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no boil lasagna fail- need tips

made bolognese lasagna with no boil noodles for the first time and failed miserably. parts of it were cooked well, but most of it came out chewy. i mean really chewy. upon layering i made sure all the noodles were covered in tomato and bolognese sauce. checked the lasagne at 45 min per instruction and the noodles were still hard so i ended up adding more time and checking it every 15 min. after 1.5 hrs i took it out since the part i tested was clearly done. i was so mad when i cut into it to find most of it layers of hard chewy pasta.

so i did a search online (should have done it before, duh!) that soaking the noodles may have helped. but my problem now is that i have a big pan of chewy lasagne and if there's anything i can do to salvage this?

if i put it in the microwave to reheat will it become chewier?

i made the bolognese from scratch and hand grated reggiano and the mozzarella and hate to toss all that work

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  1. We make lasagna all the time with regular noodles and we never boil them beforehand. Just have to make sure there's plenty of sauce (noodles absorb liquid) and cook it covered. Usually takes about an hour to cook.

    I'm not sure how to salvage. I would had more sauce and nuke covered.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      I never boil my noodles- even the ones that should be when I make lasagna. I do however pour about 1/2 cup of water around the edge of pan before it goes in the oven.

      1. re: vafarmwife

        Yep. That's more or less what I do too. I use regular old lasagna noodles and make sure that I add about 1 1/2 cups of water to the sauce.


        12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
        30-oz of spaghetti sauce*
        1 ½ cups water
        2 T chopped sun-dried tomatoes
        2 cloves of garlic, crushed

        Veggie filling:
        1 10-oz package of chopped spinach, thawed and drained
        1 8-0z package of mushrooms, sauteed
        1 medium onion, sauteed

        Cheese filling:
        1 15-oz container ricotta
        2 cups shredded mozzarella
        ¼ cup grated parmesan/pecorino/romano

        Chopped basil
        Grated parm

        1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil or spray a 9x13 in baking dish.
        2. In a large bowl combine sauce ingredients and set aside
        3. In a large bowl combine the ricotta, 1 ½ cups of the mozz and the parm. Set aside the remaining ½ cup of mozz.
        4. Mix the vegetables together in a bowl; and mix well.

        1. Spread a ladleful of the sauce on the bottom of the pan and tilt to coat evenly. Then lay in four sheets of the uncooked lasagna noodles and top with another ladle of the sauce and spread so that it’s lightly coated.
        2. Lay down half of the cheese filling and press down. Add one half of the vegetable mixture and then top with some sauce.
        3. Repeat the layers, and then top with the last four noodles, and dump the rest of the sauce on top. Be sure that it is entirely covered with the sauce.
        4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
        5. Remove from oven, take off the foil, and spoon some of the sauce over the top again. Then top with the remaining ½ cup of mozz. Sprinkle lightly with extra grated parm and a bit of basil. Bake for another 30 minutes.
        6. Remove from oven, let stand 10 minutes before serving.

        *I like to make my own sauce and vary the vegetables, but this mixture of veggies is what I make most often.

        This recipe also works for a meat lasagna.

      2. re: mojoeater

        That's how I make my lasagna. What a disappointment, Trolley! I would salvage as Mojo said.

      3. I use Barilla no-boil noodles, unsoaked, without a problem but they may be thinner than some other brands.

        There's a group of restaurants in the Boston area, Comella's, whose specialty is "The Mess". This is a mixture of pasta (shape varies), tomato sauce, and cheese, to which an array of extras may be added, that is then topped with more sauce and cheese and heated (under a salamander, I think). It won't be pretty, but you could certainly break up the lasagna and slowly reheat it (microwave or oven) after mixing with a thinned-out sauce, then top with cheese and bake till it bubbles and browns a little.

        1. Microwave is the last place I'd put it; unless it was totally submerged in liquid. Microwave heat is too concentrated so it heats unevenly (without continuously rotating and stirring) so I'd expect it to exacerbate the problem.
          Heating it gently and then adding a simmering sauce to cover the noodles and allowing that to simmer together for about 10 minutes is the only method I'd try. Even then, no guarantees.
          The "trick" with "no boil" noodles is, IMO, making certain none of the noodle gets above the surface of the sauce. That's the reason I avoid them for lasagna. My family likes some crunchy brown noodle edges so I prefer to pre-cook them just shy of al-dente.

          1 Reply
          1. re: todao

            most microwaves today have a rotating platter. i think it might be the perfect tool, the only worry would be the cheese separating, so id go with a less than full setting for a longer time, rather than the reverse.

          2. I tried no-boil lasagna noodles (WF brand) a few months ago and had the opposite problem: the noodles were so soft and dough-y tasting after 45-50 minutes that the lasagna was inedible. But I know lots of folks who swear by the no-cook regular noodle method (as mojoeater says).
            Try adding more moisture to salvage, but I wouldn't get my hopes up . . . .

            1. Someone gifted me a couple boxes of lasagna noodles, some 'oven ready' and some not. I pre-cooked all of them (separate occassions) when I did make them. They all acted the same and turned out perfectly. However my sauce was :P once so I do have regrets.
              Lasagna has come naturaly to me, my mother hated any type of 'noodles' and had a hard time allowing us to eat them. The first time I made lasagna it was perfect, and I had never eaten it before, but I have a lot since, in restraunts and such just to see how its 'supposed to be' and I have it. I suppose I mention this because of all the things that are such a struggle for me in life, this was not.... Thanks for listening :)

              On the advice part, could you take out the noodles and serve just the sauce over another type of noodle, so it doesnt go to waste.

              1. Don't microwave, try steaming it instead.

                1. The only real answer is that there was not enough liquid. Your sauce was probably very meaty. If it were me and I wanted to try and save it, I'd add a bunch of tomato juice and stick back in the oven, covered with foil, until the noodles were tender and then uncovered, if necessary to evaporate any leftover juice. If the cheese is getting too browned, turn the oven down to about 325.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: John E.

                    i agree with john e.
                    i'd use a good pasta sauce, adding water 1/2 again (thus, a watery pasta sauce). poke knife holes in the pasta, pour on enough sauce as you think will cook through the noodles, but not make the dish swim, cover and bake for another hour.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      The OP apparently did use a good pasta sauce, homemade bolognese. I did not mention adding any water to the lasagna, I said tomato juice.

                      1. re: John E.

                        so i took everyone's suggestions and ended up going with alkapal's idea but didn't add water, just more pasta sauce. A LOT of it. put in the oven @375 for another hour and it was saved! it came out perfectly! thanks everyone! next time i'm dumping a whole lot of sauce and soaking the noodles in water.

                        1. re: trolley

                          glad you saved it; lasagne isn't cheap. just remember the no boil noodles have to take their moisture from somewhere, and thus they need more liquid from sauce than you typically would think is needed. if i am using them with a thick bolognese, i will add some thinned sauce to make sure the noodles get done. lasagne is pretty forgiving in many respects. thank goodness.

                            1. re: alkapal

                              Yeah no kidding! Not to mention the time and effort and then what a let down! I've never been able to figure the nonboil noodles out.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                my nephew makes a fabulous lasagne, which is not really "saucy" but is loaded with italian sausage. he uses the regular lasagne noodles, but doesn't pre-boil them. he eyeballs his sauce, so i can't ask him specifically for a recipe. but i think the trick is simply "more liquid."

                                babs' recipe upthread looks mighty tasty. love the mushroom and spinach additions. (but i'd still want the italian sausage).

                    2. I use Barilla no boil noodles all the time with homemade tomato sauce and it works perfectly. I always use the sauce right off the stove, ie; hot. Is your sauce cold?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Den

                        sauce temperature shouldn't make a difference; i've made it both ways no problem.

                        1. re: Den

                          I use Barilla, too. They're thin, very tender and always soften beautfully. I don't really use extra sauce, either.

                        2. Use eggroll wrappers, fresh uncooked pasta at half the price of other fresh pasta. Works great! No pre cooking, rinsing, anything, just layer 'em up and bake.

                          1. I'm glad you solved your problem. But, if you went to the trouble of making homemade bolognese, I'd suggest you try making your own pasta. I use Marcella Hazan's recipe, but I let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, on counter, for about an hour after I do the kneading. She tells you how to quickly boil the sheets and then put into ice water, etc.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: walker

                              while i love pasta i'm not in love with fresh pasta and actually prefer the dry kind (well, not too dry in this case, haha!) i've never had a fresh pasta that i truly loved. maybe one day when my son is grown and i have more time i'll venture into fresh pastas.

                            2. I am glad you were able to save your lasagna! I always double the sauce when I used no boil noodles.

                              1. I use no-boil lasagna noodles all the time and have had no problem. 1) Use PLENTY of sauce so the noodles can take up liquid and get soft. And keep your saucer on the liquidy side. 2) Cover the lasagna tightly with foil for the first 3/4 of baking time, then uncover to brown the cheese on top. Let me say this, if you get your sauce made ahead of time and use no-boil noodles this is one of the quickest dishes to put together for a large group (my lasagna dish makes 12 servings). Usually I just make it for the two of us and freeze the rest. Chill it so it gets stiff then wrap each square in Saran and put it in a plastic sandwich bag, close with Scotch tape, freeze it, and many dinners are ready in advance. Pour some extra sauce from a jar over it and zap it.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Querencia

                                  How long do you bake, and what brand(s) of noodles do you use? I had terrible results w/Whole Foods brand (I like their other dry pastas fine), but maybe I overbaked. OTOH, I had great results w/TJ's, but we don't have one here so I can only get them when i travel. (But I'll be in atlanta next week so I plan to pick up several pkgs.)

                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                    If I remember correctly, CI recs Barilla.

                                    1. re: walker

                                      I think that one time when they tested them, they liked DiCecco, and then another time Barilla. I've never used DiCecco because I am in love with Barilla's egg-noodle flavor and texture.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Not that I'm aware of, and I've been using their no boil lasagna noodles for years. It does have different, tender flavor and texture that might make someone think it's egg noodle.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I remembered to look when shopping yesterday and yes, Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles do contain egg.

                                          2. re: alkapal

                                            I am not 100% certain, but unless I dreamt it, it seems to me that the first time I bought them, some years back, I thought they tasted eggy and was surprised not to see eggs on the ingredient list, and that more recently when I used them, the label DID include eggs. I will have to check next time.

                                  2. I make the lasagna as usual, not boiling the noodles, but pour a cup or so of red wine over the whole thing before adding the cheese topping & putting it in the oven...
                                    That additional liquid adds the missing moisture, and some love....

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Mild Bill

                                      Assuming you made real Bolognese sauce, which doesn't have much liquid, most of the suggestions made above just won't work. Parboil those "no-boil" noodles for 60 seconds, that will do the trick.

                                    2. I do lasagna with bolognese often and have been sucessfull with both "regular" noodles and the no-boil kind (both Barilla and San Giorgio brand, which I actually preferred based on the size/shape of it). I do pre-soak the no-boil noodles, a tip I picked up on a thread somewhere here, probably about 60 seconds or so in a shallow dish of my hottest tap water. I do not do anything differently to my sauce at all either way, though for either version I always ensure the sauce covers the noodles.

                                      My husband and I haven't noticed any real difference in the final product when using the regular vs. no-boil noodles. I have found I prefer using the no-boil ones just because it makes the process a little easier - easier to simply soak a little in tap water than cook regular noodles, easier to construct the lasagna with the still somewhat stiff no-boil noodles and less opportunity for the noodles to stick to each other as I am working.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: cookie44

                                        oh, i remember boiling the old dried lasagne noodles. what a hassle!

                                        1. re: cookie44

                                          This is exactly what I have been doing for 20 years. I never buy no-boil noodles. I just have a big dish with sides that I put real hot water in next to my assembly line. I put a couple noodles in for about a minute or so & lift them out dripping wet and layer them in the lasagna. Covering the lasagna with foil at first does help some steam build up which cooks the noodles.

                                          1. re: sparkareno

                                            i cover with foil -- for about 3/4 of the bake time.

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                Yup - I cover with foil at first too for about 3/4 of the total baking time as well.

                                                1. re: cookie44

                                                  I never thought of the effect on the noodles, I do it because I don't want the thick layer of cheese on top to get dried out, but I guess it does both things.

                                          2. I made a truly successful lasagne using the noboil noodles not too long ago. It was so good, I've sworn off the other kind. Yes you need sauce to cover it all, and I don't know to tell you the ratio. Not swimming but more than usual. It was so good, everyone in the family raved about it, and me, not a huge lasagne fan am a convert.

                                            I didn't cover the tray pan with foil at any point either. Delicious!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              you made that and didn't call me over? shame on you, chef c! ;-).

                                            2. I highly recommend taking a look at Cooks Illustrated Hearty meat lasagna. It is AMAZING!

                                              If you want me to post the recipe later I will, but they talk a bit about the recipe here.

                                              1. I know this is an old thread but it contains lots of good info so, instead of starting a new no-boil lasagne thread I will just add my comments.

                                                In the past, I've used Delverde no-cook lasagna sheets and really liked them. The instructions on the package say to soak in a tray of hot water before using.

                                                Recently, I couldn't find Delverde so I bought Barilla no-cook lasagne. Barilla says to use them right out of the package, no pre-soaking. This concerns me and I see from most of the CH comments that I should use extra liquid in the fillings.

                                                BTW: I make my lasagne with bechamel and bolognese (no ricotta).

                                                So, I'm about to start layering and I've thinned out my bolognese sauce and my bechamel.

                                                I'll report back but I'm also wondering if there are any CHs out there who have anything to add on this subject.

                                                Grazie mille!

                                                1. Did you cover your lasagna when you baked it? I use copious sauce and I cover the lasagna tightly with foil for the first half of baking, to keep the steam in---uncover it to finish it. You don't have to soak no-boil noodles. If you reheat it in either oven or microwave, cover it as air-tight as you can (Saran for microwave, foil for oven) and make sure the noodles have plenty of liquid to absorb from the sauce.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    Querencia, I'm not the original poster (Trolley from May 2010). I'm just making my lasagna today and using Barilla no-bake for the first time. I've used Delverde before. The no-soaking part of the Barilla recipe is what puzzles me because Delverde call for a quick soak in hot water before assembling the lasagna.

                                                    What I've done so far is thin out my usual bolognese and bechamel, layer as usual, bake for 25 minutes covered, 5 minutes uncovered (as per package directions). It's now sitting and resting and looks good. I'll report back after dinner and let you know how it is.


                                                    1. re: prio girl

                                                      Reporting back: Love these Barilla no-cook lasagna sheets. They have the taste and texture of fresh homemade lasagna pasta sheets. I'm very happy with the results!

                                                      1. re: prio girl

                                                        i'm still eating the lasagne...4 yrs later... ;)