15 Hands-Off Dinner Recipes to Make During the Holiday Season

grandma's bolognese
Photo: The Ingalls

Leave these family-friendly dinner recipes to cook while you tackle holiday prep like online shopping or gift wrapping.

01 of 15
Lasagna in Pan
Justin Walker

The holiday season is an undeniably hectic—albeit cheerful—time. From decking the halls for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa to baking cookies, wrapping presents, sending holiday cards, and meeting Santa, you likely have a lengthy holiday to-do list. To help ease your stress, we've rounded up 15 hands-off dinner recipes that your whole family will love. Each recipe here takes longer than we'd usually go for on a weeknight, but the trick is that each dish either roasts, stews, braises, or bakes so the cooking is hands-off. That means you can tackle some of your tasks while dinner is in the oven (or in some cases, a slow-cooker).

One of the ultimate hands-off dinner recipes is lasagna, and we have two recipes that will wow. The first is our Lasagna with Meat Sauce, pictured here. It's a total classic with a hearty meat filling of Italian sausage and ground beef, plus a trio of cheeses. You can assemble the entire lasagna in advance and bake it any night of the week. It spends about an hour and a half in the oven, which gives you plenty of time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Looking for something lighter that your vegetarian family members can enjoy? Try our Mushroom-Eggplant Lasagna; the two vegetables pair with three kinds of cheese for an irresistible plant-based entrée.

Another hands-off dinner recipe that we love anytime of the year—but especially on chilly winter nights—is this Italian Pulled Pork. Instead of the usual super saucy version that's mixed with lots of barbecue sauce, our recipe is accented with a handful of earthy, aromatic spices that lets the flavor of boneless pork shoulder shine.

When you're worried about getting everything done in time for the holiday season, remember these hands-off dinner recipes. They're guaranteed to make your week more delicious and more enjoyable.

02 of 15

Light and Bright Beef Stew

Light and Bright Beef Stew
Con Poulos

This twist on classic beef stew is made with white wine and chicken broth instead of the usual red wine and beef broth. Parsnips and sweet potatoes bring their own vibrant hue—let everything simmer together for about 90 minutes while you wrap gifts or send out holiday cards.

03 of 15

Sausage-and-Kale Stuffed Shells

Sausage-and-Kale-Stuffed Shells
Justin Walker

Looking for a make-ahead wonder that you can have on hand whenever you don't have time to cook? This family-friendly baked pasta dish is packed with hearty winter ingredients and 100 percent delicious.

04 of 15

Grandma's Bolognese

hand-cranked pasta served on a gray plate
The Ingalls

A trio of flavorful meat—ground pork, ground beef, and pancetta—take this classic Bolognese to the next level. Let it simmer for about an hour while you get ready for the holidays.

05 of 15

Instant Pot Carnitas

instant pot carnitas cabbage tortillas
Bryan Gardner

The Instant Pot is the ultimate appliance for hands-off dinners. In this recipe, boneless pork shoulder stews with plenty of spices (think: dried oregano, ground cumin, cayenne pepper) plus bright citrus juice.

06 of 15

Easy Beef Chili

easy beef chili with sour cream in bowl

On a cold winter night and after a busy day of shopping, there's nothing like a comforting bowl of chili. While it simmers and the flavors marry, it's the perfect time to tackle your holiday to-do list.

07 of 15

Slow-Cooker White-Bean Soup

Lennart Weibull

Vegans will adore this hearty winter soup that's made with white beans, butternut squash, spinach, and leeks. It's just the type of comforting, nourishing meal that everyone craves during the holidays.

08 of 15

Italian Pulled Pork

italian pulled pork
Linda Pugliese

Spices including fennel, sage, rosemary, thyme—plus plenty of garlic—accent boneless pork shoulder. Instead of serving it between potato rolls like the usual pulled pork, we serve this dish with ciabatta for even more Italian-inspired flair.

09 of 15

Baked Chicken Legs with Chickpeas, Olives, and Greens

baked chicken legs with chickpeas olives and greens
Johnny Miller

While this Mediterranean chicken bakes in the oven, you'll have plenty of time to frost sugar cookies, decorate your tree, or tackle other holiday planning.

10 of 15

Instant Pot Turkey Chili

instant-pot turkey chili and add-ins
Bryan Gardner

Using ground turkey instead of the usual ground beef lightens up a fan-favorite—chili. Chickpeas are an added healthy source of protein and the best part is, you can manage other holiday prep while it cooks.

11 of 15

Mushroom-Eggplant Lasagna

Mushroom and Eggplant Lasagna
Bryan Gardner

This spectacular lasagna recipe is layered with chopped cremini mushrooms and eggplant and a three-cheese blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's a flavorful, vegetarian-friendly version of the classic meat filling.

12 of 15

Slow-Cooker Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic

chicken with garlic
Stephen Kent Johnson

Inspired by the traditional French recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, this recipe cuts the amount in half but still packs in plenty of savory, earthy flavor. It cooks on low in a slow-cooker for five hours, giving you plenty of time to head out the door and get your shopping done.

13 of 15

Roast Chicken with Lemony Harissa Glaze

roast chicken lemon harissa glaze
Johnny Miller

Roast chicken may sound like a fancy, special-occasion meal but in fact, it's the perfect hands-off weeknight recipe while you're working from home. Let the bird come to room temperature for about an hour, which helps the meat to cook evenly; then it roasts for 45 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

14 of 15

Massaman Curry

massaman curry
Bryan Gardner

The warm, comforting power of this beef curry can't be denied. It's all thanks to Massaman curry paste, fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

15 of 15

Slow-Cooker Ribollita

slow cooker ribollita
Stephen Kent Johnson

Enjoy a taste of Italy with our take on the delicious Tuscan bread soup. It makes use of green vegetables like Lacinato kale and zucchini plus tomatoes, cranberry beans, and country bread for a savoy scoop of soup.

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