Great lasagna alternatives.

Continuing my little Sundance / winter weekend entertaining series… I thought I would tackle the ski-weekend entrée in a post all it’s own!

For big group dinners, and in the winter especially, it seems like the default entree is lasagna, which makes sense because it’s:

a. delicious
b. a one-pot meal
c. can be scaled as large as necessary
d. can be vegetarian
e. (and I think this is the biggie) can be made ahead of time — even frozen!


Image from Alana D. Davis.

I honestly spend hours poring over cookbooks and recipes for hours all in search of the perfect lasagna alternative… and the funny thing is… sometimes even with the best laid plans you end up making the make-ahead thing right before the door bell rings, but anyways! When you do make ahead you feel so prepared and your guests benefit as they get to enjoy you more. The great thing about all of these dishes, too, is that say you’re making something for tonight… you can double the batch and freeze half.

I’m sure you’ll think I’m completely out of my mind, but I’ve actually checked entire frozen casserole dishes and tupperwares, flying between San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The plane’s underbelly is so cold, the items are always rock solid when they get to the other end. Now that we’re in Hong Kong it’s not as feasible, but I have taken things like red pepper jelly and granola along with me to spice up menus!

So here’s my master Sundance recipe list. Hopefully it appeals to you, too, as we’re approaching the mid-end of winter and are maybe sick of soups and lasagna, but are still up for heartier, one-pot dishes.

Hazelnut and butternut squash lasagna. All the basic principals of lasagna but a very different and healthier take on it as the noodles are replaced with squash. I find it very annoying to peel hazelnuts, but otherwise it’s super easy.

Image from Romulo Yanes, Epicurious

Swedish meatballs. The meatballs can be frozen ahead of time and then you’re just left to the sauce and egg pasta day-of. Try to find some lignonberry jam, the traditional Swedish accompaniment, make your own pickles (so easy!) and you’re in business!

Moussaka. Anyone who knows me will think of this as my signature dish 🙂 It’s really close to lasagna, but not–keep the tomato sauce and stet the pasta, add ground lamb, which has a different flavor without being too different to be a crowd pleaser, and eggplant, which is both affordable and healthy. I like the Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

Chicken enchiladas. My friend Tammy gets the credit for teaching me this beloved dish. Mexican spice really adds some interest to this time of the year that can really drag on!

Cassoulet. Bacon. Sausage. Beans. Pork shoulder. And maybe even duck? Need I say more? This is a meat lovers paradise. I love the crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Image from André Baranowski for Saveur

Ratatouille. Another French classic. So much love and care goes into this dish, which is also awesome for vegetarians.

Boeuf Bourgignon. Blogged about previously here, this classic can be made several days ahead of time and also freezes well.

What are the make ahead, winter dishes that make you want to empty your plate!?

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7 responses to “Great lasagna alternatives.

  1. These all sound yummy, and I’m very curious to taste the hazelnut squash dish! Hmmmm. I can imagine digging into any of these after a cold day.

  2. Aw, thinking of these recipes brings me back to Sundance! You do such an awesome job feeding us tired masses! Thanks so much for sharing–I’m always too intimidated by finding a recipe for a large group to throw big dinner parties.

    I love minestrone soup, chili (I love recipes that incorporate beer and chipotle peppers in adobo), and meatloaf in the winter too. Not fancy, but all of them can be super easy to make, depending on which recipe you choose. Plus, Chris can improvise an awesome stir fry in under 10 minutes. Oh, and I made a huge paella recently that fed us for like a week.

  3. Everyone always loves pork bbq sandwiches, and talk about make-ahead! I’ve even found pork butt (always use the less lean roasts for this) on sale and made enough for a crowd and the freezer!

  4. actually, I love soup and a good bread to fill up a crowd. There’s also chicken and dumplings, too – mmmmm, I think I’ll put that on the menu this week.
    I made baked ziti last week. It was all the lasagna flavors, but just mixed up – so much easier than layering. I made one for us, one for the freezer. Love that convenience!

  5. Loving all these great suggestions coming in… I love how you can do carnitas in a slow cooker, too! And ziti and minestrone are all awesome ideas.

  6. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, as well as the content!. Thanks For Your article about Great lasagna alternatives. | .

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