Comfort and Joy: Famous Chefs Share Christmas Recipes

Photo: Nightline Platelist: Gavin KaysenPlayThomas Krakowiak/ABC News
WATCH Nigella Lawson's Yuletide Pleasures

Nothing radiates the Christmas spirit as warmly as holiday food favorites. Whether it's baking sugar cookies with grandma in her cozy kitchen, or gathering the family around the dinner table for a Christmas kielbasa, everyone has their own twist on holiday recipes, including famous chefs.

But it's not just the memories made from making these decadent holiday treats and meals; it's the giving and sharing food that we treasure.

From their kitchens to yours, "Nightline" has collected favorite holiday traditions -- food and otherwise -- from our Platelist-featured chefs: Nigella Lawson, Andrew Carmellini, Gavin Kayson and Joey Campanaro.

Nigella Lawson Cooks From Family Traditions

British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson said she revisited the Christmas traditions she grew up with to write her holiday cookbook, "Nigella Christmas," including her family's most tense holiday moments.

"I come from a very big family," she said. "My mother would cry every Christmas Eve, because she'd taken on too much and everything was on top of her, and it was very high-stress. And I suppose I know how stressful it can be, so I want to try to make a less stressful holiday season."

Nigella Lawson Christmas

Lawson's cookbook hosts recipes for everything from an extravagant Christmas feast to a simple cocktail party, including her delicious butternut squash orzotto. It also comes complete with menus, planning tips and ideas for handling leftovers. The chef also said she fondly remembers the smaller traditions of her childhood Christmases, even if her own children aren't as impressed.

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions to Lawson's recipes.

"When I was a child -- and I constantly bore my children with this -- we didn't have huge presents like people get now," she said. "If we were lucky, we'd get a Christmas stocking and it would be mostly filled with satsuma's, as far as I can remember, and a few paper dolls that you dress by putting little tags on, and foil-covered chocolate coins."

Certain tastes and smells from various holiday treats also create nostalgia for Lawson. Some in particular are the ingredients in the British dish, bread sauce.

The Scents of Christmas Bring on Nostalgia

"There's something that sounds so disgusting to non-Brits, which is bread sauce. It's really delicious, I promise you. But really it's like a savory bread pudding. And you cook stale bread in milk that's been scented, you know, just sort of out-of-shell nutmeg and a clove and bay leaf and an onion, and just that smell to me, that sort of milky clove and bay leaf, is the smell of Christmas to me. And I remember that just from probably before I could speak."

Andrew Carmellini's Christmas from the Old County

Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, which he calls "the culinary capital of the world," chef Andrew Carmellini said he was brought up by parents who didn't considered themselves "foodies" but who just "wanted to eat good stuff."

Half-Polish, half-Italian, Carmellini's early memories of eating tasty dishes, such as his marinated chicken alla Griglia with his extended family during the holidays began with preparing foods from the old country.

Andrew Carmellini Christmas

"Christmas was always spent with the Polish [side]," he said, "and that meant kielbasa. So, about two weeks before Christmas, everyone gets together in my uncle's garage, and they make kielbasa, which is not so much about making kielbasa as it is about, you know, putting on a winter coat, going into the garage and drinking whiskey and beer, but that whole process ... was always a good time."

Now a renowned chef and restaurant owner in New York City, Carmellini said he first kicked off his cooking career in his mother's kitchen, and then took his first restaurant job at age 14.

"I was kind of hyper-active, so my mom says, and cooking calmed my nerves," he said. "But I liked it. I did some baking, I did some cooking, started working in restaurants."

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions to Carmellini's recipes.

Gavin Kaysen's Christmas Cookie Memories

Gavin Kaysen said his passion for cooking grew from baking cookies with his grandmother during the holidays, long before he was the executive chef of Café Boulud in New York City -- owned by the famous French chef David Boulud.

Gavin Kaysen Christmas
"My grandmother was my biggest influence as far as cooking," he said. "I mean, I still have the rolling pin that we used to make cookies with every Christmas. I started baking cookies with her when I was seven. I asked for an Easy-Bake oven when I was seven as well. Of course, I never had the patience to watch the brownie cook, so I would just eat the raw dough. You know how long it takes to cook with that light bulb? It's terrible!"

Despite being a native of sunny California, Kaysen reflected on one of his favorite Christmas memories -- making a special Norwegian cookie with his grandmother.

"We used to make sun-buckles and all of these cookies when we were kids. It's a Norwegian cookie, it's like a sugar cookie, but it's a certain shape. And I remember we never had enough space on the table, so we would make the cookies on her ironing board. We'd break out the ironing board and put a cloth on it and make cookies."

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions to Kaysen's recipes.

Joey Campanaro's Big Italian Christmas

Christmas in the Campanaro household is a family production, with lots of tasty home-cooked meals and quirky traditions.

One childhood holiday tradition the chef and restaurant owner Joey Campanaro has continued to this day is eating fish on Christmas Eve, a practice that stemmed from his Roman Catholic, Italian-American upbringing.

"They call it the feast of seven fishes," he said. "We don't really practice it that strictly but what we do do is we make this dish called spaghetti and clams with shrimp."

CLICK HERE for step-by-step instructions to Campanaro's recipes.

His brother Louie Campanaro -- who is also a chef -- and their mother, will both help take on the Christmas cooking duties alongside him in the kitchen.

"I do a dish, he'll do a dish, my mom will do a dish," Campanaro said. "My grandmother isn't with us anymore, but the only thing she did was make the cookies."

Big family dinners used to be a mainstay for his family, but now getting together for the holidays takes a bit of effort. But it's worth it, he said, to try and keep some semblance of tradition for the family's youngest generation.

Joey Campanaro Christmas

"It won't exactly be the same," Campanaro said. "But I'll definitely put on [an] album … 'Mob Hits' or something like that. I'll put the old Italian songs on, we'll play some Louie Prima, some Frank Sinatra, and my mother will probably smack my brother Michael in his face again."

That last bit is somewhat of a funny dinnertime tradition in the Campanaro family.

"My brother Michael likes to get the attention so he tries in many ways to be charismatic and get the attention and sometimes my mother doesn't always approve," he said. "And he always used to sit to the right of her at the dinner table and that was -- she had her rings on that finger -- so a lot of times … before we sat down and Mikey was feeling a little attention needy, he would say, 'Ma, take your rings off' before we sat down.''

To bring the hearty dishes from home into his restaurant, Little Owl, in New York City, Campanaro said he plans his menus from what's available at the market, dictated by the season -- including the holiday season.

"In December you're not gonna buy asparagus from Chile, so I do the best I can to get things that are local," he said. "But most of the things that I get, if I get them from the green market or if I get a produce market to get it for me, they're getting it from the same place."