Everything You Need to Know About Making Lasagna
It's not as complicated as you think.
Pasta recipes are some of the easiest dishes to prepare but one of the more complex recipes includes the lasagna. The lasagna is really just a layered pasta dish so this is where the complications come in.
How do you make a proper lasagna?
Many have opinions on how this is done right and we have ideas on how to do this as well. If you're wondering how we think you should do it, with a few tweaks here and there to make it easier to do, here is what you can do to make a lasagna:
1 Cook your sauces first before the noodles.
Unlike most pasta recipes where you can cook both your pasta and your pasta sauce at the same time, when it comes to the lasagna, it's better if the pasta sauces are made first.
Why? The reason behind this is because cooked lasagna noodles, like all cooked pasta, have a tendency to stick to each other when cooled. Besides, freshly cooked lasagna noodles are actually easier to work with than cooked and cooled lasagna noodles. You don't need to keep these in water, which might soften it so much that the noodles become mushy in the oven, nor do you need to oil these sheets just to keep it from sticking to each other. With freshly cooked lasagna noodles, you can still easily keep the sheets separate and use them with little fuss.
What's fantastic about pasta sauces is that it can keep for awhile. Make it an hour beforehand or make it the day before, pasta sauces, tomato pasta sauces in particular, benefit with the passage of time since it allows the flavors to meld and become more flavorful. This results in a tastier dish which is always a good thing.
When you do cook your sauces, we suggest you adjust your recipe just a tad with this little tweak: add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water when your pasta sauce is cooked. This not-too-thickened pasta sauce ensures that when your lasagna is assembled and in the oven to bake, your not-yet-al-dente noodles will continue to cook a little in the watery pasta sauce. What you get is perfectly cooked noodles in your lasagna.
Don't do the same to the bechamel sauce, however, which should be thicker than your usual pasta sauces so it can stand and maintain its layer in the lasagna even after being baked.
If you're strapped for time, you can use premade sauces, too! The next time you're grocery shopping, grab two kinds of pasta sauces: a tomato and a creamy based one.
2 Preheat the oven and cook the lasagna noodles.
Now that your pasta sauce is cooked and ready, this next step is a two-step process. If you're baking the lasagna for tonight, you should preheat the oven now, before you assemble your lasagna layers.
This is because it takes the lasagna noodles less than 10 minutes to cook since you don't want to cook it beyond the al dente stage since it will cook some more in the oven.
3 Prepare your other ingredients.
Once you've made your sauces, set out the other ingredients you'll need to make your lasagna layers. Pick out the baking dish you'll use then bring out the cheese grater and cheeses, and arrange your pasta sauces and lasagna noodles around the baking dish.
4 Layer the ingredients properly.
Now that you've done your mise en place, time to layer! There's a specific way to layer a lasagna so here's how we think you should do it:
- 1. Ladle a thin layer of your pasta sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. This prevents the lasagna noodles from sticking to the bottom of the baking dish.
- 2. Place a single layer of lasagna noodles over the thin layer of pasta sauce.
- 3. Top the noodles with a layer of pasta sauce, enough to cover the entire surface of the noodles. If desired, add dollops of bechamel sauce.
- 4. Sprinkle your preferred grated cheese or, if using a block of cheese, grate cheese directly over the layer. (Grating the cheese over the layer prevents the cheese from clumping together before you're ready to scatter it over the lasagna layers.)
- 5. Repeat Steps 2 to 4 until the baking dish is almost full or you're almost out of ingredients. Before placing the last lasagna layer, spread the bechamel sauce over the lasagna noodles before laying down the last layer of noodles.
- 6. Top the last layer of noodles with cheese.
Once you have your lasagna assembled, you have a choice: you can completely cool and then cover this with foil to bake for another day or bake it immediately. If freezing, remember to seal it well so it can maintain its delicious aromas when you finally do bake it.
5 Bake, slice, and then serve.
If you're baking this immediately, then place it in your preheated oven and bake it according to your recipe. You'll want to ensure that the cheese becomes golden brown for spots of flavor but you will also want to see the sauce bubbling up from the sides of your baking dish. This can take about 30 minutes or more to happen.
If your cheese turns golden brown before your lasagna is heated through and bubbling, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning. Check it again in another 20 minutes to see if it's finally bubbling over.
When it does, take the lasagna out of the oven and let cool slightly on a trivet or wire cooling rack. You can set the table and prepare everyone to enjoy your lasagna meal. When ready, slice and serve.
It's a simple process that really doesn't need to take up too much of your time if you know how to do it right. You can even skip a few steps with prepared sauces and instant lasagna noodles! With this guide, we know you're going to want to make some lasagna soon. Why not try these recipes out: