- Do you throw it all out in a tall pan at once or by batches? In what pan should you cook it?
- Do you put them on top of each other in the pan?
- Do you place them horizontally or vertically?
- With oil in the water or not?
- How do you drain them in the colander without everything sticking?
- Should you boil, par-boil, or let them soak in water before layering (concerning run of the mill DeCeco lasagne)?
I mainly use freshly made egg pasta and cook two or three sheets at a time. I build the lasagna as I go. So... Bring water to boil. Add a couple of tablespoons of salt. Do not add oil. Drop in a couple of sheets of pasta. Fresh takes a minute or two. Remove to a towel on counter top with a spider. When cool enough to handle, transfer to lasagna pan and add condiments. Drop a few more sheets of pasta into water and continue layering. Then bake.
For dry pasta, use a large pot and add all of the pasta. Salted water...no oil in water. Cook for a couple of minutes below the package recommendation. Drain. You could use a little bit of oil here to keep pasta from sticking together...or refresh in cool water bath. I would blot dry before layering. Build your lasagna. Bake.
OR..don't at all. "No boil" is kind of a gimmick, any store bought dry lasagna noodle can be 'no boil' just put them into your dish dry. If you don't already start with a small layer of sauce at the bottom and then add the noodles, sauce, cheese, etc..repeat and bake. During the course of baking the noodles will absorb liquids from the sauce and soften. I prefer this because it leaves the layers with enough structure to stay together better on serving. One caveat, you might want to thin your sauce just a little if it isn't 'thin enough' to begin with. Add some more wine, broth, beer or wine...did I say wine twice? ;)
(also see Turning regular noodles into no-boil noodles)
For normal dry store-bought noodles, I recommend assembling the lasagna with the noodles uncooked, but then leave it in the fridge for a few hours, up to overnight. That will soften the noodles enough to give the right result. I once boiled the noodles fully (as per the instructions on the box), and while they were nicely al dente at the time, they got too mushy by the end of baking. If you don't have the time to "pre soak", then I suppose boiling them for around 1/2 the recommended time would give the right result. The way to keep them from sticking is to use a large enough pan and stir regularly. Instead of draining in a colander, fish them out and drop them into a bowl of cold water. Oil in the water does nothing.
Assembly: Start with a layer of sauce on the bottom, then noodles, then whatever other ingredients, and cycle. End with sauce on top of a noodle layer, and possibly some cheese on top of that if you want. Store bought noodles should be about the same length as the short dimension of the pan, so they fit approximately 3 side-by-side in a typically sized pan. Don't overlap noodles.
Simple for me. Doesn't take a trick. I buy mid- to high-grade box lasagne noodles (not the no-bake stuff- bleagh).
Your pot and water height does not need to be higher than the length of the noodles. Boil rapidly, add a modicum of salt, add noodles. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. The noodles will ply eventually, (pretty quickly), submerging. I never follow times on boxes. When the noodles are pliable like a stiff eel, remove carefully (I remove from the standing pot, never use a colander), place on parchment paper sprayed with Pam, take care of everything else while they sit.