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 sugar to the sauce and using about twice as much cheese as 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 using a mix of red, yellow, and green peppers because I didn’t have enough green pepper on hand.
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium sweet white onion, diced
- 1/2 large bell pepper (green, red, or yellow), seeds and veins removed, diced
- 1/2 lb dry lasagna noodles (requires 9 lasagna noodles - unbroken)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 28 oz can tomato sauce
- 1/2 28 oz can (16 oz) stewed tomatoes
- 1/2 6 oz can (3 oz) tomato paste
- 1 lb Ricotta cheese
- 1 1/2 lb Mozzarella cheese (large flat square slices)
- 3/4 lb freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Spice
- Garlic Salt
- Parsley diced (fresh flat leaf preferred)
- 1 Garlic Cloves, minced
- White wine vinegar
- Large skillet (for browning beef, onions, green pepper)
- 6 Qt pot (for noodles)
- 3 Qt pot (simmer sauce)
- 13" x 9" x 2" lasagna pan (preferably a 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 wash and cool noodles)
- Large slotted cooking spoon
- Large cooking spoon
- Paring knife
1 Brown lean ground beef in skillet until lightly browned and cooked through. Put a few layers of paper towels in large bowl. With slotted spoon, remove browned beef from skillet draining off excess beef fat and put on top of blotting towels. After all the browned beef has been removed from the skillet, drain off and dispose of excess beef fat. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. (If your ground beef is sufficiently lean, there won't be any excess fat to drain.)
Add diced green pepper and onion to skillet. Brown for a few minutes on medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add browned beef back to the skillet, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for 5 more minutes stirring frequently.
2 Transfer browned beef, green pepper and onions to 3 Qt. pot. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste. Open stewed tomatoes and dice, then add to 3 Qt. pot. Add oregano, parsley, Italian Spice Mix to taste, probably 2 teaspoons of each. Add a pinch of garlic powder and a pinch of garlic salt, to taste. Add a dash of 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 not like the other. So you really do need to taste the sauce as you are adding the spices, sugar and vinegar.
Stir and allow sauce to simmer 15-45 minutes to thicken (do not scorch bottom, stir frequently). Remove from heat.
3 Cook lasagna noodles in 6 Qt. Pot per cooking directions (al dente). (Note noodles may be cooked in advance.) Stir often to prevent from sticking and be sure that water remains at a boil during the entire cooking to prevent noodles from sticking. I add Tbsp of salt to the water so the noodles are more flavorful. Drain in colander and place in a cool water filled pan to keep from drying out and sticking together.
4 In dry lasagna pan, ladle one cup of sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. Apply a layer noodles 3 length wise (edges overlapping). Ladle in sauce sparingly into center trough of 3 noodles. Apply a layer of mozzarella cheese slices on top of lasagna sauce. Place ricotta cheese dollops every 2 inches in center of noodles on top of mozzarella cheese slices, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese in thin even layer on top of ricotta cheese. Apply second layer of noodles, topping again with sauce and cheese. Finish with another layer of noodles. If you have extra sauce and cheese you can spread that over the top. Tent lasagna pan with aluminum foil (not touching noodles or sauce). Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Note - Flavor improves for second service and may be reheated in convention or microwave. Leave aluminum tent on for storage (Do not allow aluminum to touch the sauce.)
Yield: Serves 8.