Peter’s Pasta and Lasagna Sauce

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
woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I was wondering if you are able to can this recipe without the sausage. I have tried this recipe and I love it. I would love to make it in large batches and have it ready to go in a jar. Please let me know. Thanks

    1. Chandra, we don’t know the answer to that. I would recommend asking your local extension office to be sure.

    1. I probably wouldn’t–it’s definitely worth the inconvenience factor! 🙂

  2. Made this 2 times last week. I used the hot turkey Italian sausage and doubled it both times. I used my Pampered Chef chopper to do the veggies. My husband doesn’t like zucchini so this was a great way to include it and him not notice. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi guys, I was wanting to make this for dinner tonight and have a question. I am making the Lasagna and it has a list of ingredients after the noodles. Umm, what do I do with them? I figured out that the milk, butter and flour is for the bechamel…but what do I do with the egg? P.S. I am sooooooooo excited to try this. it looks awesome!

  4. I made this for our Bunco group on Saturday and it was a HUGE hit with the ladies! The leftovers were devoured by my family! I will definitely be making this sauce again for spaghetti as well as the lasagna. Thanks for a delicious, uncomplicated pasta sauce!!

  5. I made this last week and everyone LOVED it…So, I get to make it again, yay! Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to reading your blog!

  6. I am simmering a double batch of this right now. I just snuck a taste and it is divine! Great way to sneak veggies in to my kids diets. They will eat anything on noodles. Thanks for a great recipe! I am going to make your meatballs from another post and put them in this sauce for spaghetti one night, and lasagna another. Add in your wonderful breadsticks and I will be in heaven. When I menu plan for the week your site is the first place I come, I am never disappointed in the results! (Even though I can never use the onion, allergies, I always find a substitute that works well, in this one, extra garlic and fresh mushrooms)

  7. Kate-

    I'll admit, when I saw this recipe I was excited to try it because I love making my own sauce for lasagna but I was a bit apprehensive about all of the chunky veggies…And I have to say, Thank you soooo much for posting this sauce recipe! It is absolutely, deliciously divine! Please send forth a special thanks to your "awesome brother-in-law Peter and his equally cool wife Stephaine" for giving you permission to post his recipe.

    Our (mine and my hubby's) tummies THANK YOU FOR IT!!! 🙂 (Mmmm…leftovers will be soooo great tonight! YAY!)

  8. Hey, Lisa! What a bummer to be allergic to celery and carrots! You know, you can use any hearty vegetable in this–you could add more zucchini or throw in some eggplant or maybe even some parsnips or something like that. It's pretty flexible! 🙂

  9. This sauce sounds awesome but could I just leave out the carrots and celery (I'm highly allergic to both) or do I need to substitute something for the bulk they would make up? And would it really take down the flavor if they were left out? So many yummy things have both carrots and celery in them and I never know how to handle substitutions.
    PS – Thanks for previous help to food dilemmas!

  10. My cupboards were pretty bare today and I needed to make a meal to take to a friend who's feeling under the weather. I realized I had everything for this so I made it this morning. It was so yummy and I just boxed it up with a box of pasta and a couple loves of Rosemary Focaccia and it made an awesome and comforting meal!

  11. I just made the sauce and will be using it to make lasagna tomorrow. I think its worth making the sauce a day in advance so your house can smell fantastic for TWO days instead of one.

  12. Stephanie, you’re right–we don’t need that. Peter, you’re the kind of person who flips to the end of Harry Potter just to see who dies. And your brother thinks your buckle-y shoes are kinda girly…

  13. Kate, you’re so funny! I better not show all this to Peter or he might get a big head and then REALLY be an Italian snob! LOL!

  14. You know I’ve had Handsome, Talented, Genius Peter’s Lasagna made by Handsome, Talented, Genius Peter himself and it *is* so so yummy! I’m excited to try this.

  15. Psshh…what is Valentine’s day? We have an agreement to never celebrate Valentine’s day. Talk about commercialization! Do I WANT my hubby to buy flowers that are triple the price? No. Do I WANT to wait 2 hours to eat at any and every restaurant in town? Nope!

    But I will say that this meal looks delish and will probably make it on a non-V-Day day. 🙂

    1. That’s why we try to celebrate “special” days AFTER the commercial holiday! (When we can buy the candy for 1/4 the price) 😉 We also celebrate random days & certain holidays multiple times. Thanksgiving is one we celebrate multiple times every Autumn, because the food is so darn yummy (and there are so many options) its a shame to do it once, and because thankfulness makes for a happy family. And if a certain holiday is always spent with …er, stressful people, its nice to do a relaxed family version at home!

  16. Looks yummy! We’re just doing heart shaped pizza that night with the kiddos. We’re painting our walls all this week, so nothing fancy here!

  17. Oh, good, Stephanie–I’m so glad I’m not going to be ostracized! 🙂

    And yeah, the milk and flour is for the bechamel. Yummmmmm… 🙂

  18. Oooh, is the butter and milk for the beschamel? That’s a step I often forget and Peter is always appalled that I would forget such an essential component! And then I call him an Italian snob and tell him to be quiet and eat his dinner or fix it himself next time! hee hee

  19. Peter said that as long as he gets any royalties from the recipe that he won’t be mad. He’ll have his agent contact you. I’m kidding. We actually both laughed when I read it to him and he said it’s not really his recipe anyway – it belongs to Italy – so post away! I have to say though, it’s absolutely the BEST with sausage rather than beef, although a lot of people are used to beef in lasagna and the ricotta is ESSENTIAL! As are the veggies. I find it funny that Peter, who barely even knows what a vegetable is, makes this lasagna that’s chock full of them (although we sometimes use spinach instead of celery because we never have any). Oh, and I also have to add that the best way to use just the sauce is to bake it with some penne or mini farfalle with some mozzarella-parmesan mix broiled on top. With a side of good, toasted, cheesy garlic bread, of course. Heaven!

  20. Looking at this is making me hungry and I just had dinner an hour ago! I MUST try this recipe 🙂

  21. No way am I going out to sit in line with my honey on Valentines day. I am making delicious trifle for dessert, and maybe lasagna for the main dish, who knows.

  22. such pretty pictures! I’ve been on the search for the perfect lasagna and I can’t wait to try this. And because V-day is on Sat and my kids are allergic to so many things will probably just make heart shaped sandwiches haha! (and then maybe get take out for us)

  23. I’m very curious about the remaining ingredients listed – butter and milk?! Can’t wait.

    As for Valentine’s, I haven’t decided yet. I bought a bunch of beautiful red, yellow and orange peppers, so I’m thinking roasted peppers and chicken of some sort with crash hot potatoes on the side. Maybe some asparagus. I’m cooking for my inlaws. We already went out to Indian food last weekend for our V-day dinner – I despise going out on the actual holiday.

  24. I’m totally going to be making this! It’s great. Lasagna is Dale’s favorite too. So … we totally have Stake Conference on the 14th!! I think no one will be there … but we’ll be there with 2 of our 3 kids (we’re just leaving the oldest at home. okay, not really, he has plans, lol). I would LOVE to go out, but Dale hates crowds and is too busy right now to plan ahead like that.

  25. That looks SO delicious. Lasagna is my husband’s favorite food. This would be the perfect recipe for him. Thanks!