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59 Christmas Eve dinner ideas, from rib roast to spaghetti alle vongole

Kick off Christmas celebrations with a festive feast.
/ Source: TODAY

This Christmas Eve, you may be hosting a cast of your many friends and family or keeping it intimate with your nearest and dearest. Regardless of the size of your holiday table, the night before Christmas should be marked with a memorable meal.

We’ve got a plethora of ideas for those who partake in the Italian-American tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Think indulgent seafood spreads, celebratory shellfish pastas and more. For those who prefer the classic charm of a traditional roast — be it turkey, lamb, or ham — the options are virtually limitless. From succulent prime rib to flavorful leg of lamb and juicy rib-eyes, the choices abound. If a mouthwatering baked cheesy pasta is more your style, we've got you covered. And for those opting for simplicity, explore our quick, one-skillet recipes that will still mark the day with a feeling of celebration and warmth.

No matter how your family celebrates, boy, do we have a Christmas Eve dinner idea for you. (Fifty of them to be exact!) From the fragrant aromas of slow-roasting meat to the comforting burble of a cheesy baked pasta, each of these dishes will add a special touch to your festive gathering. Whatever your Christmas Eve preferences may be, this compilation promises a memorable meal that will set the tone for the holiday season.

Get ready to elevate your Christmas Eve dinner to a whole new level with this curated collection of fifty delicious recipes.

Beef Wellington

Don’t let the lengthy process intimidate you — a classic Beef Wellington is a labor of love that’s well worth the effort. Seared beef tenderloin is covered with a finely chopped paste of mushrooms, shallots, garlic and butter (duxelles), wrapped in puff pastry, then baked until golden. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the beef is perfectly tender before cutting into that highly awaited first-slice.

Easy Lasagna

Pull out all the stops with this shortcut lasagna that’ll taste like it took all day to make. Good news — it didn’t. Layer jarred marinara sauce with ricotta, pre-shredded mozzarella, cooked sausage, ground beef and onions with dried lasagna noodles. The uncooked lasagna sheets will become al dente while submerged right in the cheesy sauce and baked in the oven.

This Italian restaurant menu staple is shockingly easy to make at home in just one skillet. First, sear shrimp until pink, then immediately set aside to avoid overcooking. Then combine a healthy amount of chili flakes with onion, garlic, oregano, diced canned tomatoes and clam juice to create the flavorful spicy sauce. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Holiday Glazed Spiral Ham

Nothing says the holidays like a spiral ham in the center of the table. Instead of a store-bought spice packet, dress it up with a glaze made with maple syrup, molasses, mustard, apple cider, red curry paste and garlic. Round out this sweet-yet-savory main with an assortment of your favorite side dishes.

Cacio e Pepe

The beauty of cacio e pepe lies in its simplicity, so don’t over complicate it. Pecorino Romano, freshly cracked black pepper, butter and pasta water meld to coat the noodles in a silky smooth sauce. As with any great Italian dinner, be sure to pair this rich pasta dish with a glass of wine.

If you’re celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes, this seafood pasta dish is a must. Wide tagliatelle is piled high with clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari in a white wine sauce, and flecked with sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced chiles and fresh herbs.

Perfect Oven-Cooked Steak

Take cookbook author Ali Rosen’s advice and use her oven method for making perfectly cooked steak. For foolproof rib-eyes, cook them in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 115 F, then crank up the broiler and get the outsides charred with gorgeous crispy bits.

Spaghetti with Shrimp Fra Diavolo

There’s just something about serving seafood that makes a meal feel celebratory. Plump shrimp are the star of this deceivingly simple pasta dish made with a spicy tomato butter sauce. Once you realize how easy this is to make for Christmas Eve, you’ll want to have it on regular weeknights too.

Welcome dinner guests with the savory aroma of this elevated beef stew. For a wow-worthy main course, braise beef short ribs until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender. Serve over mashed potatoes to sop up every last drop of the flavorful braising liquid.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a welcome addition to any holiday spread and if you bring this baked version, you’ll definitely earn your seat at the table. Pro tip: don’t skimp out on the cheese. Sharp yellow or white cheddar, Gruyere or Swiss, all work wonders here. Make it ahead, cover and store in the fridge until it’s showtime and bake until bubbling.

Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving! Switch up your typical bird recipe with this Latin-inspired marinade made with peppers, paprika, garlic, cilantro and orange juice. Coat the turkey with an herby compound butter seasoned with thyme, oregano and paprika to keep the meat juicy. To take it over the top, brush the bird with guava jam before broiling for the ultimate sticky-sweet glaze.

Creamy Lobster Linguine

Giada De Laurentiis swears by this creamy lobster linguine recipe for a holiday feast. For the sauce, crisp bacon, shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes in a skillet, then stir in tomato purée and cream. Toss in pre-cooked linguine, grated Parmesan, pasta water, arugula, fresh herbs, peas and steamed lobster for a restaurant-worthy recipe at home.

Think of your slow-cooker like a sous chef. For a delectable pot roast, start by searing chuck roast in a hot skillet. Once nice and brown, place the meat in the slow cooker and top with onion, carrots, celery, beer, stock, herbs and spices and let it cook while you wrap presents and set the table.

This swordfish recipe might sound like a dish you’d order off a restaurant specials list, but wait until you learn how simple it is to make at home. Sear swordfish steaks until charred and cooked through, then serve atop a bed of sautéed eggplant, bell peppers, onion, celery, garlic, anchovies and capers for a burst of punchy flavor in every bite.

You can’t go wrong with a simple-yet-stunning roast chicken for Christmas Eve dinner. In Curtis Stone’s wine country-inspired recipe, roasted clusters of red grapes add a welcome hint of sweetness to balance out the creamy burrata and buttery white wine reduction.

Holiday Prime Rib Roast

Treat your guests to a rib roast this holiday season — the kind of cut you’d only serve on special occasions. As impressive as it is to serve, with just six ingredients (prime rib roast, black pepper, salt, garlic, rosemary and olive oil), rib roast isn’t all that difficult to make. Be sure to choose bone-in roast for the juiciest results.

Cider-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Plum Chutney

Crack open a can of hard cider to make this cider-roasted pork tenderloin. Along with maple syrup, fennel, peppercorns, coriander, ginger, rosemary and cinnamon, the cider makes a festive marinade for the meat. Once cooked, serve warm with roasted plum chutney for holiday flair.

This no-cook tomato sauce is music to a stressed-out-host’s ears. Boil homemade or store-bought cheese ravioli and toss in a simple sauce made of roughly chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil. The residual heat from the hot ravioli will cause garlic and herbs to bloom, adding even more aromatic flavor in every bite.

Skip that trip to the steakhouse this Christmas Eve. Here’s a foolproof technique to use on expensive cuts of steak like rib-eye: the reverse sear. Bake the steaks first at a low temperature, then sear for buttery, tender slices of meat.

Herbed Pork Tenderloins with Apple Chutney

In Ina we trust. Use Garten’s method to ensure that your pork tenderloins turn out utterly juicy and tender. Ina seasons her pork with rosemary and thyme, then wraps it in prosciutto before roasting. Instead of jarred applesauce, take this recipe up a notch with a homemade apple chutney made with Granny Smith apples, onion, ginger, orange juice, raisins and brown sugar.

Fire up the grill to make this show-stopping leg of lamb. The prep is simple: marinate the meat in a mixture of mint, lemon zest and juice, chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil. Be sure to reserve some dressing for drizzling over the finished lamb.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Roasting a whole chicken is always worth the effort — but this recipe is surprisingly low-fuss. To make this chicken a stand-out, rub with garlic butter and coat with salt, pepper and tarragon, lemon juice and white wine. Then serve over cherry tomatoes roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Celebrate Christmas Eve, Greek-style. Season a boneless leg of lamb with rosemary, oregano, lemon zest and garlic and rest over halved baby potatoes and a lemony broth. As the meat and potatoes cook together all in one pot, make homemade tzatziki with grated cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and fresh mint.

Spicy Lobster with Linguine and Mint

Martha Stewart’s recipe for spicy lobster with linguine is as impressive as it sounds. First, steam lobsters in water and vodka until they turn bright red. Remove the meat, making sure to keep the claw meat intact, then serve atop linguine tossed in a simple tomato sauce. Garnish with freshly torn mint and enjoy for Christmas Eve dinner.

Spiced Cider Glazed Ham

As this large spiral ham cooks, make a glaze with cider, maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar and the secret ingredient: pumpkin spice. Coat the ham with this warming glaze and continue baking until the meat is caramelized. After the big meal, save the leftover ham bone to add to pea or lentil soup after the holiday madness subsides.

Cioppino with Roasted Garlic Bread

This fancy-sounding seafood stew was popularized by Italian-American immigrants in San Francisco. Cook fennel, onion and jalapeños in a tomato-based, white wine broth. Then steam clams, mussels, shrimp and cod in intervals until cooked. As an added homage to the Golden State, this recipe also calls for local Dungeness crab and is served with roasted sourdough garlic bread.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Let endlessly customizable mac and cheese serve as a blank canvas this Christmas Eve. For this version, use a blend of sharp cheddar, Parmesan, pepper jack, then fold in large chunks of buttery, poached lobster meat. Top with more Parmesan and cook until brown and bubbly.

Linguine with Clams

Alex Guarnaschelli’s spaghetti alla vongole recipe is a tribute to her late mother. Dry white wine, clam juice, garlic lemon juice and butter combine to form a silky sauce. Steam four pounds of Littlenecks in the briny sauce, then toss with cooked linguine, scallions and fresh parsley before serving.

Why make linguine and clams when you can make linguine with clams and mussels?! Cook littlenecks and mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce. Serve with linguine dressed with a bright salsa verde made with parsley, chives, fennel, capers, garlic, lemon zest, mint and olive oil.

All you need to make Al Roker’s favorite holiday dinner is three pounds of tri-color potatoes, two racks of lamb, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast the potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper, then sear the lamb chops in a hot cast iron skillet before finishing off in the oven. Dinner is served!

Every great holiday dinner starts with a bountiful appetizer spread. Take a page out of Katie Lee Biegel’s book and make this creamy clam chowder dip to enjoy before the main event. Guests will love the festive presentation of the hot dip served in a sourdough bread bowl — perfect for ripping and dipping.

Classic Parmesan Risotto

If you have arborio rice and chicken stock in your pantry, you’re less than an hour away from the perfect side dish for your holiday main. This creamy Parmesan risotto requires just 45 minutes of active time — and it’s mostly idle stirring. Spoon hot broth ladleful by ladleful until the rice soaks up all the liquid and becomes creamy. Fold in Parmesan at the last minute, season and serve.

Chicken Paillard Saltimbocca

Chicken paillard meets veal saltimbocca in this impressive mash-up of an entrée. To make it, crisp up prosciutto and sage, then cook a thin chicken cutlet until brown. Serve topped with arugula dressed with lemony olive oil, crispy prosciutto, sage and balsamic.

Slow-cooker to the rescue! Use your slow-cooker to make an easy marinara sauce with onion, canned crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and spices. After rolling your meatballs, place them in the sauce, then set and forget until the meatballs are cooked. Once done, remove the meatballs and replace with water and spaghetti. Cover with the lid while the noodles cook, then serve.

Carbone's Meatballs

You don’t need an elusive reservation to make these Carbone restaurant-style meatballs at home. The secret to these coveted beauties is a blend of ground beef, veal and sweet Italian sausage. Instead of breadcrumbs, homemade croutons are softened in whole milk and stirred into the meatball mixture. The soaked bread makes them tender and keeps the meatballs from falling apart.

Shrimp Scampi with Bucatini

Garlic, butter, lemon juice, shrimp — what could be bad?! Cook the shrimp first (this will prevent it from getting rubbery). Set the shrimp aside and whip together the signature sauce by deglazing the pan with wine and adding garlic, butter and red pepper flakes. Add lemon juice, then reduce the sauce before adding in cooked pasta and prepared shrimp.

Baked Gnocchi Alla Vodka

Vodka sauce fans, give that box of penne a break and swap it for store-bought gnocchi. Stir a package of pillowy gnocchi into homemade vodka sauce, then top with more cheese and Parmesan-panko breadcrumbs. Finish this family-friendly casserole under the broiler for a stunning baked pasta dish you’ll want to pile on your plate.

Best Eggplant Parmesan

A good eggplant Parmesan is truly a labor of love — but it’s worth it for a beloved holiday entrée. First peel and salt the eggplant to draw out some of its natural moisture. (No one likes a soggy Parm!) Then, roast the eggplant before layering with panko, mozzarella, and marinara. Patience is the name of the game here. The eggplant is ready when the top layer of cheese is browned and bubbling.

Chicken Milanese

The perfect chicken Milanese hinges on the platonic ideal of a chicken cutlet. To achieve that level of perfection, coat a thin chicken cutlet in flour, egg and breadcrumbs before frying in good olive oil. You’ll know it’s done by the color of the breading — it should be evenly golden brown. Fry them off and serve with a simply dressed arugula salad.

The secret to restaurant-quality scallops is a searing hot pan. Place dry, salted sea scallops a layer of oil in a scorching hot pan. They’ll be ready to flip once a crust forms on the bottom (1 to 3 minutes). For added flavor, add butter and thyme to the pan and baste the scallops.

Peking-Style Roast Duck

Peking-style roast duck was made to serve a crowd. This version is marinated with honey, dark soy sauce, Chinese five spice and brown sugar, which gives the skin a caramelized sweetness. Pro tip: poke small holes in the skin for optimal crispiness.

Red Wine Spaghetti

Wine isn’t just for drinking this holiday season — it’s also for cooking! To make this visually stunning pasta dish, sauté butter and garlic, then deglaze the pot with an entire bottle of light-bodied red wine and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta directly in the wine (yes, seriously) until al dente and finish with butter, pine nuts, feta, lemon juice and herbs.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Make a giant pot of Manhattan clam chowder (the red one!) for a delightful first course. Loaded with bacon, celery, potatoes, carrots, peppers, onions, and littleneck clams, this soup will just quell your hunger before diving into the rest of the mains.

This slow-cooker chicken and dumplings recipe is comfort in a bowl. Make the chicken stew base with stock, onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, green beans and thyme. The dumplings mixture is simple: Bisquick, milk and chives. Small spoonfuls of dumplings will expand and rise to the top as it cooks.

Quinn Daly's Chicken Potpies

Few meals are as craveable and cozy as chicken pot pie, with its creamy chicken and veggie-stuffed filling and golden brown crust. This mini recipe makes for a fun presentation, but can easily be turned into larger portions by baking the dough and filling in two pie pans instead of individual ramekins.

Tamales Oaxaqueños

If this is your first time making tamales from scratch, follow this recipe by Rick Martînez, straight out of his cookbook Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico. The multi-step process is best made with a few sous chefs, so recruit your family to divide and conquer.

Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

This cozy pasta dish will warm you from the inside out. Cook jumbo shells in salted boiling water but remove while still firm. Stuff with a ricotta filling that’s seasoned with grated Parmesan, nutmeg, basil and a beaten egg. Nestle the shells in a baking dish with marinara and cheese, then bake and broil to finish.

Coq au Vin with Spaetzle

Feeling ambitious? Make this classic French braised coq au vin, inspired by a menu item at Café Boulud in Manhattan. The secret to the intensely flavorful braising liquid is reducing two full bottles of red wine. Serve the finished braise with buttery spaetzle, which is deceptively simple to make from scratch.

Skillet Caprese Chicken

Take the ingredients from classic Caprese salad — tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and basil — and transform them into a delectable accompaniment for chicken breasts. Cook chicken, then add tomatoes, garlic and capers into the pan, stirring frequently to release the fond. Top the chicken with pesto and mozzarella and cook until melted.

Low and slow is the name of the game for this roasted salmon recipe from Eric Ripert. First, season a salmon filet with white pepper, dill, lemon zest and olive oil. Let the flavors meld in the fridge for an hour, then bake in the oven until the fish is cooked through and tender.