How Ina Garten Makes Perfect Lasagna—Every Time

Do you know about the noodle trick?

A world without lasagna would be a sad one indeed. Classic lasagna. Extra easy lasagna. We'll take it just about any way you can bake it up. (And then throw in these 17 lasagna recipes you'll never grow tired of for good measure.)

As lasagna connoisseurs, however, there comes a time in every noodlers' career when they realize they've got some refining to do on their technique. Sometimes, in comes in the form of your nephew lamenting the spinach-to-cheese ratio in your maybe a-little-bit-too-healthy rendition of mama's classic lasagna. Sometimes, it's switching to a new tomato sauce and realizing that doing so makes a world of a difference.

Freshly baked lasagna with lots of cheese
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For us, it's a wake-up call from Ina Garten teaching us we've been cooking our pasta entirely wrong. As we learned in a recent article from The Kitchn titled "Ina Garten Has a Clever Trick for Making the Best Lasagna Ever," there's a better way to cook our noodles, and we've been completely in the dark about it all these years.

Soak—Instead of Boil—Lasagna Noodles

As writer Sheela Prakash points out in the piece, Garten smartly soaks her dry lasagna noodles in hot water instead of going to the trouble to cook them. "This means you don't have to bother bringing a large pot of water to a boil to pre-cook them. And since they're soaked, they'll cook faster in the oven than if you used noodles that were completely dry," writes Prakash. "Plus, the soaking doesn't add any more time to the recipe because it's done while the sauce simmers."

The tip comes courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa's turkey lasagna recipe, which boasts hundreds of five-star reviews and much effusive praise. "I've been making lasagna my entire life. I'm 100% Italian and I have always thought my recipe was great, that is... until I tried this one. Don't make any changes, its just perfect the way it is," writes one happy reviewer, while another comments, "Made exactly as Ina directs and it was fabulous. Great sauce, many flavors. Noodle trick is great! Loved the cheese blend, very rich and delicious. This recipe is a real keeper. Thanks Ina, I love you!"

How to Prepare Lasagna Noodles Using the Soak Method

To employ the so-called "noodle trick," simply fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water, put your dry lasagna noodles in, and let the noodles soak for 20 minutes before draining. To prevent sticking, place noodles in the water one at a time and swirl occasionally, according to Ina Garten’s Roasted Vegetable Lasagna. While the noodles are soaking, pivot to preparing the other lasagna ingredients. 

What About No-Boil Lasagna Noodles?

If you don’t want to boil or soak your lasagna noodles, there’s always no-boil lasagna noodles. These oven-ready noodles are ready to assemble with no precooking involved, they tend to be thinner and tenderize by absorbing liquid while baking. No-boil noodles can be dried, with a wide variety to choose from, or fresh, found in the refrigerated or frozen section of the grocery store.

More Lasagna Tips

Now that you’re armed with these lasagna noodle shortcuts, there’s a few more tips to keep in mind when making this classic, pasta casserole.

Lasagna Layer Order

If you get stumped on the layer order your lasagna, you’re not alone. The most important step is to always add a layer of sauce to the pan before assembling lasagna, the sauce acts as a barrier between the noodles and prevents them from sticking to the pan, according Lisa Cericola, Southern Living’s deputy editor. 

How to Cut Pieces of Lasagna

Another tip is to let your lasagna sit before cutting pieces for at least 10 minutes, which allows it to set and keeps it from falling apart, Cericola explains. Then use a chef’s knife to cut squares and lift the pieces out with a flexible, silicone food turner like a brownie spatula, Cericola recommends.

More Lasagna Recipes

If you love lasagna as much as we do, why not try it in new and different ways than the typical 9x13? Here’s some of our favorite non-traditional lasagna recipes: 

  • Sheet Pan Vegetable Lasagna. Try this assembly of ingredients spread into a thin and lighter lasagna version on a 10x15 sheet pan.
  • Lasagna Roll-Ups. Lasagna rolled into individual portions makes a great party dish, and by freezing them, they make ready meals to have on hand for busy families.  
  • Lasagna Soup. Our favorite lasagna components come together as a comforting soup.
  • Turkey Lasagna. We also have a turkey lasagna recipe, but this one uses wonton wrappers instead of noodles.
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