How to Cook Lasagna Noodles Al Dente

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You have to break a few of the general guidelines of pasta if you want your lasagna to come out of the oven with al-dente noodles. You can forget about the almost-always true no-rinsing rule, the ridiculous throw-a-noodle-on-the-wall-to-see-if-it-sticks test, and the classic add-oil-to-prevent-sticking tip. You need to adjust the traditional lasagna-cooking technique a bit, too. Instead of starting with dry noodles, as many recipes call for, you need to partially cook them to have more control over their tenderness. Par-cooking also cuts oven time in half, because the noodles reach al dente right about when the sauce and cheese reach serving temperature.

Things You'll Need

  • Tall, wide pot
  • Salt
  • Food-storage container
  • Ice
  • Tongs
  • Spider strainer (optional)
  • Kitchen towels
  • Fill a tall, wide pot with enough water to cover the lasagna noodles by about 1 inch when standing on end.

  • Season the water to taste with salt to taste. The water should taste about as salty as you want the noodles to taste.

  • Stir the salt in the water and bring it to a boil. Don't add oil to the water. Although it prevents sticking somewhat, it also makes it harder for sauce to stick and get absorbed by the noodles when you cook the lasagna.

  • Fill a large food-storage container with ice water and set it close to the stove. You need to stop the cooking as soon as you take the lasagna out of the water.

  • Place the lasagna noodles in the water when it boils rapidly. Position the noodles standing up around the sides of the pot with about 1 inch of space in between each of them.

  • Stir the noodles continuously for about the first 2 or 3 minutes, then stir about once every minute after that.

  • Boil the noodles for about 6 or 7 minutes and pull one out using tongs or a spider strainer. Check the width of the band of white that runs down the center of the noodle. For baked lasagna, you want the band to measure about 1/4 to 1/3 inch wide. You also want the noodles pliable but firm, or as if they need a couple more minutes of cooking if they were regular noodles.

  • Remove the pasta and plunge it in the ice water. Remove the noodles form the water and place them on kitchen towels spaced about 1/2 inch from each other. Allow the water to return to a boil before adding more noodles. Replenish the ice in the ice-water bath as needed, also.

  • Cook your lasagna for about half the time you would if you were cooking lasagna with dry noodles, or about 30 to 40 minutes. The parcooked lasagna is a perfect al dente after about 30 minutes in a 350- to 375-degree-Fahrenheit oven. When the right amount of time elapses, check to see that the layers are heated through and the cheese is browned.

Tips & Warnings

  • Save any broken noodles to patch up your lasagna later if you need to.
  • As a rule of thumb when cooking pasta in general, cook it for about 2 minutes less than the package says to for al dente.

References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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