Christmas Cavatini

I know that most families have their big Christmas celebration on Christmas Day.  My family is a bit different because we have always had our big celebration on Christmas Eve.  Everyone gathers at my Mom and Dad’s house and we have dinner, open presents, play with the kids, and have hot coco and Christmas cookies.  We also hide a pickle ornament on the tree and have a contest to see who can find it.  Believe me, it’s odd to explain that one to people who have never heard of the tradition before.  My Dad and I also have to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at some point during Christmas, whether it be before bed on Christmas Eve or in the afternoon on Christmas.  On Christmas Day we laze around, have brunch with Grandma, and eventually we make it over to my sister’s house to celebrate with her family and her in-laws.

My family always makes one of two dishes for Christmas Eve dinner: fondue or cavatini.  Cavatini is my personal favorite, and since this year is a fondue year I thought I’d share our recipe with you. The family has been making this casserole forever and ever.  Well, for at least 20 years or so that I can recall. So, I’m not sure how we originally came by the recipe. We will occasionally make cavatini other times of the year too as it is a great dish to feed a crowd or freeze for later.

•1 lb. ground beef
•1 small onion, chopped
•1 green pepper, chopped
•8 oz. can mushrooms, drained
•32 oz. of your favorite spaghetti sauce
•8 oz. tomato juice
•1 teaspoon oregano
•6 oz. sliced pepperoni
•1 1/2 cups corkscrew pasta
•1 1/2 cups wagon wheel pasta
•16 oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook the pasta until al dente.  Drain, but do not rinse.  Meanwhile, brown the ground beef, onion and green pepper together in a Dutch oven until the beef is cooked through.  Drain, if necessary.  Mix in the cooked pasta, mushrooms, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, oregano, and pepperoni.  Spread into a 9×13 baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir, and then bake for another 20 minutes.  Cover with cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbly.  Serve with salad and garlic bread or breadsticks.

What are some of your Christmas traditions and foods?

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