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Fresh pasta lasagna, to cook or not to cook.

I'm planning to make a lasagna with fresh pasta but have run into some inconsistencies. More traditional methods recommend cooking or blanching the pasta before layering, but in the past I've just put it in fresh without any problems. I know it can turn out just fine this way, that even some dried pastas can be done in this manner, but might I be missing out on a perfectly smooth, gelatinized noodle by not boiling and setting first?

If anyone has done a side by side comparison I'd love to hear about it.

Comments

  • Hi Justina - Thanks for your question! We've never done a side-by-side test of "raw" vs. pre-boiled (or soaked) fresh lasagna noodles, but my guess is that what you've found is true - there is really no need to pre-boil the fresh noodles. I would give a couple of caveats though - you want to make sure your sauce is pretty loose so there is enough moisture there to cook the noodles but not dry out the lasagna. Also, make sure to cover the lasagna with foil for the majority of the cooking time to trap the heat allowing the noodles to cook through. Remove the cover with about 10-15 minutes left to go to brown the top.

    I think, traditionally, the goal of pre-cooking was to season the noodles themselves by boiling them in well-salted water. It's my opinion that the sauce and cheese will do a fine job of seasoning the noodles and skipping pre-boiling will save far more time and hassle! Hope this helps! Best, Lynn C.

  • I was disappointed that my lasagne turned out runny. I believe I followed all the steps in the recipe in the Milk Street March-April edition. However, I used the recommended Barilla oven ready lasagne. I noticed in the comments above that it is recommended to take the foil off for the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, would that have made a difference?

  • Hi - are you referring to our Lasagna Bolognese recipe? For that specific recipe we recommend soaking the noodles in hot water until they've softened and then drying them with towels (different types of lasagna recipes will call for treating the noodles differently). If you did not dry the noodles it's possible that the added liquid made the lasagna runny. The other cause may be the texture of your béchamel. Make sure to cook your béchamel until it's thickened. A properly thickened béchamel should coat the back of a spoon. Run a finger through it (before adding any cheese) and, if the trail holds, the béchamel is the proper texture. Finally for our lasagna bolognese it is recommended to keep it covered the whole time. Instructions above were for a more classic American lasagna with mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Since there is no cheese you don't need to uncover and brown it. Hope that helps! Lynn C.

  • After making a batch of MS lasagna bolognese last week, with our homemade noodles, I would never bother to precook the noodles. The result was delicious but in the future I would not add the gelatin to the ragu so the sauce is a bit looser. We have made many a batch of the old Cooks Illustrated recipe with both precooked and fresh noodles and can see no difference, except the messy additional step! And the internet certainly doesn’t clarify. Maybe someday Milk St could do a scientific analysis?

    Karen S

  • Karen - very cool that you are making homemade noodles for your lasagna. If you have fresh pasta, there is certainly no need to pre-cook the noodles, since the moisture in the sauce is totally adequate to cook them through. So definitely feel free to save yourself that step. We like the thicker sauce we get with the added gelatin, but if you prefer a looser sauce, it can be omitted. Happy cooking! - April D.

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