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Sunday Family Dinner Ideas from Lisa’s Italian Kitchen

sunday family dinner ideas

As a second-generation Italian-American, Lisa grew up with the tradition of Sunday Dinner and the Sunday family dinner ideas that accompanied that tradition. For Lisa and her family, Sunday was a time to disconnect from the rest of the world and reconnect with family and friends. As Lisa raised her own three children in the United States and in Italy, she kept Sundays sacred for her family, making sure to cook together and dream together each Sunday in the kitchen. But getting your family together for Sunday dinner can be hard, especially as we all have activities, work commitments, Zoom calls, smartphones and email to manage. In her cookbook, Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?, Lisa shared her tips and advice to get your family back to the Sunday Dinner table. In this series, we share recipes for more Sunday family dinner ideas with Lisa’s Sunday Sauces.

Sunday Family Dinner Ideas from Lisa’s Italian Kitchen

Here are five tips to inform your Sunday family dinner ideas and make your planning easier, from Lisa’s cookbook Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?:

Sunday Family Dinner Idea #1

Make Sunday a priority: Thinking of Sunday family dinner ideas can be daunting if you have a busy week at work, if your children have activities, and when life happens, in general! But coming up with dinner plans should be like meditating- a dedicated time when you are able to check in with yourself, think of the fun, and enjoy being with the ones you love at the end of the week.

Sunday Family Dinner Idea #2

Plan ahead: Lisa is a huge fan of making lists and always carries a notebook with her. She keeps her Sunday family dinner ideas going by planning her shopping list early in the week, and shopping early in the morning. One of the hallmarks of planning ahead is also discussing meal ideas with your own family. Cater to favorite dishes and cravings! Lisa’s children are never shy (even as adults!) about sharing their own Sunday dinner ideas.

Sunday Family Dinner Ideas #3

Decide the menu and assign chores together: Lisa’s books are made of 52 menus, one for each Sunday of the year. With five recipes from antipasto to dessert in every menu, there is something for everyone. Buying and using Lisa’s Sunday Sauces can make involving younger members of your family – even elderly parents – much easier. An adult can hold the pot of pasta while a child uses a spatula to pour the pasta into the pan that will go in the oven. Without the need to slave away at the oven all day, you can more simply put recipes together, letting everyone feel involved in Sunday family dinner ideas.

Sunday Family Dinner Ideas #4

Keep the menu simple: Lisa’s Sunday Sauces are simple, and her cookbooks share rustic Italian recipes. As Lisa is fond of saying- this is not French food! Forget the multiple, complicated sauces in your Sunday family dinner ideas! This recipe for Pasta al Forno below is a great Sunday family dinner idea: it can be assembled in about 20 minutes, pairs well with a salad or other vegetable, and can be assembled by older or younger generations. Because the dish is so simple, you can have fun with appetizers and dessert, choosing recipes that might take more time.

Sunday Family Dinner Ideas #5

Let go and have fun!: The most important part of Sunday family dinner ideas!

Sunday Family Dinner Ideas Recipe:  Pasta al Forno with Lisa’s Three Meat Sauce and Classic Red Sauce  



Cook the pasta two minutes under cooking time on the package. Cover the bottom of a 9×13 casserole with one third of the jar of Lisa’s Classic Red Sauce.

Sunday family dinner ideas

Add the meat sauce and the remaining red sauce to the cooked pasta. Toss well.

Pouring Pasta to make Pasta al Forno for Sunday Family Dinner Ideas

Pour one layer of the pasta into the casserole, then layer the besciamella.

Adding Layers to make Pasta al Forno

Add a layer of Parmigiano.

Final Layer before Baking Sunday Family Dinner Ideas Meal

Repeat the process, then top with a final layer Parmigiano. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees until bubbly, then remove and serve.

Final Result for Sunday Family Dinner Ideas Meal

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  • Lisa Caponigri

    Lisa Caponigri is the author of This is Sunday Dinner and Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?, published by Sterling Epicure. Both of Lisa's cookbooks brim with her memories of living in Italy, both as a child and as an adult raising her own family, anecdotes about her family, regional and seasonal Italian specialties, and all the advice needed to get a spectacular Sunday Dinner on the table, every Sunday of the year. She has developed a line of prepared foods and sauces called Lisa’s Italian Kitchen. Lisa debuted on HSN and has appeared on QVC. She has also appeared on a variety of television programs, including Seattle's New Day Northwest, Good Morning Toronto, Chicago's WGNLunchbreak, and New England Cooks, to name a few. Lisa is frequently consulted as an expert in Italian lifestyle and food. Lisa Caponigri lives in South Bend, IN and travels frequently to Italy to research the latest in "la dolce vita". Visit to learn more about Lisa!

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