Freezing lasagne for wedding buffet - how to stop it from being sloppy
I will be cooking some of the food for our wedding (caterer is doing the rest) and I have basically committed to making lasagne so the kids at the wedding have something they can eat. Because I don't want to be cooking on the day (duh), the recipe needs to be made ahead and frozen.
I have made lasagne several times before and frozen it before, but it's a different situation making it for a wedding. When it's just for us I don't particularly care what it looks like, but for the wedding I want it to hold together when cooked and not just ooze everywhere. I want it to look somewhat professional.
So, my questions are:
1. Should I cook the meat sauce right down so there's minimal liquid in it? Will that make it too dry, considering the dish has to be frozen?
2. Is it better to use dry or fresh lasagne noodles? I usually use fresh (not home-made though, from a packet).
3. Should I add more noodle layers? I normally have three, and our dish is quite deep.
4. Would it help to just put a single layer of béchamel on the top?
5. Would it be better to freeze it baked or unbaked?
6. Would it be better to cook it frozen or thawed?
7. If I freeze it unbaked, would it be better to cook it the day before, let it settle and then reheat on the day? Or cook for the first time on the day?
I know there are a few threads on this, but none on the specific question of avoiding sloppiness when you're freezing the dish, so hope you can help!
Thanks in advance!
I can appreciate the stress of doing this for your wedding, so I'll keep my advice relatively short.
If you have made and frozen lasagna before and liked how it tasted then this isn't the time to be trying new recipes and messing around with things. It will only create more unnecessary stress. Do what you have done in the past and have liked.
Two things, regardless of recipe, that can help with decreasing "sloppiness" of lasagna:
1) less filling between layers. If you normally have just 3 pasta layers, keep everything the same but do 4 layers.
2) serve warm instead of hot, right out of the oven. Allowing the lasagna to cool a little will help firm things up and keep the layers together better. this shouldn't be a huge problem if you're doing it for a wedding as I'd imagine it will be held for a while in a warm oven or in a chaffing dish.
Those would be my two things in this situation for sure.
Enjoy the big day!
Here's what I do:
I have everything ready to go for my lasagna. Then I line the baking pan with plastic wrap, using plenty of it, because you're going to wrap the entire lasagna in it. Once the baking pan is ready, I layer the lasagna in it, directly on the plastic wrap.
When your lasagna is layered, and you would normally now put it in the oven, put it instead in the freezer *in the baking pan*.
When it is frozen, remove lasagna from pan. Keep it wrapped until it is time to cook it to be served. Then peel off the plastic wrap, put the frozen lasagna in the baking dish, and bake it.
I usually defrost it after I put it back in the pan, then cook it at its regular temperature until it's cooked through.
re: Jay F
Yes - that is basically what I was planning to do. I think I will hold off putting the cheese on top though, and just add that once the lasagne is thawed.
Any advice on whether to cook the day before then reheat? I generally prefer the taste of "twice-baked" lasagne, when you have it the next day.
What I've done is cook it through when you initially make it. Let it cool and wrap with plastic and freeze. I've found that the freezing and reheating allows for the pasta to absorb the "wetness" and reduces the sauce oozing everywhere. I'd also use dry lasagna sheets. I've done the Barefoot Contessa style where you put the sheets in the hottest tap water that comes out of your faucet, let them soak for about 20 minutes until pliable and then use them. They are still undercooked and will absorb liquid as the lasagna bakes.