The turkey sausage is another component that makes this lasagna special. Don’t skip it.

Layer pasta sheets in the bottom of the pan, being sure to have a slight overlap. I like Barilla brand because of their “no boil” total coverage.

Add a half of thinly sliced, fresh mozzarella. If you can find it, the fresh mozzarella is an important component of the lasagna. Fresh mozzarella is very soft, flavorful, and slightly wet–very unlike it’s rubbery, pre-shredded counterpart. I accidently bought a brand of fresh mozzarella that came pre-sliced. Hooray for happy accidents! If you need to slice your fresh mozzarella, use a very sharp knife, and freeze it for 20 minutes or so to firm it up a bit, first.

Spread half of the cheese mixture over top of the fresh mozzarella.  I like to use my fingers because it just works best. And it’s fun!

Ladle a bit more sauce to seal in the first layer, and spread it evenly to the edges.

Repeat the layering one more time. Start with the pasta sheets…

Then the rest of the fresh mozzarella…

The last of the cheese mixture…

And some more sauce.

Remember that 1/4 cup of parmesan that we were saving for later? It’s later, so sprinkle it over the top.

Layers, baby. Bake it off in the preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Once done, allow lasagna to sit for 10 minutes before cutting to serve. Crusty bread is a necessary accompaniment–you don’t want any of that luscious sauce to go to waste.

Additional Notes: this lasagna can be made several hours ahead of time and refrigerated. Just allow lasagna to come to room temperature on a counter for 30 minutes before baking as directed above. It also  freezes beautifully! In fact, I often make 2 lasagnas at a time: 1 to bake, and 1 to freeze. Just wrap the assembled lasagna tightly in plastic wrap, then again with aluminum foil. Freeze for up to a month. To bake, thaw lasagna for 2 days in the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes before baking, then bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. It’s cooks a few minutes longer to compensate for the cooler starting temperature from the refrigeration.

I hope that you try my lasagna. It really is one of our very favorite recipes. And you certainly don’t need to wait for Christmas Eve to make it!

Now, more than 15 Christmases later, I can’t imagine not eating lasagna on Christmas Eve.  I wonder what my four future daughters-in-law will make of it? They’ll probably think we are a bit nutty, too. But I’m not sure that lasagna will be to blame.

♥♥♥

Christmas Eve Lasagna

http://comfortablydomestic.com

(adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe in Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

Yields 8 to 10 Servings

Delicious fire roasted tomato sauce with sweet italian sausage blankets layers of pasta, fresh mozzarella, and filled with a delightful blend of a blend of ricotta, herbed goat cheese, and Asiago cheeses.

Prep Time: 45 minutes, Cook Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

 

1 ½ quarts Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce**

1 (9 oz.) package Barilla brand lasagna noodles

2 Tbls. chopped flat leaf parsley

½ tsp. Kosher salt

¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

8 oz. ricotta cheese

4 oz. herbed goat cheese, crumbled (Boursin is great!)

1 ¼ C. freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

1 extra large egg, lightly beaten

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup grated parmesan, the egg, parsley, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Set aside.
  3. Ladle ¼ of the sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan.  Then add the layers as follows: 3 sheets of pasta, half of the mozzarella, half of the ricotta mixture, ¼ of the tomato sauce.  Repeat with 3 sheets of pasta, the rest of the mozzarella, the rest of the ricotta mixture, ¼ of the tomato sauce. Top with 3 more sheets of the pasta and the remaining tomato sauce.  Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of parmesan cheese on top.
  4. Bake lasagna for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has melted.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing to serve.
  5. The lasagna may be refrigerated for several hours before baking.  If made ahead, allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.  Bake for 40 minutes until bubbly and cheese has melted.

**See recipe, or use your favorite red pasta sauce, but be sure to add the cooked & crumbled sweet Italian turkey sausage.

***This lasagna also freezes very well. Tightly wrap uncooked lasagna with aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. To cook, thaw for 2 days in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature, then bake as directed.

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