Making lasagna used to be an all day deal. With the sauces, the shredded cheese and the boiled noodles draped over every bowl in the kitchen, putting together a pan of lasagna was a labor of love. At one point we tried taking a short cut by substituting macaroni for the lasagna noodles, but it wasn’t the same. Lasagna needed lasagna pasta.
All that changed, or at least there was the promise of change, when no-cook noodles came onto the market. At first we were skeptical. Was it possible for hard, flat sheets to be transformed into soft, tender pasta without so much as a drop of water? As it turned out, it was. With a box of regular cooking noodles standing by, just in case, we took the plunge and layered crisp, uncooked noodles into the pan with meaty tomato sauce and cheese. We are happy to report that no-boil lasagna noodles work like a charm. Along with sliced bread and canned diced tomatoes, they are a culinary lifesaver.
Interestingly, cooks have been layering ingredients for centuries. Lasagna started as a flat cake that Romans cut into strips and combined with other foods. At some point, as a way of making a dish go further, pieces of fried dough were substituted for the cake. From there, it was just a step from dough to pasta. Lasagna is the kind of dish that lends itself to tweaking, but we restrained ourselves. Our delicious lasagna has a robust meat sauce and a classic bechamel. Instead of mozzarella, we used sharp Cheddar, and of course, no-boil noodles.
By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.