Oven-ready lasagna noodles are meant to save us time when preparing lasagna, but can they be boiled? The quick answer is YES! Oven-ready lasagna noodles can be boiled or pre-boiled before layering them in a pasta dish or using them for lasagna roll-ups.
In fact, for one of my favorite lasagna recipes, Italian lasagna with bechamel sauce, I recommend using oven-ready lasagna noodles and pre-boiling them. The advantage of pre-boiling lasagna noodles is to keep the pasta dish from drying out when using a thick sauce. Another advantage is the noodles are delicately tender.
What Are Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles?
Oven ready lasagna sheets, also known as no-boil lasagna noodles, are a pre-packaged pasta product that can be found in your local supermarket. They are advertised as no-boil noodles.
When assembling a lasagna dish, just layer the rigid sheets of oven-ready pasta and they will soften throughout the cooking process in the oven. Layer the dry pasta sheets in between tomato sauce and cream sauce.
The purpose of oven-ready lasagna noodles is to make things easier by not having to boil the noodles before using them. They are a convenient shortcut and save on preparation time. No-boil lasagna noodles are great for lasagna recipes with a more watery sauce. The noodles soak up the sauce while baking in the oven. The additional liquid ensures that the lasagna doesn't dry out.
Regular Vs. Oven-Ready
There are two types of dried lasagna noodles found in most grocery stores: regular noodles and oven-ready. Regular lasagna noodles have wavy edges, are a little thicker, and take longer to boil. They typically take about 10 to 12 minutes to cook in boiling water.
Boil noodle sheets by adding the entire box to boiling water. The sheets don't stick together while they are boiling because of the frilly edge. Boil lasagna sheets to al dente, or where the noodles are firm when bitten into. You don't want overcooked lasagna noodles to start with!
Oven-ready lasagna sheets are flat, thinner, and typically take about 2 minutes to soften in boiling water. The disadvantage is they stick to each other very easily. So, only drop only five to six pasta sheets individually into boiling water, then lay them in a single layer on parchment paper so they don't stick to each other.
Homemade Lasagna Noodles
Another great option for traditional layered-up lasagna is making fresh pasta. Homemade lasagna noodles from scratch take more time, but are so worth it! An Italian chef (or granny) would definitely say these noodles are the best choice for lasagna.
Uncooked raw pasta needs to be boiled before use. Homemade noodles take about the same amount of time to boil as oven-ready noodles. The cooking time is about two to three minutes in boiling water. Drop about two to three fresh pasta sheets into boiling water. Remove the pasta and lay it flat in a single layer.
Homemade lasagna sheets take less than an hour to prepare. If I'm making fresh sheets for lasagna, I make them while slow-simmering the meat sauce.
Should I Boil Oven-Ready Lasagna?
I prefer to pre-boil oven-ready lasagna because the noodles soak up less of the moisture from the meat sauce. If I don't boil the oven-ready noodles, I notice my lasagna dish is more dried out.
Another delicious meal that needs to boil oven-ready lasagna sheets is luscious lasagna rolls stuffed with an herb ricotta cheese mixture. The pasta pieces need to be pliable to make the rolls.
How To Boil Oven-Ready Lasagna Noodles
The biggest tip when boiling oven-ready lasagna noodles is not to add all of the noodles into boiling water at the same time. Separate each dry pasta sheet and drop them one at a time into boiling water without exceeding 5 or 6 pasta sheets at a time.
If pre-boiling the pasta sheets, boil the sheets for about two minutes or until the sheets are pliable. Remove the sheets using tongs delicately. Place the pasta sheets flat on parchment paper. Don't lay the pasta sheets on top of one another. Instead, lay parchment paper in between layers of pasta sheets. The pre-boiled lasagna noodles can be made ahead about three hours before.
Regular lasagna noodles are long and narrow whereas oven-ready lasagna noodles are wide and short. Many classic lasagna recipes fit in a 9" x 13" standard baking dish. If you are using regular lasagna noodles, this will mean you lay three noodles parallel to each other. If you use oven-ready noodles, you will still use three sheets but you have to arrange them a little differently.