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I've always been a bit suspicious of "no-precooking-required" lasagne sheets.

Are they inferior to the traditional kind? Also, are they improved if you ignore the instruction and cook them a little in any case? I tend to do so - am I wasting my time?

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Lasagne typically need to cook in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. The main problem, as outlined by others in this thread, is the tendency of pasta sheets to dry up during this prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

To avoid this, I usually precook the sheets in slightly-salted boiling water for one minute (I just want to soften them, not cook them); a few oil drops in the boiling water should help preventing the sheets to stick to each other. Subsequently I drain the sheets and lay them on a clean cotton cloth to let the cooking water be absorbed while I attend the preparation of the sauces.

After lasagne are assembled in the pan, I cover it with aluminium foil and then put it in the oven to cook; after 20 minutes I remove the foil and let lasagne cook "naked" for the remaining 10 minutes.

Here are some pictures I took during the preparation of lasagne with crumbled sausages and mushrooms.

With this procedure, lasagne sheets retain most of the moisture, thus not needing an excessive amount of sauce to keep them hydrated.

I managed to obtain very good results even with Sainsbury's Value Lasagne Sheets (a brand of cheap "no precooking required" dry lasagne sheets commonly found in UK).

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I don't think adding oil to the water will stop them from sticking –  Sam Holder Feb 14 '11 at 17:07
    
Generally speaking, me neither. Being Italian myself, I can confirm the uselessness of adding oil to prevent pasta from sticking. But in the case of lasagne sheets, it could be different given their much higher specific surface area compared to other pasta formats. –  Pino Pinto Feb 14 '11 at 17:46
    
I don't have hard evidence supporting this theory and I'm a bit skeptikal myself (that's why I said "should help") but at least it shouldn't do any harm either since oil would be drained with the water anyway, without adding much fat to the dish. And besides, I've learned the hard way to always stick to traditions and common knowledge when cooking :-) –  Pino Pinto Feb 14 '11 at 17:55
    
For lasagne, it's probably irrelevant. For sauced pasta, adding oil is actually counterproductive, as it will prevent the sauce from clinging to the pasta. –  DrRandy Jun 29 at 19:34
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They work fine. Here is an example of a vegetarian lasgana where I use them. The key is to make sure that there is plenty of well-seasoned liquid for them to absorb. You don't need to parboil them.

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You can play it safe and precook them anyway. –  BaffledCook Feb 13 '11 at 0:20
    
@Aaronut: The hyperlink in the original source was of the form <href=..., not <a href=.... –  Jefromi Feb 13 '11 at 2:14
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@Jefromi: So it was. Given that this is the second or third broken hyperlink I've seen in the past few days, I think it's sound advice to just use the Markdown instead, since it's much simpler. –  Aaronut Feb 13 '11 at 7:29
    
I agree with the liquid recommendation: my lasagne sauce recipe yields a very thick, meaty sauce, and I've found that even 'no precooking required' sheets need a good hour to soften sufficiently, especially where there are multiple sheets overlapping. –  ElendilTheTall Feb 14 '11 at 11:09
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I prefer the flavor of fresh lasagna sheets over dried but between the different sorts of dried sheets I've not found there to be a big difference in "no-precooking-required" ones. I have however found that they vary a lot by brand.

The only thing I would say is that it can take a bit of trial and error to get a creamy texture with "no-precooking-required" ones as they soak up variable quantities of liquid depending on brand and how many layers you use so you can get a stodgy (but still delicious) finish. Dropping the layer count by one and adding extra sauce has worked for me.

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Once again I will bring up America's Test Kitchen (AKA Cook's Illustrated). They like the no-boil sheets, but they have experienced some of the same problems already brought up here. To ameliorate those issues, they recommend soaking the sheets for 10 minutes in hot tap water before use. I've done it, it works great.

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I do this too, based on CI's recommendation (they've never steered me wrong, and I'm a charter subscriber since the first issue in '83). –  DrRandy Jun 29 at 19:35
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Do not boil the no-boil lasagna even for a minute. I did this and ruined every noodle. I can not unstuck them.

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Sorry about your supper. Are you sure that "sticking" problem doesn't occur equally with both types (no-cook and cook) lasagne? that's my experience. –  Tea Drinker Apr 12 at 21:26
    
The no-boil noodles are par cooked by steaming; they will not tolerate boiling well. –  DrRandy Jun 29 at 19:36
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I used dry sheets in cooking but found them hard in places where perhaps the sauce had not reached them so decided next time to boil first as per the packet instructions for 10 mins. Most of them stuck together so ended up with about 50% not useable - a right pain. Give up - I will use fresh next time.

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