So once upon a time, my husband and I lived close to my awesome brother-in-law Peter and his equally cool wife Stephanie. Peter lived in Italy for a couple of years and while he was there, he learned to make fabulous lasagna. Like real Italian lasagna. Now granted, I’ve been about as far out of the country as Disney Cruise Line takes you on a four-night journey, so I’m taking Peter’s word for it here. But I can say that it tastes just like the lasagna I’ve had in little, homey Italian cafes–you know, those ones where you feel like you’re sitting in your Grandma’s kitchen. So take that for what it’s worth.

Anyway, when we lived close to them, they would make this lasagna for special occasions and get-togethers. And then they moved away and I realized I would have to make it myself if I wanted to eat it, like, ever again because when we do see them these days, it usually involves high-stress situations like Ikea on a Saturday or 10 adults and 3 times as many progeny running around the in-laws’ house.
As I was putting this together, it dawned on me that I didn’t even ask if I could post Peter’s famous lasagna recipe and that it was too late to change my plans. So guys, please don’t flog me at the wedding in May. Stephanie, you’re gorgeous. Peter, you’re a genius. And either way, now you’re both semi-famous :) I hope I haven’t screwed it up too badly…
I split this recipe into two parts because a) it can be overwhelming to make the whole lasagna at once, so it really helps to make the sauce a day or two in advance if you need to and b) you can use the sauce by itself on pasta. If you plan on making this for Valentine’s Day, I strongly encourage you to make the sauce ahead of time so you can actually enjoy the day with your sweetie! That is, of course, unless he’s in the doghouse and it’s his turn to do the dishes.
Handsome, Talented, Genius Peter’s (Husband of Gorgeous and Equally Talented Stephanie) Pasta and Lasagna Sauce
1/2 lb. ground beef or Italian sausage
2 15-oz. cans Italian-style diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
3-4 (which is 5-6 in Kate Language) cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped or grated
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tsp. sugar
About 1/4 tsp. baking soda (this neutralizes the acid)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan or skillet with a lid, brown ground beef (or sausage), onions, and garlic until meat is cooked and onions are tender. Now…about the veggies…some men (and I’m sure some ladies) might balk at the idea of vegetables in their Man Food. If you’re not a fan of chunky vegetables in your lasagna,

you could try grating them or tossing them in your food processor and letting Ms. Cuisinart do all the hard work. That way, you’ll still get the hearty flavor and nutrients of the vegetables, but no one really has to know.

Anyway, add the remaining ingredients to the cooked meat, stir, and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, remove from heat, and stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the recipe!
If you’re planning on making lasagna, here are the rest of the ingredients that you’ll need:
–12 no-boil lasagna noodles
–2 1/2 c. milk
–1/4 c. flour
–16 oz. tub of Ricotta cheese
–8 oz. shredded Mozarella (plus a little more for on top if you feel the urge)
–4 oz. fresh Parmesan
–1 egg
So what are YOU planning on making for Valentine’s Day dinner? And who’s brave enough to go
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