10 mistakes to avoid when making lasagna
Silvana Lanzetta Artisan Pasta Maker
Who doesn’t love a delicious, cheesy lasagna? But, are you making any of these 10 common mistakes? Learn how to avoid them and make the perfect lasagna every time!
As an Italian, I can tell you that there are few things more sacred to us than the traditional Sunday family meal, especially when it involves lasagna. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some catastrophic results when it comes to this beloved dish, even in restaurants. From dry and burnt to slippery and crumbly, there are plenty of ways to go wrong. That’s why I’m here today to share some tips with you and help you avoid these common mistakes, so you can make the perfect lasagna at home.
Discover the 10 mistakes to avoid when making lasagna
Mistake number 1: using packaged pasta
The golden rule for a good lasagna is to use good fresh egg pasta. The secret to a truly authentic and delicious lasagna lies in making the pasta sheets by hand. It may seem daunting at first, but trust me, the effort is well worth it. Not only will your lasagna be more homemade and bursting with flavour, but it will also impress any foodie friends or family members you serve it to. While using packaged pasta sheets may save time, top chefs strongly advise against it if you want to achieve lasagna perfection. So why not roll up your sleeves and give it a try?
Are you ready to take your pasta game to the next level? Join me in one of my classes and let’s make fresh homemade pasta together! Trust me, there’s nothing more satisfying than rolling out your own pasta dough and creating delicious dishes from scratch. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to become a pasta-making pro!
mistake number 2: ready-made sauces
Do you typically use ready-made sauces in your lasagna? While they may be practical, let’s face it: they compromise the taste of your dish. If you want to make the perfect lasagna, take some time to plan ahead. Go to the market and buy quality minced meat, and start preparing your meat sauce with slow cooking and proper resting. And don’t even think about grabbing that cheap package of bechamel at the supermarket – homemade bechamel is easy to make and takes little time. Make a generous amount so you don’t run out of it while layering your lasagna. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for the extra effort!
Mistake number 3: the sauce is too runny
When making your own meat sauce at home, make sure it’s not too watery. If it is, don’t worry, just let it reduce on the stove for around twenty minutes. Trust me, lasagna “boiled” in sauce just isn’t the same. The key is to have a nice, thick sauce that won’t seep too much into the pasta, but rather, get absorbed into it, making it more flavorful. So, to achieve the perfect lasagna, the consistency of the sauce is absolutely essential. Both the ragù and béchamel sauce should be dense and creamy. Avoid sauces that are too liquid and slide to the bottom of the dish. A thicker consistency of the sauce will allow the pasta to be flavoured in the best possible way.
mistake number 4: overcooking it
When it comes to baking your lasagna, timing is everything. It’s important to resist the urge to leave it in the oven for too long, as this can cause it to dry out. Instead, aim to slightly undercook it and then let it rest for about thirty minutes before digging in. This will give the dish a chance to settle and allow all the delicious flavours to meld together into a mouth-watering masterpiece.
Mistake number 5: using baking paper
If you’re struggling with lasagna layers sticking together after blanching, you might have heard that using parchment paper can help. But let me share my personal tip with you: instead of parchment or baking paper, I prefer using clean tea towels. Not only are they more practical and easier to find, but they also absorb any leftover cooking water from the lasagna sheets. So you’ll end up with perfectly layered lasagna that’s not too soggy. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
mistake number 6: not spreading the filling evenly
If you’re planning on making a vegetarian lasagna, here’s a helpful tip: make sure to finely dice your vegetables and cook them beforehand. You don’t want to bite into a big chunk of raw zucchini, right? Plus, large pieces can create awkward bulges in your pasta layers. Instead, try cooking your veggies in a pan until they’re perfectly seasoned, then let them cool before adding them to your lasagna. Also, while mixing them with the sauce of your choice, make sure to cut the vegetables or meat into evenly bite-sized pieces. This will ensure that the sauce blends perfectly with the other ingredients and doesn’t leave any empty portions in your lasagna.
Mistake number 7: too many layers… or not enough
Let me break it to you: If you want to make a lasagna, three layers just won’t cut it! For the perfect lasagna, you need at least 4-5 layers to really enjoy all those mouth-watering flavors. And, here’s a pro-tip: make sure to season each layer generously, but not too much. The average lasagna has 8 layers!
mistake number 8: baking the lasagna immediately
If you want to make sure your lasagna turns out perfectly, don’t forget to let it sit at room temperature for about an hour before popping it in the oven. This will prevent it from drying out and ensure that it cooks evenly. And here’s a little trick: cover it with aluminium foil for the first 35 minutes of baking, then remove the foil for the last 10 minutes to get that deliciously crispy crust we all love.
Mistake number 9: serving it as soon as it’s out of the oven
Do you struggle with trying to cut freshly baked lasagna without it falling apart. As tempting as it might be to dig in right away, letting it rest for at least half an hour is key. Once it’s had time to settle, cutting it into equal squares is easy peasy. Pro tip: start by dividing it in half lengthwise, then perpendicularly. And don’t worry if the first piece is a bit messy – a trusty spatula can fix it right up!
mistake number 10: making too little lasagna
Always make more lasagna than you think you’ll need! Not only is it delicious the next day, but it’s also a lifesaver on busy nights. If you find yourself with too much leftover, don’t worry! Just divide it into single portions, pop it in the freezer, and you’ll have a quick and easy meal for the next few months. Just be sure to thaw only what you need, so you can enjoy that fresh lasagna taste every time.
Do you put lasagne sheets in raw?
I don’t recommend using raw lasagna sheets. Especially if you use freshly made pasta. Best to blanch fresh pasta in boiling water until it floats: this way your sheets will harden up, and won’t dissolve into a mushy mess For dry or refrigerated commercial lasagna, if you want to use them, cook them until slightly undercooked. If you follow the suggestions I gave you above, you will end up with the perfect lasagna
What can I use instead of tomato sauce in lasagna?
The base sauces for lasagna are two: ragout, and bechamel. From here, you can then layer the lasagna with other ingredients.
With the bechamel sauce, you can layer
- Bolognese ragout
- Sausage ragout
- Pesto and ricotta
With tomato sauce, you can layer
- Salami and other cured meat
- Fried or grilled aubergines
- All of the above (for the Neapolitan lasagna)
Can I use passata instead of chopped tomatoes in lasagne?
You can definitely use passata, however don’t use it raw: cook it for 10-15 minutes, until nice and dense. Same for chopped tomatoes, don’t use them raw, cook them for about half an hour to make them less watery.
What goes on the last layer of lasagna?
It depends which kind of lasagna you are making: it’s always either tomato sauce or bechamel sauce (never both), sprinkled with abundant grated parmesan.
How do you soften lasagne sheets without sticking together?
Use a very large pan filled with water. Wait for the the water to boil,and add a lasagna sheet a time. If you put in more, they will stick together. No whirlpool or other trick will work, the pasta is just too big.