General Question

laureth's avatar

Is there a right way to layer a lasagna?

Asked by laureth (27083 points ) October 9th, 2011

Pretty straightforward. Do the layers go in any special order for a reason, and if so, how and why? Or do you just go at it randomly?

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27 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

For structural integrity, you want a layer of noodles at the bottom and one at the top. Otherwise you have lasagna pudding.

For gustatory integrity, you layer proportionally so that there aren’t giant waste lands and then too much cheese.

For tradition, you put tomato sauce on noodles and then cheese and then noodles.

For the finishing touch, you want some cheese on top to melt and drip and brown.

laureth's avatar

Awesome! I did it pretty much right tonight. I did, however, put a tiny bit of sauce first in the bottom of the pan, so that the noodle didn’t bake to the pan and turn all crunchy.

gailcalled's avatar

@laureth: Makes sense to me.

dreamwolf's avatar

Food for me is an art. There are no rules, but there should be some sort of similar outcome as to what an actual lasagna is <3

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I also put a little sauce on the bottom of the pan so it won’t stick but also because I do a dry noodle layering. My mom showed me a technique where she browns the noodle by dunking it in hot oil beforehand because it slightly changes the flavor and lets the noodle plump with the juices/sauces with no worry of mushy pastiness.

gailcalled's avatar

I just had a thought, not having actually made a lasagna for years now.

It is probably easier to slide the mozarella over the slippery noodles and then ladle the sauce over that;

So it would be some sauce, noodles, cheese, repeat once or twice. End with cheese and a little sauce over the whole thing.

I got carried away by parallel linguistic construction rather than culinary. Sorry

JLeslie's avatar

Plain sauce on the bottom.

noodles
Cheese
Sauce (I use meatsauce)
Then the next layer of noodles going perpendicular to the before layer, alternating each time.
Very top some sauce and shredded mozerella on top.

Bake covered until the last ten minutes uncover so cheese browns.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

To me, the right way to layer a lasagna is that it be eatable. I have seen it done many waysa, but as long at it was tasty and able to be eaten, I hardly cared. Why should I, looks do not make it delicious.

lillycoyote's avatar

I don’t think the actual order in which you layer the lasagna matters as much as getting the proportions right. But, like @Neizvestnaya, I start by putting a relatively thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan, not to little, not too much. Just put a little of everything you’ve got in each layer, or not. :-) Just layer it until you run out of stuff. The sauce is really the trick: you don’t want to use too little or the lasagna will be dry but you don’t want the pie swimming in sauce. Depending on how much meat you want to use, if at all, you might want to brown it separately from the sauce so you can control the amounts of each. Lasagna is a very forgiving dish.

jaytkay's avatar

My mom showed me a technique where she browns the noodle by dunking it in hot oil beforehand because it slightly changes the flavor and lets the noodle plump with the juices/sauces with no worry of mushy pastiness.

That is some genuine powerful mom-powered advice there. Thanks! Seriously!

janbb's avatar

Small amount of meat sauce at the bottom, noodles, cheeses, sauce, noodles, cheeses, sauce, noodles, sauce, grated parm. Comes out great.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

I do mine like this…

In a really deep pan *not the usual standard shallow ones where you can only make it two or three layers… I make mine at least 4 or 5 layers.

You spray the bottom and sides with olive oil non stick spray

1. sauce layer
2. pasta layer
3. cheese layer
4. pasta layer
5. sauce layer again

Repeat stopping with a top layer of sauce and cheese

On the top however Instead of using shredded motzarella, I use thin flat slices spread across the top.

It is best when you add the Ricotta layer, that you do it like this:

Take the container of ricotta cheese, dump it out into a large bowl, add dry herbs, (Basic oregano, parsley) and for every large tub, add 4 beaten eggs and some grated cheese. Mix and then layer. I add a layer of this, and put motzarella on top of that and grated cheese on top of that then cover with the next layer of pasta.

If you are going to add meat? Sometimes I make sausage or meatball or even Brasiole lasagna, then I reserve the middle layer for the meat and also place a few pieces on the top so that I know what’s inside because I usually always make 2 at once.

Another trick is to only boil the pasta until it is mostly done, but still too firm to eat and as you assemble, take the pasta directly out of the water this way it doesn’t dry out. A little pasta water adds to the sauce and makes a better texture.

DO NOT CUT IT until you allow it to cool for at least 45 minutes. It you cut it directly out of the oven it will flatten all out and look like a mess on the plate.

Pandora's avatar

I start with a little sauce on the bottom so the noodles don’t stick.
Then noodle
Then meat filling that was cooked in spagetti sauce and then drained so its not too watery and a little bit of shredded mozzerella to bind it together
Then noodle
Then ricotta and a little of mozzerella, again to bind it together.
Then noodle
Then some spagetti sauce Cover with foil but let the edges up so moisture can escape.
Then 15 minutes before its done add shredded mozzerella and a little bit more spagetti sauce onto the top and let it bake till the top is melted.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t know that there’s a right way. I know what works for me, and I stick to that, although it has evolved a little over time. For what it’s worth, my best friend in college showed me how she did it, and I mostly copied her. Both of her parents were second-generation Italian, and so I placed great confidence in her method.

I put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom. Then, in order:

cottage cheese (half of the 1-pt. container, or about ⅓ of a 1-qt. container for the big pan)
shredded mozzarella (about ⅓ of the shredded pound)
shredded parmesan

I ladle sauce over that (it’s not too hard to spread over the cheese) and then place another layer of noodles and repeat.

At the top (third) layer I just put sauce on top of the noodles and then spread the mozzarella over that.

In the big lasagne pan (10×15) it takes 13 of the extra-wide noodles: 4 per layer + 1 to fill in the short ends. In the cake baking pan (9×12), it takes 9.

I use two 1 lb. 8 oz. jars of sauce and add a pound of browned hamburger. One pound of mozzarella, a pint of small-curd cottage cheese (I prefer it to ricotta), and an unmeasured amount of shredded parmesan. There’s usually some sauce left over; I don’t want it too wet.

I bake for 30 minutes, uncovered, until it’s all bubbly at the edges and the top layer of cheese is melted. Better let it stand for at least 15 minutes so it firms up a little before serving—time enough to make a salad. Don’t worry, it’ll probably stay hot for an hour, so you can take it across town to a potluck if you want.

CWOTUS's avatar

I do mine with “dry” lasagna noodles and layers of sauce above and below each noodle, since they have to absorb moisture from somewhere.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

If you like yours a bit more salty and not as saucy, use ricotta Salata instead of the wet ricotta. It is a dried and hard grating or slicing version of ricotta made from the left over salt and whey.

It comes out a bit more… sturdy, and more salty but it is really good esecially if you are using braciole and hard boiled eggs sliced.

*This is more specifically Sicilian than Northern Italian

And if you are making Lasagna Florentine, do the same with the eggs and the wet ricotta only add defrosted drained spinach in with the cheese and egg.

Coloma's avatar

@GabrielsLamb

Nice sharing. Nothing to add to everyone elses’ contributions other than, if you’re like me, no matter how carefully you try to measure, the fillings will be getting scarce towards the last few layers. Lopsided lasagna. haha

marinelife's avatar

I put a tiny bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan, then noodles, the alternate ending with noodles and cover with cheese.

Nullo's avatar

You might buy a lasagna and note how it’s built before making your own.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Of course not! Layer it however you like ( I might be reading this in a dirty way.)

Sunny2's avatar

Perhaps, if all roads lead to Rome, all method lead to lasagne. Also, ingredients may differ somewhat. I know people who use eggplant instead of noodles, add mushrooms, and, as mentioned, use cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I wonder how they make lasagna in China, or Norway.

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GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Coloma Thank You Miss! I am good with the Italian food. I was practically born with my recipes.

gailcalled's avatar

And I should mention that meatless lasagna is also wonderful. If you slice zucchini and/or eggplant the long way into very thin slabs, you layer them the same as the noodles.

And the Chinese are famous for their long history of cooking with tomatoes, olive oil and pasta.

The Norwegians substitute long, translucent strips of beautiful wild salmon for the noodles, I am told.

zensky's avatar

Four layers, starting with a layer on the bottom and ending with one on the top.

Earthgirl's avatar

I put a little sauce on the bottom, then noodles.
More sauce, meat (if using meat I like ground beef or Italian sausage seasoned with oregano and basil)
Ricotta (with or without spinach, if I add spinach I add a little grated nutmeg too)
Shredded Mozzarella
Repeat until you have at least 3 layers
On the top layer of noodles I like to mix the sauce with a little water and olive oil so the noodles don’t dry out. I grate fresh parmesan on top with a fine grater. (Please, none of that Kraft powdery parmesan!)
Bake until well heated through and bubbly.
I love the no-cook noodles they make now. It is so much quicker and easier.

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