HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Pasta for Christmas?

We always to the turkey and stuffing and peas and cranberry, and potatoes, etc, etc for Christmas day. An we are TIRED of it! Christmas Eve is a large heavy dinner of fondue with beef filet so we want a lighter meal on Christmas Day. I was thinking of a calamari app, a great fresh salad with beets and then a pasta. Simple and i won't be in the kitchen for 6 hours!
Question is what is appropriate for Christmas? Lobster Pappardelle? Please pass on any ideas you may have!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We are doing Boxing Day with the family, and I am going to make crespelle (manicotti) stuffed with a ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg and parsley filling baked in a light tomato marinara with additional mozzarella on top. They are ethereal and really delicious. Use any crepe recipe for the wrapper, and make them as large or as small as you desire. I don't have a recipe -- I just mix the filling until I think it is right, but you could use a recipe for ravioli filling too.

    1. Clearly you're not Italian--we had everything you listed PLUS LASAGNA all my growing up years. :) However, as to what's appropriate, I'd say make what you like!
      My holiday non-turkey favorite meal is penne alla vodka.
      Lasagna with full-fat rigawt (!) and homemade sausage was always on the table back when.
      I've bought lobster ravs and made a wine/cream sauce.
      Along the same lines as roxlet suggested, if you don't want to make your own crepes, you could always make baked stuffed shells.

      ETA: I make a killer clams casino over angel hair pasta...you might enjoy something like that, too, if not straight up linguini and clam sauce however you like it.

      37 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        Ha, ha! I was going to mention lasagna, which we always had for Christmas with the extended family. Lasagna would be at about 3PM followed by a lengthy pause while the men went upstairs and smoked cigars and watched football, and the woman cleaned up and prepared the next course, which was usually turkey or ham and served about 6 or 7PM. Christmas dinner was a long, drawn-out, leisurely affair that usually ended with an argument about whose struffoli was more authentic.

        1. re: roxlet

          Love and miss those days...smiling re your last sentence. ;)

          1. re: roxlet

            "struffoli" never saw that in print before, funny to read it

          2. re: kattyeyes

            That all sounds great but what's "rigawt"? I haven't made ravioli in SO long. Thanks for the reminder. jfood's are so good. I think that was the first pasta I ever made from scratch.

              1. re: c oliver

                "rigawt" is an Italian-American pronunciation of ricotta. Similar to manigawt=manicotti, mootz/mootzarell=mozzarella, cabagawl=capicola, proshoot=proscuitto, abeets=pizza, macaroni=any type of pasta, scarole=escarole...and so many more.

                1. re: melpy

                  Hey, thanks. Since the only cheese I use in lasagne is Parm, ricotta never crossed my mind.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Try it with ricotta and Romano instead of the parm, which I feel is too mild for an Italian-American style lasagna.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      The last couple of years I've become a devotee of Hazan's green lasagne. Freshly made spinach pasta, Bolognese sauce, bechamel and Parm. It's the most I've ever like lasagne. It's rich but not heavy which is the complaint I've had about the really cheesey ones. But I guess I'm not really into I-A, am I?

                    2. re: c oliver

                      Never used ricotta in lasagnA? But you've seen/eaten it in restos, no?

                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                        I meant that rigawt = ricotta never crossed my mind. Not sure I've ever had lasagne in a restaurant.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I never have lasagne in a restaurant.

                          1. re: melpy

                            I've only had lasagna in a restaurant in Italy.

                    3. re: melpy

                      shkatawl=escarole, fazool=fagiola

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          shouldn't that *t* should really be an *r*....

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Not if you're rolling the R. That's why so many people don't understand Guy from the Food Network is just pronounced "Fietti" but spelled Fieri.

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              I see and understand your explanation, but I'm more inclined to believe it has to do more with regional differences and bastardization....i.e., Brooklyn, Boston or Cleveland.

                              How anyone pronounces their name is personal, no?.....e.g. *steen* as opposed to *stine*.

                              1. re: fourunder

                                I'd wondered the same -4. There's a good-sized population of I-A's in SF but I don't remember them speaking like that.

                                I read/heard that Brett Favre is pronounced "Farve" because that's just the way his family does it.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  It has everything to do with regional differences and dialects, that's what makes it fun (for me, anyway)--connecting with others who speak your language, however bastardized.

                                  And re Guy, I guess so...it's just interesting to see how many people misspell his last name because they're doing so phonetically.

                        2. re: melpy


                          1. re: ospreycove

                            I think N. NJ must get a little farther away from the spelling than the Southern Connecticut I-A :) (New Haven-Milford) Although I must admit I think I missed the H in shcarole! It's def. cabagawl not gabagool in my family though...

                            1. re: melpy

                              And we must not forget the Hot and Sweet saucesheech!!

                          2. re: melpy

                            Yeah, it's southern Italian pronunciation of the foods you mention. In south Philly, those whose grandparents emigrated here from southern Italy speak in double plurals.

                            paninis = more than 1 panino, panini already is 2 or more rolls
                            spaghettis = spaghetti is already plural
                            cannolis = cannoli already indicates more than 1

                            Hey, how 'bout "fazool" as in pasta fazool? I miei antenati non erano italiani, cosi dico "pasta e fagioli."

                            Buon Natale e buon anno nuovo. Forse puo' imparare a parlare italiano in 2011.

                            1. re: ChiliDude

                              Ho dimenticato!! how about, "Cavadeal", or "pizza gain", I never knew what that meant in Alto Italiano

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                Pizza gain is pizza pieno, which was elided into pizza gain. Cavadeal is merely cavatelli.

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  Roxlet, Do you know what pizza gain, (Pieno) actually is? I remember it was made with Corn Meal, (Polenta), and drippings from Pork Roast or Ham.

                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                    Pizza Gain....or Pizza Gaina has always been a traditional Easter Pie all my Italian friends families make with pastry dough....a top and bottom with dry salame, soppressata, cappicola, cheeses and hard boiled eggs ....in a custard mixture for one, and another without...all layered with thin slices of the previous mentioned foods.


                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                      No, I don't think what you are remembering was pizza gain. Pizza gain, which we always called an Easter Pizza, was made in my family on Good Friday every year. NOT eating it or tasting the filling was a kind of penance. In my family, all the ingredients were ground together and baked in a regular pie plate in a pie crust that was made with olive oil. Over the years, I have altered the recipe and I now chop everything by hand and bake it in a springform pan. My family used to make about a dozen regular pies and would give them out to friends and neighbors, but I only make one these days. We use prosciutto, Genoa salami, pepperoni, mozzarella, ricotta, sweet sausage, eggs and parmesan.

                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          Roxlet....Based on your beautiful photo; nowI know I am wrong. The dish I remember was very simple, almost inedible to little kids!!.... with, as I mentioned very few ingredients. But WOW do you overnight ship your pizza gain??..lol...

                                          1. re: ospreycove

                                            This particular Pizza Rustica was made in my apartment in Cairo last Easter using all the salami, prosciutto and pepperoni I had hoarded for the occasion. The ricotta that was available was not great -- it was frozen and when defrosted it had a kind of grainy texture. However, copious amounts of grated Romano seemed to do the trick in whipping the whole thing into shape. The end result was delicious, and we ate every last crumb knowing that it would be the last salami and prosciutto tastes we would have until July.

                                2. re: melpy

                                  Haha, thank you! My family always had home-made cavatelli for Christmas Eve. The first time my brother's now-wife joined us for the Eve, she admitted later in the evening that she had been fearful for days in advance because she thought she was going to have to eat "covered eels".

                                  Your list is right on (though like the person below, our family always added an "h" to scarole. And pasta fazool is an important addition to the list. I've since given up on calling all pasta "macaroni", and I miss it. However, I've stuck with the rest.

                                  1. re: Cachetes

                                    One of my co-workers calls money "scarole", based on what his Sicilian parents called it. Why, I don't know, because it's green? But I can never go back to the full "escarole" again, he always yells it out when we talk about money in a meeting, and it cracks me up.

                                  2. re: melpy

                                    Awesome! I had no idea. I can totally hear the Southern Italian pronunciation in these alternative spellings. I love them! Let me correct your spelling of prosciutto though :)

                                3. re: kattyeyes

                                  Amen sista! Chrismas is always lasagna with a big bowl of meatballs, sausage and pork chops that have been cooked in the tomato sauce. Plus I found out about a year before my grandmother passed that she made everything - everything(!) ahead of time and froze it. I think that was one of her secrets to making it taste so damn good.

                                  1. re: krisrishere

                                    I see talent runs in your family. ;) Nothing like sauce with the meat cooked right in. Mmmmmmmmm.

                                4. Lobster Pappardelle sounds terrific....or any other type sea food as well. How about a whole oven baked fish? Crabmeat Stuffed Sole or Shrimps? Even a simple seasoned bread crumb topped Cod? You can make the pasta a side dish to a seafood main course.

                                  Other ideas for Pappardelle, Wild Boar Ragout or Braised Short Ribs. More hearty than light, but classic for the winter.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    At a holiday dinner this year....we had a duck ragout on pappardelle as the pasta course.
                                    Very nice.....

                                  2. Paella is traditional in my family for Christmas, so the natural pasta analogue would be fideuĂ . It is hard to botch this dish so long as your seafood is fresh and as everything cooks quickly, it's a cinch to make.

                                    1. My family always had the pasta course in addition to the rest. Usually Crab or lobster fra diavolo over linguine. Sometimes shrimp scampi or pasta primavera.

                                      1. Ok -- I want to have dinner with all your families for the holidays. The food sounds yummy. :-)

                                        1. Go for a baked pasta, for logistical reasons. If you're choosing pasta out of fatigue, you aren't going to want any split-second timing. I'd probably go for something without tomato, possibly with mushrooms and/or truffle, bechamel, some sort of very good imported Italian cheese, possibly studded with diced prosciutto or pancetta or guanciale and tiny gobs of spinach. It could be lasagne or a short format pasta. For greater festivity and elegance, you could do something baked in a crust.

                                          20 Replies
                                          1. re: mbfant

                                            Go for a baked pasta, for logistical reasons....


                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              Certainly, because it can be assembled ahead and sit quietly minding its own business in the oven while the hostess has a second glass of mulled wine.

                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                I preparing a Seafood Marinara ( red pepper flakes on the side) more than likely with shrimp,calamari,scungilli. clams ,mussels.pulpo ,......I'm working toward several fin fish as well to serve with a large ( not jumbo ) shell macaroni ,sauteed bread crumbs and good mixed olives ......still working on the meal......I'm tempted to make bacala

                                                1. re: scunge

                                                  Do any other fellow Italians do the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve? Although it doesn't quite fit with the spirit of the original post (simple, easy) it's my family's tradition as long as I can remember. We usually have traditional stuff snail salad (sliced thin, marinated in vinegar oil and chili flakes and tossed with likewise marinated onion and celery), linguini with spicy squid red gravy (sauce), and lobster fetuccini alfredo, clams al forno and mussels zuppa. We've added other stuff too like smoked salmon with all the "fixings," shrimp cocktail, and baked whitefish. Of course when my parents were growing up, homemade pasta was mandatory.

                                                  1. re: anthony.izzo

                                                    That sounds amazing! I've seen mentions here of Seven Fishes but hadn't researched it. Do you use canned snails? I could totally get into THAT meal. And if I were going to pull out all the stops like that, I also would consider homemade pasta mandatory.

                                                    I haven't even had breakfast out here on the Left Coast but that meal has my mouth watering :)

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      Well, you could cook them yourself but your house will stink. They are also very difficult to slice as thinly as necessary. We use a local (Rhode Island) place called Rome Gourmet Foods who cooks and slices them, and does an excellent job. We add our own veggies and marinade. On their website, it's listed as "Marinated Scungili" under specialty salads. I don't know if they ship, I can't find any details for that on their website.


                                                      1. re: anthony.izzo

                                                        Oh,so "snails" are actually "conch"? Learn something new every day.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Scungilli is actually a whelk .Canned is not too bad a product . I buy La Monica Scungilli .In Italian it's conchiglia. It appears also Fasool is Sicilian slang probably from the Arabic word Foul = Fava .

                                                          1. re: scunge

                                                            Heading to SF in a week where there are some good Italian food shops. I'll look for some.

                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                            Conch and snails appear at first blush to be quite different, but they are not, setting aside precepts of habitat and size. Castillian has but one word for both: caracol.

                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              Great! I was wondering about that.

                                                      2. re: anthony.izzo

                                                        My dad's family does but when we moved to MD and started inviting the neighbors we had to stop because of their aversion to seafood. Some traditional Italian and some more traditional New England: baked stuffed lobster, stuffed shrimp, eels, scungili salad, shrimp cocktail, lobster or crab fra diavolo, antipasto, fried flounder, salad. Cookies for dessert. I don't know if we ever counted 7 or 9 fishes because I never had a hand in planning it. They'll be doing it again this year (unless my uncle's health isn't in top form).

                                                        My parents have actually cut the pasta for the first time since I was a kid! With 30 people trying to do a sit down dinner they decided to do more of buffet with sit down dinner (instead of passing around dishes). I think they were doing crown roast, cornbread apple stuffing, salad, baked stuffed shrimp...I can't believe it. So I have decided to do Italian for my Christmas dinner with just my SO because we eat at 12 pm with his family Christmas day and nothing after 3 pm. But I digress...

                                                        I'm thinking lasagne with bechemel (instead of my family's traditional ricotta) but not a huge one since it will only be two of us.

                                                        1. re: anthony.izzo

                                                          Did not ever hear of 7 fish tradition until we moved to the East Coast from the landlocked Midwest. We now live in an area where the 'antenati' of those who have Italian genes were Abruzzese.

                                                          My late mother-in-law traditionally prepared 'la cena di vigilia di Natale' that was eaten by the poverty stricken. Her 'genitori' came from a small 'comune' in Calabria that was about 10 step from the Mediterranean. She called the dish something that no other person of Italian heritage could identify...'Ughi ha' in the dialect of that comune.

                                                          Those of you who may know some Italian may have heard of 'aglio e olio.' That was the main course. Certamente, c'era una insalata verdura e dolce. Oops...certainly, there was a green salad and dessert.

                                                          1. re: ChiliDude

                                                            We just now finished eating a big pot of aglio olio (I was taught how to say it just like that), served with toasted breadcrumbs of course. My husband commented how lucky I finally got it down way back when, usually only grandmothers know the secrets of success. Big compliment from him! I tried making it once for Christmas Eve but it didn't go over as well as the traditional (in husband's family) mushroom sauce, sadly.

                                                          2. re: anthony.izzo

                                                            We still do it, though some years it's just four or five fishes. Not sure how far we'll get this year. We traditionally have smelt, clam al forno, stuffed squid, cavatelli (this year gnocchi, homemade by my German dad!) in a calamari sauce (sauce, not gravy for us!), some type of whole white fish prepared with tomatos, capers, and herbs (pescado a la veracruzana - my husband is Mexican, so that's his addition). Some years we'll add a scungilli salad, shrimp cocktail - maybe this year too, we haven't decided yet. We are also having salmon this year because it's all that my little niece will eat.

                                                            1. re: Cachetes

                                                              Where's the baccala? How can 'la cena di vigilia di Natale' be complete without baccala?

                                                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                You are right! My mother-in-law does the baccala, but I've never made it. Maybe I'll add it this year! We are finalizing the menus this evening, so maybe we'll throw it into the mix.

                                                                1. re: Cachetes

                                                                  Growing up, my mother would soak the salt cod in the cold pantry, and I would avoid going in there while it was soaking. I thought the smell was so overwhelming.

                                                        2. re: mbfant

                                                          I agree. Much less stressful and you can hang out with family or do dishes while it's cooking.

                                                      3. re: mbfant

                                                        That sounds a lot like an Easter Pie.

                                                      4. I'm making Fettucine Alfredo foe Christmas. I think it's pretty simple and everyone seems to love it. It also pairs well with the traditional baked ham my sister in law makes for dinner

                                                        1. Like an above post, we usually do penne vodka on Christmas eve in addition to everything else (we don't really do Christmas day).

                                                          Other thoughts would be a lasagna or stuffed shells.

                                                          If you're looking for really simple, shrimp scampi over linguine. Takes 20 minutes and yummy, not quite as heavy as a cream sauce as well.

                                                          1. Growing up I went to my Italian friend's family for a holiday day dinner and we had lasagna... but then they brought out the turkey for the second course! So you could have both! haha

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Berheenia

                                                              Every holiday at my house...although turkey only on T-giving. Insert other type of meat for Easter/X-mas.

                                                            2. Not a drop of Italian in our family, unfortunately, and it was quite a BOLD move of my mother one year to make stuffed shells for Christmas. With 20+ people to feed, she had had enough of spending the day in the kitchen and so made it all a day ahead in 2 large pans and heated it up in the oven on Christmas. It was delicious and although I don't recall her repeating the stuffed shells, she always made something ahead of time after that. (It didn't work on Thanksgiving, though, when she made the turkey the day before, pulled all the meat off the bones, separated the dark from the white meat and set out the 2 pans with meat and gravy on T-day. Much easier for her, but the older sibs--not me--objected at not having the whole bird presentation. Poor Mom. The family was flexible on Christmas, but not Thanksgiving. :-)

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Birmingham

                                                                I love stuffed shells. I stuff giant shells with ricotta and freeze them. They go from freezer to table in one hour. Very convenient and yummy.

                                                                1. re: Berheenia

                                                                  How do you freeze them? This sounds like such a time saver....

                                                                2. re: Birmingham

                                                                  Whole bird presentation? Do you actually carve tableside?. We never have the bird at the table. Just plates of meat.

                                                                3. The colors of the Italian flag are celebrated in Pasta al Pomodoro e Basilico with its red tomato and fresh green basil. A perfect dish, IMO, for Christmas pasta.

                                                                  1. In the 50's my Sicilian American household only served Pasta Al Fornu (lasagna) for Eastersometimes wiyh capocelli.The macaroni was usually Linguine with different toppings or sauces such as shellfish ,fried eel (a delicacy) fungi, assorted breaded vegetables greens,wine,cafe nero, anisette,breads and biscotti more wine,olives BRIOSKI Now who remembers BRIOSKI ?

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: scunge

                                                                      Easter was ravioli in our house, made by my grandmother, and I would do the sealing of the edges with a fork. Lasagna was always the more wintery dish for us...

                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                        Always lasagna for Christmas, manicotti or ravioli for Easter here too.

                                                                      2. re: scunge

                                                                        And, yes. I remember Brioski:

                                                                        "Eat too much, drink too much? Take Brioski, take Brioski..."
                                                                        Which is how the jingle went...

                                                                        1. re: scunge

                                                                          Brioski sits on top of my fridge waiting for the inevitable. Must remember to bring it with me to the holidays this year. Thanks for reminding me.

                                                                        2. MMM... Papparelle! Plus you can make the pasta by hand - with help from family and kids who LOVE to run pasta thru the machine or cut it by hand. The only thing is that they can be heavy. I like them with slow cooked boneless shortribs you can get at Costco. BUT that is heavy. So I propose a nice recipe I saw in old Martha Stewart's place - Pappardelle with scallops - and the scallops are so purdy! http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/p.... - You are gonna have to cut and paste the address. For some reason it does not work as a click thru here on Chow.

                                                                          I am toying with the same thing. I am over butternut squash right now and if I never see another mashed potato... OK maybe not that extreme.

                                                                          1. The one idea I'm stuck on is to have a Christmas/winter presentation. Some example would be croxetti with a light touch of butter/oil, arranged with herbs for that nice white and green presentation; beet gnocchi sauteed in butter and artichoke hearts, topped with parmesan for a red, greed and snow effect; cauliflower couscous. Basically, take anything (white, green, red, snow, star, evergreen, etc.) and present it with a winter/Christmas colors and themes.

                                                                            1. I know this sounds like a really lame question I am going to type, but please just laugh then answer. I am seriously considering making lasagna. What kinds of sides are traditionally served with lasagna, please.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                                                                meatballs, sausage and salad.....nice bread for mopping

                                                                                1. re: fourunder

                                                                                  Yup! And should you feel like going one step further, garlic bread is always nice.

                                                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                    Now how could I possibly miss that obvious answer...;0)

                                                                                    I must be getting old.

                                                                              2. Brother's coming in and he always requests lasagna. Not too spicy. I really want Boeuf Bourguignon Soup from Martha Stewart's December issue. SO wants green chili and red pork tamales. . . .I dunno what's traditional for other families but I was raised on turkey.

                                                                                Your menu sounds good and as far as too many hours in the kitchen, just think about all the happy tummys after - only if they help clean up!

                                                                                1. I have a lovely recipe for Shrimp Shells on Crabgrass, but it's none too light.It's basically shrimp and swiss stuffed shells on a bed of crabmeat, mushrooms and spinach and it is divine. Happy to post if you like.