Recipe updated May 23, 2013.
Simply Recipes reader Alton Hoover sent me his favorite recipe for lasagna which he has been cooking up since college days. His original recipe created enough lasagna for a small army so I halved it. What is posted here will easily serve 8 people. From what I can tell the secret behind Alton’s lasagna is the addition of a little sugar to the sauce and using a bit more cheese than most other recipes. There are a few minor tweeks to his original recipe that I found necessary, for example adding a dash of wine vinegar to the sauce and changing the amount of Parm.
- Olive oil
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium onion, diced, about 3/4 cup
- 1/2 large bell pepper (green, red, or yellow), seeds and veins removed, diced, about 3/4 cup
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/2 6 oz can (3 oz) tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (preferably flat leaf), packed
- 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
- Pinch of garlic powder and/or garlic salt
- 1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp to 1/4 cup sugar (to taste, optional)
- 1/2 lb dry lasagna noodles (requires 9 lasagna noodles - unbroken)
- 15 ounces Ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 lb (24 ounces) Mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
- 1/4 lb (4 ounces) freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Large skillet (for browning beef, onions, green pepper)
- 8 to 12 Qt pot (for noodles)
- 3 to 4 Qt pot (simmer sauce)
- 13" x 9" x 2" lasagna pan (preferably a pyrex or stainless lasagna pan. Do Not Use Aluminum Pans - the aluminum will react with the acidic tomato sauce, leaching the aluminum and ruining the taste of your lasagna sauce.)
- Large colander (drain/blot beef, drain noodles)
- Large baking pan (to cool noodles)
- Large slotted cooking spoon
- Large cooking spoon
- Paring knife
1 Put a large pot of salted water (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water) on the stovetop on high heat. It can take a while for a large pot of water to come to a boil (this will be your pasta water), so prepare the sauce in the next steps while the water is heating.
2 Heat about a teaspoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the lean ground beef and cook it in the skillet until lightly browned and cooked through. Put a few layers of paper towels in large bowl. With slotted spoon, remove the browned beef from the skillet, draining off the excess beef fat, and put the browned beef on top of the paper towels to help blot away the excess fat. After you have removed all the browned beef from the skillet, drain off and dispose of excess fat. (If your ground beef is sufficiently lean, there won't be any excess fat to drain.)
3 Add the diced bell pepper and onions to skillet (in the photo we are using yellow bell pepper and red onions). Brown for a few minutes on medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the browned beef back to the skillet, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for 5 more minutes stirring frequently.
4 Transfer browned beef, bell peppers and onions to a medium sized (3 to 4 quart) pot. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes. Add oregano, parsley, Italian seasoning, adjust amounts to taste. Add a pinch of garlic powder and/or a pinch of garlic salt, to taste. Add a splash of red or white wine vinegar. Add sugar a tablespoon at a time, until desired level of sweetness, no more than 1/4 cup of sugar. Note that it is hard to follow a pure recipe when it comes to pasta sauce. One Italian spice mix is not like the other, nor is one can of tomato sauce like another. So you really do need to taste the sauce as you are adding the spices, sugar and vinegar, and adjust for your preference. Add salt to taste, and note that you will later be adding Parmesan, which is salty.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and lower the heat to low to maintain a low simmer. Cook for 15-45 minutes to thicken (do not scorch bottom, stir frequently). Remove from heat.
5 By now the salted water you started heating in step one should be boiling. Add the dry lasagna noodles and cook then per package directions (al dente). (Note noodles may be cooked in advance.) Stir often to prevent from sticking. Make sure that water remains at a full rolling boil during the entire cooking to prevent noodles from sticking. When ready, drain in a colander and rinse with cool water, gently separating any noodles that may be sticking together. Spread a little olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet, and lay out the cooked noodles on this sheet, turning them over so that they get coated with a little of the olive oil. This will prevent them from sticking together.
6 In a 13x9x2-inch casserole or lasagna dish, ladle one cup of sauce and spread it along the bottom of the pan. Apply one layer noodles 3 length wise (edge may overlap, depending on your pan). Ladle a third of the remaining sauce over the noodles. Apply a layer of a third of the mozzarella on top of lasagna sauce. Add half of the ricotta cheese, by placing cheese dollops every 2 inches. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese in thin even layer on top of ricotta cheese.
Apply second layer of noodles, top it with half of the remaining sauce. Add half of the remaining Mozzarella, the remaining ricotta cheese, and another thin sprinkling of Parmesan. Finish with another layer of noodles. Spread the remaining sauce over the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
7 Tent lasagna pan with aluminum foil (not touching noodles or sauce). Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
May be reheated in conventional oven or microwave. Leave aluminum tent on for storage. (Do not allow aluminum to touch the sauce, as it the acid may cause the aluminum to leach into the sauce.)