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What's the trick? (lasagna help, please!)

It's been ages since I made lasagna - and I really want to do this right for guests arriving this week. SO - what's the trick to baking a perfect lasagna - one that doesn't ooze or "weep" sauce, holds its shape, but isn't too dry? Many, many thanks for any suggestions and/or recipe ideas you have!

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  1. Most importantly, don't cut the lasagna when it is still very hot. That's usually why it looks messy and oozes sauce...

    2 Replies
    1. re: absurdistan

      If I make it the night before and reheat?????

      1. re: Alice Letseat

        Absolutely! Lasagna is one of those foods that become more complex and flavorful over the course of a day or two. Letting it wait half an hour or overnight is like letting a piece of roasted meat redistribute its juices before slicing.

        Do you use an egg in your cheese filling? Gives it body. Do you use the no-boil noodles that simplify assembly enormously and absorb all those liquids and flavors? You really don't need a lot of sauce between the layers and you can compensate for that by plating each piece on a puddle of sauce. And have additional sauce at the table to ladle on as each diner prefers. Use a more generous layer of sauce on top, tho, and tuck in all the exposed noodle ends so that they are able to absorb the liquids and soften nicely.

        Leftover lasagna retains all it's flavor and appeal if you reheat it in a smaller casserole refreshed with sauce on the bottom and on the top and with a new layer of mozarella to melt and brown up.

    2. Indeed, allowing a lasagna to rest is an important step.

      I've only had a handful of lasagnas that weren't dry. Lasagna doesn't need to be dry. Now, I add a Bechamel (white sauce) layer, that keeps things moist. Tons of fresh tomato sauce. My cheese layer is always very loose and moist when I add it. Finally, instead of conventional lasagna noodles, I use sheets of pasta that are intended as egg roll wrappers. I blanch them and proceed to assemble the lasagna.

      I'm such a fuss-pot about dry lasagna that not only do I pack mine with sauce, I serve plenty of extra sauce on the side. To the OP: much better for your lasagna to weep/run a little sauce, than for it to be dry and gummy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shaogo

        I agree with the addition of bechamel in each layer. Additionally, the thicker/more reduced your tomato sauce is, the better. Also I like to use fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta and something harder like an asiago to cement everything together.

        1. re: shaogo

          Egg roll wrappers as lasagna noodles- that is a very fun idea! I might have to try that. It's basically a

          Btw, are you sure you need to blanch them first? I would think they would cook just fine with the lasagna as long as they're surrounded by plenty of sauce. Cooking noodles with the lasagna really helps the flavor of the sauce penetrate the noodles.

          Btw, even though I've fine tuned my lasagna sauce for decades and am extremely happy with it, I tend to scrape quite a bit of it off, so in that way I'm the opposite of your sauce-on-the-side approach. I practically worship lasagna filling- the ricotta, mozzarella, the hint of nutmeg- it makes me giddy. I like a just a hint of sauce. Same thing for ravioli.

        2. Bake it off the day before and then bake it again before serving. All the liquid will get absorbed into the pasta overnight. Both times in the oven, I cover with saran wrap, and then totally cover with heavy foil, and it will steam and not dry out. Remove all coverings for last 5 minutes to crisp up the tiniest bit.

          1. Below is a link to a recent post on lasagna.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668303
            I prefer freshly baked lasagna for reasons stated by a poster on that thread. Do let it rest 15 to 20 minutes out of the oven before cutting and serving.

            1. I use Barilla no boil noodles, I like them better than any other and they soak up rather than weep water. I also go light on the sauce between layers and allow the lasagna to rest before cutting, as others have said. Despite covering it for most of the cooking time, my lasagna is never watery or weepy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mcf

                Thanks so much, all! I'll let you know how this turns out (company arrives Tuesday for dinner).

                1. re: Alice Letseat

                  My dad actually makes a very firm (but not dry), delicious lasagna with uncooked regular lasagna noodles. The trick is to add about 2 cups of water to the tomato sauce (or half a jar; he uses jarred marinara). Layer as usual (make sure there's sauce on the bottom before noodles) and bake @ 350F covered in foil for around 45 min. Uncover the last 15 minutes to let brown. It's surprisingly good---I never knew runny lasagna as a child!