There are a variety of brands of lasagna noodles. Cook the noodles in boiling water, following the directions on the package, just until tender or al dente. If the noodles are overcooked, they might fall apart while you are layering the lasagna. After cooking the noodles, place them in cold water until you’re ready to layer. This keeps them from sticking together. In some cases, the recipe may call for no-boil noodles. This isn’t a typo! No-boil noodles are already boiled and then dried before being sold
– so they can bake perfectly without taking the time to boil them beforehand. If you’re looking for a timesaver, try a no-boil noodle.
- To purchase dried pasta, avoid broken pasta or pasta that looks cracked. It may fall apart during cooking. Check the expiration dates on packages.
- When purchasing fresh pasta, avoid packages with moisture droplets or liquid, the pasta may be moldy or mushy. The pasta should be smooth and evenly colored without broken or crumbly pieces. Look for “sell by dates”, too.
- When purchasing frozen pasta, avoid packages that are frozen as a solid block and those with ice crystals or freezer burn (dry, white spots).
- To store dried pasta, label date and store tightly covered in a cool, dry location up to 1 year.
- To store fresh pasta, refrigerate; use by package expiration date. Store opened, uncooked pasta in tightly coved container up to 3 days.
- To store frozen pasta, freeze unopened fresh pasta in its original package up to 9 months. Leftover uncooked pasta can be frozen in airtight container up to 3 months and homemade fresh pasta up to 1 month.
Cooking pasta to perfection
- Use 1 quart water (4 cups) for every 4 ounces of pasta. Once the water has boiled vigorously, add pasta gradually and stir frequently during cooking to prevent it from sticking together.
- To add flavor, use ½ teaspoon salt for every 8 ounces of pasta. Stir in just as the water starts to boil and make sure it dissolves before adding pasta.
- Follow package directions for cook times. For baked recipes, slightly undercook pasta because it will continue to cook during baking.
- Cooked pasta should be al dente, or tender but firm to the bite, without any raw flavor. Overcooked pasta is mushy, waterlogged and bland.
- Unless specified, do not rinse pasta after draining or sauces won’t cling. Pasta is usually only rinsed for cold salads.
Lasagna meats can depend on the recipe. Though the classic meat used in lasagna is Italian sausage, you can use ground beef, lean turkey, spicy pork sausage and chicken in the dish. Make sure the meat is completely cooked before adding it to the lasagna, an important first step in any recipe. Here’s a timesaving tip: if the recipe calls for chicken, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a quick-fix option.
There’s a great variety of cheeses that can be used in lasagna. It’s completely dependent on the recipe. Here are a few of our favorites to use in lasagna: ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and Asiago.
You can use either homemade or from-scratch sauce in your lasagna recipes. If you’re using a sauce other than béchamel (as detailed above) we recommend using a tomato-based sauce that’s full of delicious herbs and spices. Try using a tomato sauce that includes basil and oregano for a compliment to the fresh herbs you’re including in your recipe. Here’s a delicious homemade red sauce recipe.