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No Boil Lasagna Noodles
We first tested brands of no-boil lasagna noodles, and then cooked two lasagnas, one with no-boil noodles and the other with traditional, straight from the box, noodles. The results were clear in both tests.
Published Sept. 1, 2002. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 3: Pasta Quick and Easy
What You Need To Know
Over the past few years, no-boil (also called oven-ready) lasagna noodles have become a permanent fixture on supermarket shelves. Much like "instant rice," no-boil noodles are precooked at the factory. The extruded noodles are run through a water bath and then dehydrated mechanically. During baking, the moisture from the sauce softens, or rehydrates, the noodles, especially when the pan is covered as the lasagna bakes. Most no-boil noodles are rippled, and the accordion-like pleats relax as the pasta rehydrates in the oven, allowing the noodles to elongate.
Two Types of No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
No-boil lasagna noodles come in two shapes. The most common is a rectangle measuring 7 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide; we found three brands in this shape. One other brand came in 7-inch squares. We made lasagnas with all four brands to see how they would compare.
Our Favorite Noodles
The two brands with noodles that are both thin and rippled worked well. Two squares of the 7-inch noodles butted very closely together fit into a 9 by 13-inch pan, but when baked the noodles expanded and the edges jumped out of the pan and became unpleasantly dry and tough.
Are Traditional Noodles Interchangeable with No-Boil Noodles?
Several readers reported they used traditional noodles instead of their no-boil counterparts in our Faster Lasagna and laid them right in the pan raw without parboiling. Needless to say, we were intrigued, so we put this substitution to the test.
We cooked two lasagnas, one with no-boil noodles, the other with traditional, straight from the box noodles, and the results were clear: The no-boil noodles were preferred for superior texture; the traditional noodles were starchy and gummy.
Are Parboiled Traditional Noodles Interchangeable with No-Boil Noodles?
We also wondered what would happen if we made our recipe using traditional lasagna noodles but parboiled them before layering them into the pan. The overall structure of this lasagna—soupy and oozy—left us pining for the firm, moist structure of the original recipe. The cooked noodles did not absorb the extra moisture we had added to our original recipe to help soften the no-boil noodles.
No-boil and traditional lasagna noodles are not interchangeable, even if you cook the traditional noodles first.
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