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Dec 5, 2009 05:47 PM

First time poster looking for advice on four cheese lasagna recipe. Hello all!

Hi everyone!

My name is Emmie, and I am from the Boston area. I stumbled across the forums here tonight doing a search for something, and they are such fun I had to jump in! I especially enjoyed the post I read about Thanksgiving meals, and loved reading all of the responses about favorite dishes and serving a new menu for the first well as coping with rude guests. (I don't enjoy rude guests, mind you, but I have had my share of them and appreciated what others have gone through to cope with them.)

I am starting my journey here with a request for advice or hints about making a new recipe for a family party. Since we travel to see my family for Christmas every year, my husband and I have his immediate family for dinner the weekend before. I make lasagna, others bring salad and bread, and we spend the evening opening presents and enjoying the company. This year, dinner is on December 19th.

The family favorite is made with a meat based sauce. I always like to have a meatless option as well, and want to try a recipe from Cook's Illustrated for four cheese lasagna. It's from the may 2007 issue of that magazine. Here is a link to the recipe:

I would love to make this ahead of time, either by a week or so and freeze it and then thaw and bake it, or at least one day ahead and keep it in the fridge. Due to all of the cheeses and the no-boil noodles, I am not sure how long it will keep in the refrigerator in it's unbaked state; I am also not confident it will hold up in the freezer. (I could probably bake it, freeze it and reheat it, but I am afraid it will dry out.) I know if I have to assemble a lasagna the day of the dinner, I risk being up to my elbows in shredded cheese and pasta sheets when my in-laws me, been there, done that, and I don't need another photo of that scene showing up on a t-shirt, heehee!

If you have any experience with this recipe, or one that is similar, and can give me some feedback or advice I would be very grateful! Thanks in advance, and I look forward to chatting more with folks on the forums.

Take care,

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  1. Greetings Emmie,

    I have done a four cheese lasagna for guests and tried preparing a head of time by day or days. Firstly let me say the unboiled noodles are a very different texture and not one that I cared for. They turn kind of rubbery chewy and it is also hard to guage your sause because the uncooked noodles pull so much moisture from it. I boil my noodles but only until pliable and not fully done. Then drain and put in cold water to stop the cooking process and to keep from sticking together. You can freeze lasagna but again the texture changes. All this being said I have put everything together the evening before covered in buttered foil ( the side that will cover the last layer of cheese. My lasagna turns out wonderful, not dry but still able to cut and serve. If I may add one last thing, if you like a bit extra taste try a small amount of swiss in addition to your other cheeses. It really adds something to lasagna and even more to au gratin potatos along with cheedar and american. Best of the holiday season and best of luk with you special dinner.

    2 Replies
    1. re: HopesSweets

      Thanks very much for your reply! Your recipe sounds delicious, I would love to have it if you can post it to share. I love the idea of adding swiss cheese.

      It helps to hear you have made a similar dish the night before, and I am making a note to myself to make sure I butter the foil before I cover it. (I hadn't thought of that, and it would have made quite a mess!) I understand what you mean about the difference in the noodle texture.

      I have a few recipes that call for regular noodles, and when I try to exchange the no-boil ones, they come out exactly as you describe. This recipe calls for the no-boil ones, and I've used recipes from the same cookbooks that do also; they have come out with tender pasta layers so I am sure it will be fine in this case. If not, well...I will know better next time, and take the longer route to make it again. Thanks so much!

      1. re: HopesSweets

        I am a fan of the no-boil Barilla lasagna noodles. They are a lot thinner than the other no-boil brands in my supermarket. They are tender, like egg noodles, and if memory serves, they do contain egg. When using a bolognese sauce, I make it slightly thinner than I normally would, and haven't had a problem with the texture of the finished lasagne, although I have never soaked the noodles as CI does. Then again, if making a cheese sauce, which is thicker than tomato sauce, I can see the value of the pre-soak.

        I would not freeze the 4-cheese version, either baked or un. Cheese and milk are too likely to break and weep. I second Christina Mason's suggestion of a trial run. If you assemble it the day before, I would not pre-soak the noodles; I'd be concerned that, thin as they are, they would be mushy in the finished dish. Just add maybe a half cup of water to the cheese sauce. For what it's worth, I think this version would be improved by adding layers of finely shredded vegetables (carrot, scallion, squash, mushrooms, bell pepper) and in that case, definitely no pre-soak or added water for the noodles, as the vegetables will exude enough liquid.

      2. Hi, Emmie. It's nice to see you.

        On a few occasions when I'm serving lasagna at a party, I've done what HopesSweets recommends; I've assembled it all the night before, covered it securely and then baked it so it's hot for the event. I think one of the nice things about doing it that way, besides the convenience, is that the flavors meld.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Normandie

          Thanks! I recognize your name, I recall your thread from the Thanksgiving dinner post and your family's "lamb incident". I empathize totally, and I am glad you and your husband can giggle about it now. :-)

          You have a good point about the flavors melding if they get to sit for a while. Thanks for bringing that up. I am very much a "follow the recipe like law the first time you make it" cook, and I can't find any info about making this ahead of time. But your points and HopeSweets post are helping me to feel a bit more confident. I promise to come back and share how it all goes. :-)

          1. re: Emmie9999

            Ha! The Lamb Incident. ;-) Not only do we giggle about it, but I now have to put up with hubby's tongue-in-cheek histrionics every time he asks me, "What are we having for dinner tonight?" and I reply, "lamb". It seems he likes to parody (ad nauseum, LOL) the anti-lamb hysterics in his family. Naughty boy. :-D

            I went to look at the recipe and, like you, did not see any info about assembling this version ahead of time. However, just to build up your confidence about doing that a bit, I'd like to suggest that you go to google and type in "foods that can be assembled ahead lasagna". I just did that, and I think you'll be heartened to see all the affirmations (from sources as varied as Martha Stewart to Kraft Foods to epicurious) that, yes, it's a good candidate to be put together in advance. I honestly believe it will work, just fine, as long as you wrap it up or cover it very tightly during it's waiting period in the fridge.

            And, yes, I do hope you'll let us know how it goes. I'll look forward to hearing about it. Good luck with it, Emmie. Sounds sumptuous!

            1. re: Normandie

              As far as I'm concerned, lasagna MUST be made the day before so it can firm up. Not that I'm Martha Stewart or anything.

              1. re: coll


                I am not of this school Coll, I love lasagna a little runny. NEVER firm.. ;)

                1. re: mcel215

                  Then definitely you should make same day!

        2. If you can stand to eat lasagna twice in as many weeks, I'd make one today and try cooking it tomorrow, just to make sure a) it all turns out ok with the make-ahead method, and b) you (and your hubby) really want to sub 4-cheese for the meaty family standard. Some people get very upset when you mess with tradition! :)

          1. I just realized I lost track of time, and didn't see the additional posts here. Thanks again to all who have responded!

            I wish I did have the time and resources to do a trial run, but alas I cannot manage that. So, my in-laws will be my test subjects. ;-) Since I have standard favorites already set to go, we will all be fine if the new type is not to everyone's liking. (christinamason, I agree with you, I will add a dish but to a menu, but never take away one that everyone is looking forward too!)

            The 2 meat lasagnas are assembled, wrapped, and frozen. I will be making the spinach one the day before and holding it in the fridge. as well as the 4 cheese one. The more I read over the instructions and the info I can find on similar dishes, the more confident I feel about doing things that way.

            greygarious, I have made CI's spinach lasagna ahead like this before, and it has always been a tad soft...reading your comment about not pre-soaking the noodles when pre-assembling the dish now has me thinking that might be the reason why. Thanks for pointing that out to me. (And I like Barilla, too!)

            Updates as I proceed, thanks again to all of you for the help.

            1. I'm not sure about the freezing/making ahead, but just vouching that this recipe is GREAT!!!