Not Up for a Big Thanksgiving Turkey? Lasagna Is the Answer

Lasagna at Thanksgiving is a longtime Italian-American tradition. It just might become yours, too.

Three Cheese Lasagna with Roasted Red Pepper and Mushrooms Recipe
Photo: Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Rishon Hanners

Close your eyes and picture your ideal Thanksgiving dinner. Is a bronzed, perfectly roasted turkey at the center of the table? For far too many years, turkey has ruled the roost of the Thanksgiving table, despite all the hassle of cooking an overgrown (and often under-seasoned) bird.

As the designated Thanksgiving turkey-roaster in my extended family, I've had my fair share of trials. There was the time when I undercooked the turkey so drastically that our guests finished their sweet potatoes and cornbread dressing by the time the bird was finally ready. And the time when I dropped a 20-pound turkey on the floor while attempting to rotate it halfway through roasting. And the year that I got lost in the backroads of Lancaster County, PA, while trying to pick up a pastured bird from a tiny organic farm.

This year brings different challenges: Trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a much smaller group of people while being way shorter on time. It's clearly the ideal time to dethrone that traditional turkey and play around with your menu. One terrific option? Make a gorgeous tray of lasagna instead of the big bird.

Serving lasagna at Thanksgiving is a time-honored tradition in many Italian-American homes—a brilliant way to round out the feast with a large-format, special-occasion pasta. And if you decide to skip the turkey (or just go for a much-easier turkey breast instead of the full bird), lasagna has the stature and swagger to own the center of the Thanksgiving table. It's also far, far less intimidating to make a lasagna than a hulking turkey. Here are our best tips for making an unforgettable Thanksgiving lasagna:

Pumpkin Lasagna with Ricotta and Swiss Chard
© Alexandra Rowley

Check Out Unusual Varieties of Lasagna

There are plenty of lasagna recipes that feature fall vegetables like pumpkin, butternut squash, mushrooms, and hearty greens. We're especially big fans of this version featuring pumpkin, ricotta, and Swiss chard.

Source a Beautiful Oven-to-Table Lasagna Pan

A gorgeous casserole dish will make your holiday lasagna look that much more impressive on the table. Here are our favorite oven-to-table options in enameled cast-iron and glazed earthenware.

Use Ravioli Instead of Lasagna Noodles

If you have a beloved source for fresh stuffed ravioli, then you're just minutes away from lasagna. After all, what are ravioli but ready-made layers of pasta and cheese? This take on ravioli lasagna is especially brilliant, leveraging quick-cooking sausage, plenty of mozzarella, and deliciously caramelized vegetables.

Go for Jarred Tomato Sauce Instead of Making Your Own

Nothing against a beautifully made marinara, but if you're making a layered baked pasta, using a good jarred marinara, like Bertolli Traditional Marinara with Italian Herbs and Fresh Garlic Sauce, is a genius time-saver.

Make Ahead for a No-Stress Feast

The best part of Thanksgiving lasagna! You can make a full day ahead and just pop it into the oven an hour before you're ready to serve it. Stash your assembled, unbaked lasagna in the fridge, covered in foil, for up to 24 hours, then bake as directed in your recipe, adding 10 to 15 minutes of foil-covered baking time to ensure that it's bubbly and melty all the way through. Then garnish with torn basil, proudly bring it to the table, and give thanks for a holiday that's (finally) not something to stress over.

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