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Lasagna

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Gail Oct 2, 2007 07:04 PM

Trying to avoid my lasagna crisis...help.

Making the basic meat/sausage lasagna for company. It always falls apart on me. What is the magic number of minutes I can let it rest and have it still be hot and be able to cut it into nice, neat squares?

It is in a 9"X13" pan. Outside/inside temp 70 degrees.

Thanks

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  1. m
    maisonbistro RE: Gail Oct 2, 2007 07:07 PM

    The key is not having a sauce that is too runny. If the sauce is too runny, your lasagna will be mush until it congeals. I suggest cooking the sauce until little liquid is left (not completely dry - but much dryer than if you were to use it for a pasta sauce).

    16 Replies
    1. re: maisonbistro
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      Gail RE: maisonbistro Oct 2, 2007 07:13 PM

      You are a genius. I haven't done that because I didn't want it to be too dry. If, since this will be my first try and it does seem too dry, could I just save a bit to add on top? Not authentic I know, but could save me. What do you think?

      1. re: Gail
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        maisonbistro RE: Gail Oct 2, 2007 07:15 PM

        Save what? I don't understand. I know a watched pot never boils, but in this case I would watch the pot closely - don't cook it on anything higher than medium, as the bottom will scorch and it will give an distinct burnt flavour to your sauce. I usually add a lot (more than 1/2 bottle- to a bottle) of wine, so there is lots of simmering liquid to infuse flavour and then evaporate as the sauce cooks down. Do not add any salt until the very end - as a dryer sauce will tend to get very salty.

        Good luck

        1. re: maisonbistro
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          Gail RE: maisonbistro Oct 2, 2007 07:20 PM

          To explain... I was thinking about saving some of the sauce so if it seems too dry, I could drizzle some on top. I'm not a salter, no problem there.
          Thanks for your help.

        2. re: Gail
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          Pegmeister RE: Gail Oct 4, 2007 11:53 AM

          I tend to go light on the sauce and then serve a dish of sauce on the side. Haven't had a complaint yet.

        3. re: maisonbistro
          bkhuna RE: maisonbistro Oct 2, 2007 07:19 PM

          Good advise on the red sauce.

          Another trick is the type of cheese you use. I always use Ricotta. Many folks use cottage cheese which is inherintly watery. If you use cottage cheese, dump it into a strainer a few hours (or overnight) and let the water drain. I always beat in an egg or two into my Ricotta. That helps it set.

          Also, I don't cover mine with foil when I cook it. Covering keeps the steam in. Everything is already cooked anyway, you're just trying to heat it long enough to set the egg and melt the other cheeses.

          The upside to runny Lasagna, once you stick in the refrigerator and it gets hard, you have a wonderful breakfast dish. I mean, who doesn't like cold Lasagna?

          1. re: bkhuna
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            Densible RE: bkhuna Oct 2, 2007 07:35 PM

            A thought about the pasta. I notice when I use "ready to use" or "no boil" brands, the resulting dish is compact and dry as the pasta absorbs moisture to cook. Using a looser sauce or moist cheese won't be an issue if using this type of pasta.

            1. re: Densible
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              maisonbistro RE: Densible Oct 3, 2007 05:09 AM

              Personally I don't like the no cook pasta - I just don't like the texture of the finished product, not do I like the flavour - but that's a personal thing.

              But Gail might want to try that and see if it works for her.

              1. re: maisonbistro
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                Texchef RE: maisonbistro Oct 3, 2007 05:22 AM

                Definitely want to use ricotta. I've tried ready to use and don't think it tastes as good as boiling the pasta first.

                1. re: maisonbistro
                  MeffaBabe RE: maisonbistro Oct 3, 2007 05:25 AM

                  Another tip for keeping my lasagna from "falling apart" is I alternate the direction of the noodles each layer. One layer they are going from the long side of the pan to the other long side of the pan. The next layer I layer them going from the short side of the pan to the short side of pan. I can be a pain but my lasagna never falls apart and is much easier to cut into perfect squares by doing this. I also make sure my sauce is much thicker than usual. I love more cheese in my lasagna than sauce so this is usually not a big issue. I just load the lasagna on my plate with tons of sauce!

                  1. re: MeffaBabe
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                    Gail RE: MeffaBabe Oct 3, 2007 08:48 AM

                    MeffaBabe, are you saying that you do save some sauce to drizzle over it when you serve it in case it seems too dry.

                    Thanks all for the great ideas, I've noted them all.

                    1. re: Gail
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                      maisonbistro RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 01:08 PM

                      Hi Gail,

                      You keep asking the same question and I assume no one is answering you because we don't get it. Save some sauce from where? Do you want to save sauce from before you cook it down to the desired thickness?? It won't be very good then. If you just save the same sauce that you are layering the lasagna with, it won't be any less dry.

                      Please explain.

                      1. re: maisonbistro
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                        Gail RE: maisonbistro Oct 3, 2007 01:54 PM

                        >>If you just save the same sauce that you are layering the lasagna with, it won't be any less dry.<<

                        If the plated lasagna appears to be too dry, I was merely thinking a good bandaid might be a drizzle of the fully cooked sauce that I saved back.

                        1. re: Gail
                          yayadave RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 02:44 PM

                          I don't think that's a band-aid. That's just a perfectly acceptable way of plating it. If your last layer on top is not pasta, it probably won't be dry. Also, a boatful of sauce on the table for them what wants it is right.

                  2. re: maisonbistro
                    alkapal RE: maisonbistro Oct 3, 2007 05:25 AM

                    my nephew uses regular lasagne without precooking, just using a bit more moisture.

                    1. re: alkapal
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                      Lisbet RE: alkapal Oct 4, 2007 06:06 AM

                      My son (adult, and on his own) does the same thing. His lasagna is never runny, nor too dry.

                      1. re: Lisbet
                        alkapal RE: Lisbet Oct 4, 2007 09:21 AM

                        my nephew who gave me the idea is a fireman, and a good cook. he says it makes it so easy to simply put in the regular noodles dry -- tastes the same if not better to me. lots of italian sausage in it! no bechamel. not too dry or runny. delicious always.

            2. monavano RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 09:11 AM

              Lasagna should rest about 20 minuted before you cut it. You can also drain your ricotta using a cheesecloth lined strainer to get it dryer and add an egg to your ricotta cheese mix (I usually use 2 hard cheeses with the ricotta) to get it to set up a bit when cooked. Mostly I think you just need to let the protein rest. Good Luck!

              www.houndstoothgourmet.com

              1 Reply
              1. re: monavano
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                millygirl RE: monavano Oct 3, 2007 12:22 PM

                An italian friend taught me to add a layer of hard boiled eggs in between. It adds a wonderful richness to it. It turned out fantastic and everyone loved it.

              2. ccbweb RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 02:03 PM

                Will you tell us the recipe you use? I'm not sure what sauces....seems clear you're using a tomato sauce of some sort; do you also use a bechamel? What else do you use in terms of cheeses, etc?

                6 Replies
                1. re: ccbweb
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                  Gail RE: ccbweb Oct 3, 2007 02:09 PM

                  Recipe is new to me. It came from a lady on the Cooks Forum.
                  Canned plum tomatoes, tomato sauce & paste, red wine, garlic, various Italian seasonings, sauteed onion, beef & sausage, ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and I may use some provolone. I got back from the store without it, so will probably skip it.

                  1. re: Gail
                    ccbweb RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 02:28 PM

                    I don't really see anything in that recipe that will help the lasagna set up/hold together. I suppose cooking the tomato sauce portion down a bit to reduce the liquid some will help, but I think it's more than likely still going to settle out some once you cut it unless you let it sit until its pretty close to room temperature. I don't think having it fall apart a bit is such a bad thing though, it'll taste good.

                    1. re: ccbweb
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                      Gail RE: ccbweb Oct 3, 2007 02:41 PM

                      I'm adding an egg, as suggested above, to the ricotta which may help. I hesitate to use bechamel. It is such a rich dish with all the cheeses I hate to add any more artery clogging ingredients.
                      Thanks...

                      1. re: Gail
                        littlegreenpea RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 02:55 PM

                        Bechemel doesn't have to be artery clogging, esp if you cut down on some of the cheese.

                        1. re: Gail
                          ccbweb RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 03:02 PM

                          The egg will help, certainly. A bechamel with just a bit of butter and (at least in my house) 1% milk would actually be one of the least artery clogging part of the finished dish. It also adds a texture and binding quality that you can't get any other way. It does result in a totally different lasagna, though.

                      2. re: Gail
                        yayadave RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 02:51 PM

                        Just to keep things straight, that's two sauces or two different layers.

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                      Fleur RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 03:47 PM

                      I would suggest using regular, not no cook Lasagna. Cook it in the required amount of boiling, salted water until it is flexible , but very, very al dente.

                      Don't use very much sauce between the layers. As OP suggested, keep your sauce thick, not runny. I use Marcella's Bolognese, or a basic, simple Meat Sauce with browned crumbles Italian Sausage added. Layer of sauce on the bottom, very light layer, then Pasta, then Sauce, etc.

                      If you can, read the Lasagna section in Marcella's book, or Giuliano Bugialli.

                      Hope that helps.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Fleur
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                        Gail RE: Fleur Oct 3, 2007 04:07 PM

                        Thanks, I've learned so much.

                      2. yayadave RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 05:34 PM

                        One other idea. Cutting it and serving it always seems to be a problem the day of. If you make it a day ahead, refrigerate it, then cut it and reheat it, that works. Also tastes better the next day, any way.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: yayadave
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                          Ldychef2k RE: yayadave Oct 3, 2007 06:49 PM

                          I think adding some extra sauce when you plate would work well, if your lasagna is dry. I have had pretty good luck helping it be moist and stik together by not cooking the noodles first, and allowing the sauce to cook it. Adds to the flavor of the pasta in a significant way. I also take the ricotta and mix in two or three eggs, as well as shredded parmesean and flat leaf parsley. I then add 1/4 cup milk and it is almost a thick batter. My family doesn't like the texture of dry ricotta, so I came up with this, and they really don't know it's there. That's because when I layer the noodles, mozzarella and provolone, and then the sauce and then the cheese batter, the latter two kind of combine together and make it more solid. I always cover the lasagna with foil, cook it about an hour at 325, then remove the foil, add more grated cheese and continue cooking until the middle is done. I let it rest about 45 minutes, covered.

                          1. re: Ldychef2k
                            yayadave RE: Ldychef2k Oct 3, 2007 06:59 PM

                            Oh, yeah. When you mentioned eggs it reminded me that we always put chopped spinach in the ricotta. We thaw out the frozen. Our pan is bigger, so you might not want to use a whole package of spinach.

                          2. re: yayadave
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                            Gail RE: yayadave Oct 3, 2007 07:06 PM

                            OMG I plan on making it the day before serving . Not sure what you mean by reheating it. I was going to assemble it and then cook (heat) it the day I serve it. Could I assemble, cut, refrigerate and then cook/heat it?

                            I think lasagna is a meatloaf enigma...no definitive recipe.

                            1. re: Gail
                              yayadave RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 08:43 PM

                              I was suggesting cooking it a day ahead. Maybe some other folks have an idea about this.

                              1. re: Gail
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                                Fleur RE: Gail Oct 3, 2007 11:41 PM

                                When I make Lasagna, I always make extra. I freeze it assembled, but not cooked. Since every element is already cooked, there is not a problem. I use a Bolognese Sauce and a Bechamel ( balsamella ) Sauce.

                                To serve the next day, I would assemble the night before, cover with Saran and foil, and refrigerate. Bake, and serve.

                                Reheating Lasagna is not the greatest. It loses flavor, and more important, loses its nice texture, and becomes mushy, or dry.

                                1. re: Fleur
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                                  dolores RE: Fleur Oct 4, 2007 03:08 AM

                                  Gail, when you make your gravy (sauce), don't you have a large pot of it? If you put that entire large pot of gravy in your lasagna, it will become watery, yes. I'm not sure if your recipe is telling you to put the entire pot of gravy?

                                  What I do is (probably heresy I know but hey it works) is to mash up my meats, and add as much gravy to the meats for a good consistency. I then add all my cheeses to the ricotta (yes, with the egg and parsley and regianno) and then start layering.

                                  I add extra gravy to each layer as I go along, just by eyeballing it. If it's goopy when served, I don't really worry. As long as it tastes good.

                            2. b
                              browniebaker RE: Gail Oct 4, 2007 06:12 AM

                              In my 9" x 13" Pyrex glass pan, I let my lasagna sit for at least an hour to let the juices settle and seep into noodles. It's the perfect temperature then for serving, and it cuts and serves up in neat squares.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: browniebaker
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                                Gail RE: browniebaker Oct 4, 2007 09:16 AM

                                Thanks everyone for your great ideas. Perhaps this time, it will be beautiful as well as tasty. Mostly, I've settled for tasty. I'm assembling it today and serving it to company Friday night. If it falls apart...I think I'll have another cocktail.

                                1. re: Gail
                                  othervoice RE: Gail Oct 4, 2007 09:53 AM

                                  Cheers!!!!!!

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