picTORIal: An Italian Christmas Dinner

Turkey and stuffing again? Been there and done that already this year. My culinary hubs had an idea that this Christmas we have an Italian Christmas Dinner. When he mentioned that I did an air pump and a little foodie dance as visions of cheese and meaty pasta danced through my head. But then he proceeded to tell me that an Italian Christmas was all about fish! FISH?!? I mean, I love sushi and a nice baked cod is delicious… But on CHRISTMAS? So I did my own research and indeed Italians do enjoy fish, but typically on Christmas Eve. Never one to follow rules I made an exception and pointed to Google on my iPhone, “See!” I said, “Italians eat fish dishes on Christmas EVE. Not Christmas. Sorry!” So, Baked Meaty Ziti anyone? The Gourmet Dad compromised. He would make his fish dishes and I could make dishes that screamed Italian Christmas to me. Perfect… Let’s cook!


Dean got up bright and early Christmas Eve Day and visited the fresh fish market in Santa Monica. He got some amazing fresh picks!


Working his under the sea wonders…


Here’s his amazing Linguini and Clams!

He even made octopus!

The grilled octopus and crab stuffed squid was so delicious! Hattie ate squid and loved it. 

And, then there’s my contribution…


Baked Meaty Ziti

• 1 pound dry ziti pasta
• 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, sliced
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• ½ pound ground beef
• ½ pound ground pork sausage
• 1 ½ (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
• Salt to taste
• 1 (6 ounce) package provolone cheese, sliced
• ¾ cup sour cream
• ¾ cup cottage cheese
• 1 (6 ounce) package mozzarella cheese, shredded
• 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil
2. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente, then drain
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook onion in oil until tender.
4. Stir in rosemary and garlic, and transfer to a small bowl
5. Place the ground beef and sausage into a skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown
6. Stir in the onion mixture and the spaghetti sauce. Season with salt, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
8. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. In this dish, layer ½ of the cooked pasta, provolone cheese, sour scream, cottage cheese, and a little less than ½ of the meat mixture.
9. Then layer the rest of the pasta, mozzarella cheese, remaining meat mixture, and Parmesan cheese
10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until heated through and cheese are melted


Extra Sharp Mac(Dermott) N’ Cheese

Everyone makes Mac n’ cheese so what makes mine delicious? Extra sharp cheddar, half n half, and cottage cheese! Makes a delicious creamy cheese sauce you can pour over your pasta and bake! I finish it off with some Parmesan grated on top.


Seafood, Meat, and Cheese all in harmony!


The Gourmet Dad and our little Christmas miracle baby Finn


The Guncles, Nana J, and Cousin Simone joined us for dinner along with my Mom, Patsy’s son and daughter in law and her new Grand-baby Shayal.


And Mitzi-Claus was simply pooped!


Hattie entertained


While Liam chillaxed!


Liam, Stella, and Simone held down the kids table


I went 80’s Christmas with a red satin blouse and green and clear crystal brooch.


My fave Christmas gift this year! Thanks Guncles!


My beautiful Goddaughter Simone aka Nuggy giving me a Christmas kiss. Ok fine… I did bribe her with a life size Barbie.


Our friend Jill made us an amazing Carrot Cake and I finally got to use these green glass dessert plates I found at an estate sale


After a great Italian Christmas with family everyone was full and happy and ready for bed…


Well except Hattie… Who was on a carrot cake high!

All in all, it was a Christmas dinner we’ll never forget. The food, the friends and the family made this night absolutely perfect. And I’ve got to give it to my hubby… the idea to have an Italian Christmas dinner was genius, and I’m thinking it might become a McDermott family tradition. Guess we’ll have to wait til next year to see!

Tell me about your Christmas dinner! What was on the menu? Who was on the guest list?


  • Jeanne Tutt

    omg how do you not pack the pounds on with all that wonderful food? I’m betting Dean knows how to do calamari as like fish sticks or chicken fingers… we were to have it that way for our wedding reception but the week prior the restaurant fired the entire kitchen staff and brought in new! They did calamari the typical way so I couldn’t show my sister there are other appetizing ways to cook it etc. I also couldn’t eat what I ordered. We had done tons of testings so I was livid when I heard they changed the entire kitchen staff.

    Can I be adopted? live in nanny for ya! :)

  • Joann

    What a wonderful exciting and delicious day you all had! Love all the recipes you post. Such a beautiful family you have. I also have the perfect meatloaf pan Tori, its fabulous!

  • Stephanie Gorg

    We had the feast of the 7 fishes for Christmas Eve dinner. Well, my sister and her husband did since most of my family isn’t too keen on fish. It was most ingenious, they had sushi and were able to fit 7 different fish into their meal plus the roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes and broccoli we also made for the rest of the family. Christmas day I made individual beef wellingtons with a red wine reduction sauce, roasted potatoes, asparagus with hollindaise, burgundy mushrooms, gingered carrots,and a lovely black forrest cake for dessert. It was a feast to remember and another family holiday celebrated! The best part of the meal was the prayer from my 5 year old niece, it was so raw and real and she remembered all of the children who aren’t as blessed as we are with family time and all of the children of the world who don’t celebrate the Christmas season.

  • Stephanie Farley

    Everything looked so delicious! I received the “Perfect Meatloaf Pan” in a white elephant exchange this year. I was so excited! I already used it and it’s awesome!

  • Sharon Daniels

    Wow!!!! Your dinner looks yummy! For the second year in a row, our family had Low Country Boil! With all my siblings and their families, there is 23 of us to feed and this dish goes along way. Of course we had a salad bar and had several desserts to choose from. The best part of the day is just being together.

  • Kiara Ramirez

    Tori….. that’s because Italy like the Hispanic countries celebrate on Christmas Eve. Christmas day we visit the family members that we didn’t get to see on Christmas Eve and take them presents and eat, etc. On Christmas day we just eat they yummi left overs from the night before and the children open Santa’s presents. This year we also got tired of the typical turkey and tamales, we ate Peruvian food cooked by my brother in law and it was delicious! The next day when we went to visit in laws and close friend we had the yummi tamales anyways. You guys had a wonderful feast! Italian food is my favorite. Thank you for sharing the pictures, it makes me feel like I’m part of your family. Blessings for the new year.

  • Kustom Kids Bedding

    As far as I know, eating fish on Christmas Eve is an Italian tradition. From when I was small, Christmas Eve was the whole family gathering at my grandparents house for dinner. There was all kinds of pasta and fish..

    There were 11 cousins and we all sat at the “kids table” every year. We were not big fish fans so for us, it was plain pasta with butter!

    Over the years we kept up the Christmas Eve tradition. I’m still not a big fan of fish and I guess because of that, my kids and now my grandchildren are not either, but we don’t let that stop us!

    We have replaced the actual “fish” for other seafood including shrimp, scallops and baked clams. We’ll make separate dishes of scrimp scampi, shrimp marinara, scallops scampi and marinara and start off with baked clams and shrimp cocktail as the appetizers. We’ll make a ton of spaghetti and everyone adds their favorite seafood topping to their pasta…

    The last couple of years, I’ve started also making chicken parmigiana so whoever doesn’t like seafood can eat the chicken parm with their pasta with plain red sauce (or gravy as us old school Italians called it).

    I know even when I am gone, the tradition will continue.

    I would suggest you use this past holiday as the start of your own Christmas Eve family tradition.

    It’s hard to explain but there is something special about a family tradition that gets passed down thru the years. When the kids grow up and have families of their own, it just would not feel like Christmas Eve to them without eating fish on Christmas Eve.

    They may tweak it a little to their own liking (as I did), but the tradition will live on and on…

    Thank you for sharing and bringing me back to a much earlier and simpler time in my life. I have a big smile on my face now as I am remembering those Christmas Eves in grandma’s house.

  • desi

    Wow! I just love the Italian Christmas dinner! Great idea…the old turkey and green beans thing just gets old. I love your 80’s outfit (my favorite time) and the carrot cake and mac and cheese. Everything looks so yummy and your e-mail made me sooo hungry as it is 5:30 here on the east coast, so time to eat! Using sharp cheddar cheese in mac and cheese sounds so awesome! Love your pictures……

  • Myeleah

    I gotta say, Liam has the most luxurious hair!!! What shampoo does he use?!

    Love the pic of Hattie all wried up on carrot cake! lol She is a living doll!

    I think the dinner looked amazing but (shhh don’t tell your hubby!) I think I’m with you, fish just seems *wrong* on Christmas! The pasta dishes on the other hand, sound great ANYTIME!

  • Elaine Graziano

    Hey Tori,
    We spent Christmas (me, hubby and 4 kids) with his family, which consists of 40 people – YIKES is right; all ages, shapes, and sizes!!! Dinner included: sea scallops wrapped in bacon, stuffed clams, & stuffed mushrooms-for starters, then Prime Rib, jumbo baked stuffed shrimp, turkey, ham, mashpys, carrots (YUK),green bean casserole and more!! Well, that is a lot of people to feed. I cowed out to say the least. Honestly, I would eat almost anything for dinner if someone else is cooking (although seafood is my fave) so Dean’s menu (and yours) sounded just fine. Your kids are sooo cute but I have to say I have a special affection for Miss Hattie Cat – she is a doll and looks like she may be a spit fire in years to come (my third child was!). P.s. watched Dean in celebrity cook off and honestly, he has my vote for winner, hands down. Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

  • Burpalicious baby

    Tori your latest blog post includes this photo of your daughter sleeping on a pillowcase made by my two hands. I was so excited to see this photo i about fainted. I am just ecstatic that you all actually use it. It brings me so much Joy. From one crafty lady to the next Thank you Thank you Thank you. I have loved you since I was 14 years old. I am so happy happy happy. Best wishes to you and your amazing family!

  • Wanda Pender

    Everything looked wonderful!! Well. Except for the squid. lol. And octopus, those take more of an ‘aquired’ taste. lol. Simone is getting so big!! And she’s beautiful!! And of course, Liam, Stella, Hattie and Finn are looking as cute and as adorable as ever.
    Our Christmas Dinner consisted of a huge fresh roasted Pork Loin, accompanied by Baked Ham, cornbread dressing, all sorts of the traditional garden fresh vegetable side items, and condiments, such as black and green olives, pickles, cheese and such. For dessert we had a GRAND assortment of homemade pies and sweets, MY favorite part! lol. It was all soooo good!! And you know what? We don’t have to wait until a Holiday to eat like that! EVERY day can be a holiday! And IS when your cooking it and sharing it with the ones you love! ;]

  • Lemon Meringue

    That fish is beautiful, quite a catch! And it looks like a very warm and relaxing family-event, just what you need this time of year. We had about the same discussion in our household. I make a very British Christmas dinner every year for the whole family (grandparents, sisters and entourage and everybody who is in need of some family, food and friends). It’s very old-fashioned, but we all love it: fancy starter, than a bird ( goose, poussins or just a plain biological fat chicken), parsnips, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, braised red cabbage, apple- and cranberrysauce, goosefat roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings and steamed Christmas pudding with cognacbutter and eggnogcream to end all of it (for the kids it’s usually icecream, this year I made trees out of icecones with green icing and M&M’s, cute!) This year my stepdad wanted to use his brand new smoke-oven and he insisted on smoked salmon. I hesitated at first: fish with all my earthy carbs and proteins? But then I thought: why not, it’s Christmas, I want it to celebrate with him, no matter what’s on my plate. And guess what? It was the most delicious salmon I had in my entire life! And I eat salmon almost every week in one form or another. I would have been completely content with just that fish on his (her?) own, no trimmings, no carbs, no nothing. Okay, you may leave that gorgeous bottle of white Bourgogne. We all had a blast with Christmascrackers with a silly game in it, involving a variety of whistles in different tones: one had to be the conductor and we all had to blow the whistle when he pointed at us: pee-in-the-pants funny for the kids and the grown-ups, I thought my Mum would giggle until New Years Eve (might have to do something with the Bourgogne).
    By the way: we always eat fish at Christmas Eve, it’s no Christmas for me without potted mackerel, North Sea prawns and gravlax on Christmas Eve.

  • Emma Johansson

    Yumm – this looks delicious!! I love your blog Tori and I’m really missing your show Home sweet Hollywood, will there be a new season soon? Anyway, I’m blogging about my life as a swedish housewife in Budapest, check it out!

  • Paula Finn

    I too cook an Italian dinner on Christmas Eve and its been a family/ friend tradition for some time now. I just thought I would let you know that I cooked tonight the Baked Meaty was soooo good! Everyone loved it! Thank you for the recipe!

  • Sharon Kruschen

    We might not celebrate Christmas, but we had a nice time during the holidays. The most exciting part was I got to meet my niece!