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
- Food-storage container
- 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.
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