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Preboil fresh pasta for veggie lasagna?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Greetings folks,

 

I make fresh pasta a few times a week.  Usually a hand-cut pappardelle, ravioli or something baked.  My last attempt at fresh lasagna resulted in pasta that was far too dry around the edges.  I made it with bechamel and a vegetable mixture (with feta), and the flavors alone were outstanding.

 

But, as I said, the pasta was far too dry.  Baking it for less time would have left me with raw vegetables, so I'm assuming that I just didn't have enough moisture in the fresh pasta and the dish itself to accommodate the long cooking time.  Correct?

 

So, in cases like these, should I preboil the fresh lasagna sheets for a little while to get some additional moisture in there?  I'm going to make some personal-sized lasagnas in 6" ramekins tonight, so I don't want to repeat those mistakes.  

 

Any thoughts would be appreciated!
 

Chad

post #2 of 10

You can do both. I prefer not to. Few reasons.

 

1. Excessive moisture gets absorbed. I use the thickest sauce possible when making lasagna, and when i pre-boil my pasta it seems to be sloppy even if I dry each sheet of pasta on a towel and let the thing rest for a half hour after baking.

2. You can definitely tell that the pasta isn't boiled, but there is definitely nothing offensive about it, and I think it makes it obvious that you have made fresh pasta.

3. Your application. One, if you're making it into little round ramakins, I believe you'll waste a lot cutting and such to fit into those little things. That and when I eat something out a ramakin, I expect an element of crunchiness somewhere. (is that just me?) and the crunch pasta around I think would be quite nice.

post #3 of 10

sorry i posted before reading, let me revise here

 

I'm taking that the last time you did this, you used raw pasta? That is what I do, but i actually enjoy it. I even like the crispy pasta around the edges. My main concern with preboiled pasta is that it is too moist, and doesnt cut nicely. But if you're making little ramakins of ravioli, and people will be eating right out of the bowl, that gooeyness will probably make their day.  With raw pasta, bechemel won't really provide as much moisture to the pasta as a tomato sauce, so i'd say try not to thicken it too much, and maybe add a little stock.

 

One thing I have noticed with the fresh pasta, you bake it raw,. and on the day off it's yes, kinda crispy, but the leftovers are rather soft. I'm concerned you're going to waste a lot of pasta boiling sheets and then cutting the pasta down to your containers. Maybe if you make these a day in advance and bake them the day off, you'll eliminate that dryness.

post #4 of 10

I have used 4 types of lasagna sheets to make regular meat lasagna. Frozen sheets which are only available institutionally, dry sheets Ronzoni and Barilla brand not boiled., and the regular lasagna noodles which I cooked first.and fresh home made sheets, which is the same as the frozen . In all 3 cases and in any event I cover my lasagna with commercial grade plastic wrap then foil( NO the  wrap does not melt in the  oven. In fact many Hospitals keep food hot like this so as not to have it dry out over the course of mealtime) In all 3 cases results were good. When using the dry sheets, more sauce will be required as since dry they absorb more. The frozen sheets and pre boiled took less sauce. Most people overcook lasagna anyway. I have found best way is cook and cool. Next day cut into portions, this assures equal portions  and serve with additional sauce on top of it.. In fact the next day all the flavors really marry together and taste better. Portions can be wrapped and frozen for later use, but will throw a bit of moisture out after thawing, but overall taste and quality stays intact and we sell an awful lot of it..

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks to the both of you.  Agree on all points, so I think what my best direction will be is to simply continue as I normally would, especially since I'm going with a tomato sauce this time.  Also, the plastic wrap + foil seems like a great way to keep some of the moisture.  I definitely didn't do that before.  


I might throw it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to get the cheese on the top nice and crispy.

 

Wish me luck!  


Chad

post #6 of 10

If you use a very finely shredded cheese on top, you wont need to finish under the broiler. I always use romano on top. The brown is gorgeous.

post #7 of 10

Chadwick, in my opinion and experiences, you should always pre-cook lasagna sheets, even when the packages suggest you don't have too.

In case of fresh made pasta you absolutely have to boil them and spread them on a kitchen towel after that. Don't leave them leaking too long however. Start building your lasagna soon after the sheets have been boiled. And, always end with a thick layer of bechamel and a good sprinkle of cheese; parmezan or emmental.

post #8 of 10

I think the kind of vegetables you put in also make a difference.  Spinach and zucchini for example release tons of moisture. 

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks all.  I managed to make it through the evening, and the lasagna was a hit with the wife.  I created a simple tomato sauce with shallots, diced portobellos and some white wine (Sauvignon Blanc -- love cooking with a good Sauvignon Blanc).  I then pan fried some portobello slices -- really thick -- and used that along with the tomato sauce for one of the layers of the lasagna.  The other layer was goat cheese, cream cheese, cream, lemon zest, shallots and a little olive oil.  

 

I didn't pre-boil, and the pasta came out nicely al dente.  I might try pre-boiling next time just to see what happens.  The goat cheese mixture with cream and the tomato sauce definitely helped it from getting too dry.

 

I created a layer of pecorino on top that got a nice brown and crisp to it, kinda like a parmesan crisp.

 

All in all, I think I'll call it a success...

post #10 of 10

I just want to throw in my two cents here for all future readers.  I have to say that I strongly agree with ChrisBelgium that you must preboil fresh pasta whenever you make a lasagna.  The taste and texture just don't work when putting in raw pasta into the mix.  However, you do want to undercook them ever so slightly since there will be some cooking in the baking process of the lasagna.

 

But overall, the battle with lasagna is one that is against water.  No question this is what ruins more lasagnas than anything else (yes, even over-baking...).  The trick is to make sure that the lasagna itself is made with items that are not overflowing it water when it is put together.  So some examples of water control in making a lasagna:

 

1. Precook vegetables that release lots of water: spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and so forth release tons of water, so give them a quick saute first.

2. Dry out your ricotta - ricotta is a very wet cheese, and one that can make lasagna into soup - dry it out on some paper towels first to cut down on that.

3. Simmer that sauce - your tomato sauce can have lots of excess water in it, so you might as well reduce it a little to make sure it doesn't become runny.

4. Brown the meat - not only do you want to brown meat to make sure it is cooked, but this also keeps it from leaking water throughout the lasagna

5. Brief drying of the pasta after they cook - if you go straight from pasta pot to lasagna, you bring all the water in. Brief drying on towels stops this.

 

Hope all these tips help, and happy lasagna-ing everyone!

Deglazed
My Continuing Journey Into the Kitchen...
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Deglazed
My Continuing Journey Into the Kitchen...
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