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No Boil Lasagne noodles

What is the difference between no-boil and regular lasagne noodles? I have seen recipes that imply you can use regular lasagne in the same way, but am afraid to try that without further info. Where I live, I have not seen the no-boil noodles. Eliminating the boiling would save a lot of time and effort. (I am assuming that at the least I would need a lot of sauce, especially over the top layer). Thanks for any advice.

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  1. I've used regular lasagna noodles without boiling and there was no difference.

    11 Replies
    1. re: ariellasdaddy

      with the so called no boil noodles you must drown them in sauce so that it softens them

      1. re: ariellasdaddy

        That's what I wanted to hear! Thanks!

        1. re: ariellasdaddy

          Really? You mean, I can do that, too?

          I do use the no-boil, all the time now, and I'm fine with them. However, they aren't as thick as the traditional type, which I'd prefer.

          So...you think pasta manufacturers came up with this as a marketing ploy? Am I paying extra for the no-boil? (Have to check that next time I buy some.)

          1. re: MaggieRSN

            If you use regular lasagna noodles and don't boil them, you need some sauce in the bottom of your baking dish before you put a layer of pasta.

            Most people want thinner noodles. That's one of the attractions of homemades.

            1. re: yayadave

              Thanks for the tip. I always put some sauce in the bottom, anyway, so I'll try no boiling with regular noodles less time.

              I like less sauce and more dry layers, so this might be for me. TY again.

            2. re: MaggieRSN

              You may be paying extra for buying an imported brand, but otherwise no, it's not a marketing "ploy" any more than any convenience food is. I happen to like the thick pre-cook kind myself, not just out of familiarity but because the overall result really is different, but the thin ones are the original/traditional ones. I don't know how the thick noodles ended up being the norm here, maybe just an issue of earlier manufacturing ability or packaging that set a pattern? For that matter I have no idea if a pre-boil version existed in Italy, whether they ever had a thick, pre boil version, or whether it just was considered something to save for when you had time to make the pasta yourself or at least buy it freshly made?

              1. re: MikeG

                Interesting, Mike, but now that you mention it...I guess the thin ones would be the norm (thinking of handmade).

                I'd speculate that you're right...the original pre-packaged *were* probably thicker due to manufacturing capabilities, or to make them less fragile for earlier shipping capabilities?

                1. re: MaggieRSN

                  I've recently made a few batches of homemade pasta, including a batch of lasagna. I rolled it down to the thinest setting on the hand cranker. It was much thinner than store bought and made a nice loaf pan lasagne. I think the Kitchen Aid rollers would go even thinner.

                  "Homemades" makes a world of difference.

                  1. re: MaggieRSN

                    I don't know if it's even still made but it occurs to me that I've seen - sometime in my life anyway - straight-edged packaged lasagna (ie, Ronzoni or its ilk) and I think those may have been a bit thinner than what are the now more common ruffle-edged version.

                    What I kind of like about the thick noodles is they make the dish more of a one-plate meal "casserole" than the Italian version which to me is usually too dense/rich to eat a larger American-sized portion as a meal - at the same time the smaller amount isn't satisfying in the same way. Sort of ironic since the pasta itself is heavier and denser but that's how it works out, to my taste anyway.

                    1. re: MikeG

                      You're correct about the straight-edged lasagne noodles. Those were the pasta of choice among family members when I was growing up. The ruffles were for special occasions. Lasagne can be dense with various layers of meats, sauce, cheeses. Or it can be light with layers of sauce, and a concoction my mother made which included fresh ricotta, eggs, grated Romano, S&P and minced Italian parsley all mixed together. This made a very light and different lasagne.

                      BTW: we either made our own noodles or bought those which must be boiled.

                      1. re: MikeG

                        I remember the first time I was served lasagna as a first course in Italy. I thought, Oh God, how will I ever eat anything after that? But it was light as a feather with thin sheets of delicate homemade pasta, light bechamel, the kind of ragu from Hazan's recipe. It was neither dense nor particularly rich. Just perfect.
                        I had never liked lasagna in the US and then I knew why.

              2. Well I'm not sure about using the regular lasagne macaroni in a no-cook situation, but I recently used the labeled no-boil lasagne noodles to a very well finished dish. Admittedly, I was Very skeptical. But, the dish turned out well cooked and every one loved the finished dish. Of course, that was in no small part attributable to my spectacular sauce.
                OK - J/K.

                1 Reply
                1. I'm surprised you can't find them. Barilla makes a very good one and that brand seems pretty ubiquitous.

                  I usually make my own noodles for lasagne, but when I'm in a situation where I can't do that, I much prefer the no-boil to the boil. They're thinner, and I think have more of the texture of homemade noodles. Ever since I started making my own, the regular noodles seem overly thick and heavy to me.

                  1. Ina Garten soaks her no-boils in hot tap water for 20 mins then drain before using.

                    25 Replies
                    1. re: Sarah

                      if your going to soak them for 20 min as ina did you might as well boil the reg noodles.

                      besides taste the HOT water that comes out of your tap it has a funny taste especially if your water tank is a few yrs old that will be absorbed by the noodles

                      1. re: foodperv

                        I always use the Barilla no-boil noodles- I prefer the thin noodles, and it's much faster. I do soak them in hot water for a few minutes first while I prep the filling, and find that it's still much faster and less messy than the regular kind. Because the no-boil ones don't have those silly frills on the side, you can fit them all easily in a small casserole to soak- no need to boil water, to fish out the cooked noodles, and no risk of them breaking or tearing (or losing their frills).

                        And so far, no funny taste in my water!

                        1. re: happybellynh

                          It's funny to hear you say that you "always use Barilla no-boil noodles" because neither the no-boil nor Barilla have been in the American market for that long. I remember when my mother bought one of the very first versions of no-boil at some fancy gourmet shop maybe 20 years ago and I was sort of put out with her for being too lazy to do it the "right way." They were terribly expensive. It was even awhile before it was common to use the regular noodles without pre-cooking.

                          I think that you're right though that they are a good substitute for making your own pasta sheets or buying fresh if you don't have a source. I like the thin sheets too, especially for vegetable lasagnas, which I make often with leftovers using quick bechamels or veloutés and ricotta cheese. They go together in a flash and make an economical meal out of next to nothing.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            I've used the Barilla no boil ones for at least 6 or 7 years now.

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              That's what I was referring to about the assumption of "always" in postings. You've been using them for "6 or 7 years" and that's the time frame many cooks remember so they assume that that's the way it always has been. A lot of people just made the switch to the no-boil without looking at the possibilities.
                              I think that to cook well, it's useful to go beyond the current popular recipes and look at where they came from. Why did American use cottage cheese for so many years rather than bechamel? Thick dried noodles as opposed to fresh homemade ones? Only one style of lasagna for most people? Plain old American style lasagna is a popular dish and of course why not continue it?
                              But maybe for some, using homemade sheets or the no-boil can be an avenue to different styles of lasagna. They may be more than just a substitution in the same-old, same-old heavy tomato-sauced dish.. They can start to view lasagna in new creative ways.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                I think of that as deconstructing. There was a thread about lasagna last year. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/306308 I started to think of lasagna as pasta, red sauce, and white sauce with cheese. When you break it down to that level, you have a lot of directions to take it. How about thin sliced egg plant or zucchini in place of the noodle. Or putting mozzarella on top of the white sauce for one layer, whole basil leaves on the next layer, and pine nuts on the next. Or one layer with gorgonzola on top of the white sauce. The last time I made it, I used a bechamel for the white sauce and added a couple of eggs for richness and spinach. Next time, I think I'll put some nutmeg in the white sauce. The skinny homemade noodles were great. I'm not saying my way is the only way or that my ideas are all wonderful or even possible, but I think it's good to think in this manner.

                                1. re: yayadave

                                  Not exactly the same thing I was getting at but the next step.
                                  So often it seems that people think that something, like lasagna, is only one dish - the way we've always known it - when in reality, there are so many variations. Using Hazan's book or a trip to Italy can open your eyes to the possibilities. Then you can see ways to "deconstruct" as you call it. Using bechamel or velouté, ricotta or other cheeses, vegetables or seafood rather than the same heavy meat and tomato sauce that has been the standard in the US.
                                  I think the lighter weight homemade or no-boil pasta is much more successful with many of those dishes.

                                  I do disagree about leaving out the pasta however. The pasta itself is called "lasagna" and leaving that out makes the dish nothing more than a layered vegetable casserole. It might be great but the dish to which the pasta would have lent its name can no longer be called lasagna, except tongue-in-cheek.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    I think I would agree with you that with-out the noodles, it's not lasagna. Even just sticking with the "deconstruct" description, there is a lot of wiggle room.

                                    But as a general discusion, some times it's hard to know where the border is. When did the soup turn into stew?

                                    I just thought of this. Going to the further back post of 2:33 PM and looking at where it comes from, I wonder what the word "lasagna" translates to.

                                    1. re: yayadave

                                      Lasagne is the name of the form of the pasta and it's the Italian word. No translation. From Webster's, it's the plural of the Italian singular "lasagna": "from Vulgar Latin *lasania cooking pot, its contents, from Latin lasanum chamber pot, from Greek lasanon"
                                      I'm surprised the language purists haven't already landed all over us for using lasagna instead of lasagne with an E. There's a lot of language mix-ups in the food world and I plead guilty too.

                                      Thinking of lasagne as a dish that uses a broad pasta layered with other ingredients gives cooks a lot of latitude. They're no longer bound to a tomato/meat sauce with heavy cheeses. Not even the same old white noodles. Spinach, beet, squid ink, or another pasta will do. I think this is one of the times that learning about the roots of a dish really pays off.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        In "Celebrating Italy" by Carol Field, she says "a codex from the fourteenth century, discovered in the University of Bologna, gives a recipe for lasagne more as less as it is made and eaten today." But she also mentions that in Piedmont there's a tradition of preparing lasagne for Christmas Eve. That lasagne is a far cry from the dish we usually think of. ". . . lasagne della Vigilia was made with sheets of pasta as wide as a man's palm and sauced with lots of butter and anchovies, a whiff of garlic, spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese, and grindings of fresh black pepper. Wider than the usual lasagne, the noodles evoked the swaddling clothes that wrapped Jesus in the manger." Not a layered dish at all.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Wow! I just looked up lasagna della vigilia and it's still served on Christmas Eve on the East Coast of Italy. Lots of recipes on the internet that can be translated (badly) from Italian. Some of them are layered and baked like regular lasagne but in most the pasta is tossed with an anchovy sauce and served like regular, but very big, pasta. Sounds like something my family would love, especially with fresh pasta.

                                        2. re: MakingSense

                                          That "deconstructs" it down to one prime ingredient with everything else up for grabs.

                                          1. re: yayadave

                                            Hard to get much more basic than the version that JoanN mentions from the Piedmont eaten on Christmas Eve - plain pasta, butter, anchovies, garlic, parmesan, black pepper.
                                            Although I suppose most of us wouldn't look at a plate of Lasagne della Vigilia and say, Oh, look! Lasagne! since we think of lasagne as a layered pasta dish. But what do I know? I learn new things every day.

                                  2. re: MakingSense

                                    I'm 28- 6 or 7 years is pretty much 'always' in terms of my serious cooking life... :) Honestly, though, after the first time I tried the no-boils, I never looked back. The time and hassle they save me has allowed me to be much more creative with my sauces and fillings.

                                    1. re: happybellynh

                                      I felt that way when I started using fresh pasta sheets and other sauces and fillings. So many new possibilities.
                                      I was really talking more in terms of "always" for people who never think of the creative opportunities. Just that these are a time-saver in the same-old recipe and then after awhile everybody starts to think that lasagne was "always" made like this. Just as so many people in the US think/thought that it's a heavy dish with a meat and tomato sauce. A few years ago, many people made it with cottage cheese because ricotta wasn't available in most areas of the US. A lot still do because that's their familiar recipe.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        When you said, "Thinking of lasagne as a dish that uses a broad pasta layered with other ingredients gives cooks a lot of latitude." you really opened up the topic. And that statement still allows room for rethinking the pasta. I didn't look too carefully last night because of MNF, but one book instructs making the pasta and cutting it into 3" squares.

                                        1. re: yayadave

                                          Something awful just occurred to me. When you make lasagna pasta sheets with a pasta roller, first you put the pasta through the rollers at their widest setting several times, folding it over between each pass. Suppose you put butter on the sheet before folding it and running it through. You would have flaky lasagna pasta. Not too thin. Maybe this would not cook right except the top sheet.

                                          1. re: yayadave

                                            Uh-oh. That's dangerous thinking. I've seen a few cracker-type recipes that suggest rolling the dough through a pasta roller to acquire the proper thinness. What a great idea to experiment with!

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Oh, just thinkin' outside a the lasagna noodle box.

                                          2. re: yayadave

                                            Why not cut it into squares, especially the handmade sheets. I had a beautiful seafood lasagne in Italy that was just layered on the plate - not baked in a casserole after it had been assembled. Layers of fish and shellfish in a velouté made with fish fumet, and of course no cheese, between layers of pasta sheets. Now that was a first course!

                                          3. re: MakingSense

                                            A little irony, here. I just an hour ago switched on "Essence of Emeril" and he was making Chicken, mushroom, and spinach lasagna.

                                            1. re: yayadave

                                              So just when things are getting good, FN cancels his show! Guess we're back to opening cans with the rest of the them.

                                2. re: foodperv

                                  VERY true foodperv! I am a plumber and almost NEVER use hot tap water for anything besides washing my hands. If you are going to soak the noodles in hot water heat cold tap water. What is inside your water heater is absolutely disgusting, to the point where I try not to get any in my mouth when showering.

                                  1. re: kwalmer

                                    What about on demand water heaters? Since I switched, I'll use tap water from the hot side for cooking.

                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                      the insta hot water disp is designed for consumption should be fine they r just like office water disp with cold side and hot side for t-drinkers

                              2. The ones that are sold as "no boil" cook up thinner than the regular dried lasagna noodles used dry in assembling lasagna. When you assemble lasagna using dry regular noodles, you have to use a lot more liquid, and although it works just fine, the pasta layers are very thick. I've just made a much thinner sauce and let the lasagna sit for awhile before baking so the noodles had time to soften. That's not necessary with the "no boil" variety.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MakingSense

                                  I make lasagna using regular lasagna noodles and don't over sauce. I cover it for the majority of the time in the oven and uncover to crisp the top. I do lay down a layer of sauce on the bottom before adding the first layer of noodles but the steam does a fine job of cooking the noodles through without adding a lot of extra sauce and certainly no water is ever added.