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Lasagna with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce

This is a recipe I adapted years ago from Giuliano Bugialli, the famous Italian cooking instructor in Florence, Italy. This lasagna is totally homemade, from the noodles to the bechamel sauce. It contains no meat and is very light. The noodles are rolled out very thin and the recipe uses bechamel sauce instead of ricotta cheese. The tomato sauce, though, is really outstanding. The addition of red peppers to the tomatoes makes for a fuller, richer flavor and even if you do not make the lasagna, this tomato sauce is great with pasta.

There are three items in this recipe that make up this lasagna and you must make them all from scratch - the noodles, the tomato sauce and the bechamel. If this seems daunting to you, try making the tomato sauce a day ahead and refrigerate it. You can make the bechamel in the morning and refrigerate that too, until you are ready to assemble the lasagna. Have you read my older Pasta Fresca post about how to make homemade pasta? You might want to check that out. Yes, this recipe is a lot of work, but it makes the lightest, freshest lasagna you will ever taste.

Lasagna with Red Pepper Tomato Sauce 

This recipe is for an 8x8 baking pan.


For the pasta:

  • 3 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks 

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeded & coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 large can Italian San Marzano tomatoes (or plum tomatoes, if you can't find San Marzano)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley sprigs (leaves only)

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk


For the tomato sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add peppers and whole garlic and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and parsley. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. Insert immersion blender and puree sauce. (Or pour sauce into blender or food processor, puree and pour back into pot. Then go out and buy an immersion blender.) Simmer sauce until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes more. Transfer sauce to bowl and let cool. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

For the bechamel sauce:
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat, add flour and whisk. Cook for 1 minute. Add milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, whisking constantly, until sauce has thickened up. Season with salt and pepper (I use a little white pepper). It is essential that the bechamel have some salt in order for the taste to be right. Pour into large Pyrex or a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring every few minutes to prevent a skin from forming.

For the pasta:
Arrange flour in mound on work surface and make well in center. Break eggs in well. With fork, gently beat eggs and begin gradually drawing flour into the eggs. When enough flour has been incorporated to enable you to handle the dough, start kneading the dough. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. (I make this in my KitchenAid mixer, with the dough hook.)   Knead dough until smooth. If making it in mixer, when you take it out of the mixer, also knead briefly by hand.  When you have a nice firm dough that's not too sticky, wrap it in a floured piece of plastic wrap and let it sit about 20 minutes to rest.

Cut a piece of the dough and flatten it (keep remainder covered).  Turn pasta machine to widest setting (setting #1) and run dough through.  Dust dough with flour if sticky and fold into thirds.  Run through machine a few more times until smooth.  Adjust machine to next narrower setting and run dough through, dusting lightly with flour if sticky.  Keep doing this until you have run the dough through setting #5.  Lay the noodles out on a floured surface and repeat with remaining dough.  Cut pasta into 12" long strips. You should have 24 pasta strips when finished. (If you do not have 24 strips, don't worry - just don't make as many layers when you assemble the lasagna.)

Bring large amount of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water for ice bath.  Add 3 pasta strips and after water is boiling again, cook for about 10 seconds.  Transfer pasta to ice bath to cool.  Set on towels in single layer.  You can stack towels/pasta on top of each other.  

To assemble:
Butter an 8x8 baking dish.   Arrange 2 strips one way, allowing edges to hang over.  Spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce over pasta.

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Cover with another layer of pasta, laying the strips the opposite way.  

Spoon on 1/3 cup tomato sauce.  Repeat pasta and tomato sauce layers 3 more times.  Add another layer of pasta, then another 1/3 of the bechamel and 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Make 4 more layers each of pasta and tomato sauce.  


Top with another layer of pasta.  Cover with remaining bechamel and Parmesan.  Cover with final layer of pasta.  Fold edges in over top layer or trim off hanging edges if you want.  It probably makes it a little easier to slice if you cut off the edges.  I just folded mine over - this is how Bugialli makes his.  (Can be prepared 1 day ahead and refrigerated.  Bring fully to room temperature before continuing.) Preheat over to 375. Bake lasagna uncovered until top is light golden brown and crisp, about 30 minutes.



tip: Try to use San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Yes, they really are different than the ones grown domestically. It's because of the soil and climate where they are grown in Italy.


tip: Giuliano Bugialli does not add mozzarella cheese to the top of this lasagna. It makes a golden, crisp crust on top. If you really want the cheese on top for a softer texture, you can certainly add that. Cover the lasagna when it bakes.


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Reader Comments (8)

This looks amazing! Thank you for sharing, you have totally inspired me to make my own pasta. I hope it turns out as lovely as yours! Love your site!

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTonya

I love to grow my own paste tomatoes and make sauce from them and I'm always on the lookout for tomato sauce recipes, and this one looks great. Great post. I can appreciate the time, writing, and taking pictures that goes into a long and detailed post like this. Dedication. Any more great tomato sauce recipes coming soon?

June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSan Marzano Tomatoes

I am so impressed not only by your recipes, but by the gorgeous, salivary gland-stimulating photography. Lovely site! Glad to have found it. This lasagne will be mine soon!

November 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth


I have been looking for this recipe for years! Can you please tell me which Giuliano Bugialli cookbook this is from?


December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

From The Italian Dish:

Diane: It is a recipe that was published in Bon Appetit from back in the 1980's where they did a big feature on Giuliano Bugialli. The article contained many of his recipes. I have kept it all these years. I'm so glad you found it!

December 1, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Hi Elaine, Maybe I made it from that same Bon Appetit. I know I had the cookbook too, but it got lost in a move:-((( This recipe will have to placate me till I figure it all out. Again, thanks for posting it!

December 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

I do not have a pasta machine, but I really want to try this recipe. Should I use boil or no boil lasagna noodles since I will be unable to make my own?

January 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

From The Italian Dish:

Shannon: The no boil lasagna noodles will not work for this recipe because if you do boil them, they fall apart. You need regular lasagna noodles. Just boil them up and use as shown in the recipe. Hope this helps.

January 27, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

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