Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Didn't Know That - Cooking Lasagna Noodles

Info from Lasagna Classic and Contemporary Favorites by Jack Bishop

There are several important things to remember when precooking noodles for lasagna.  Always boil noodles in an abundant quantity of water and stir frequently to prevent sticking.  One gallon of water is usually sufficient to cook 1 pound of noodles, but 5 quarts will really insure the noodles don't stick together. Do not add oil to water, this will make the noodles slick and difficult to retrieve but do add your salt for flavor.
(I've always added a little oil to all of my pasta to prevent it from sticking but I have noticed that not only will the oil make the pasta slick it will also prevent the sauce you're using from sticking to it.) 

Fresh noodles should be cooked four or five at a time for about 2 minutes.  It's very hard to taste large noodles, so rely on this time guide and remember that fresh noodles can easily be overcooked but are hard to under cook.  Use a large slotted spoon to retrieve noodles and transfer them to a bowl of ice-cold water.  After noodles have cooled (about 30 seconds), drain them and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry.  Repeat the process with remaining noodles.
(I have bought refrigerated "fresh" noodles at the grocery store but never knew they were to be cooked differently from dried.  I also never knew that they should be put in cold water.  I did know to lay them out after they've cooled but I normally use either a piece waxed paper.)

Dried lasagna noodles can be cooked all at once.  Cooking instructions for individual brands are a good guideline, but shave off 1 minute of cooking time.  Again, it's hard to taste large dried noodles as they cook.  If there are small scraps of broken pasta in the box, they can be retrieved from the pot and tasted to give you an idea of how the noodles are progressing.  When dried lasagna noodles are just beginning to become al dente, drain them in a colander and then transfer them to a large bowl of ice-cold water.  Drain again and place on a clean kitchen towel to dry.
(Again the cold water.  I normally just run cold water over mine but I think I'll give this a try.  I have a feeling I've been doing it wrong with all of my pasta so I'm going to to the ice-cold water dip with them too.)

Cooked noodles, both fresh and dried, can be covered with towels and set aside for about 1 hour before use.
(This I didn't know.  I've always tried to use them quickly to prevent them from drying out.  I will say that I've tried the no-boil noodles and DON'T like them.  I've tried them twice and they always seem to come out chewy.)

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