Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lasagne, part 1

Apologies for splitting this post. The reason is that I want to say something about the pasta before getting to the recipe.

The "no pre-cooking required" varieties of lasagne are often the only ones available. I am not particularly keen on them. The sauces, the instructions tell you, need to be runny, in order to surround the pasta and cook it, and to compensate for absorption into the sheets; but how do you get the consistency right? Too runny, and you end up with slop; too thick, and you get a dried-out dish with crunchy pasta.

A local deli owner gave me the answer: par-boil the lasagne first, for just a minute. The process gets the cooking underway, and prevents the pasta from drying out the sauces (a ragu and a bechamel). Of course, you now have to do just as much work with this so-called labour-saving lasagne as you would with a variety that did require pre-cooking.

Get a large pan of water to the boil, salt it, and drop in four sheets of lasagne. (If you try to cook lots of sheets at once, you are likely to find them sticking together.) After a minute, fish them out with a slotted spoon, transfer them to a colander, and run cold water over them. Separate them if they have stuck together. Lay them out on a clean surface. Repeat, until you have par-boiled all the sheets the recipe requires.

I have found that if I adhere to the timing of 60 seconds and apply the cold water quickly, the lasagne does not curl up. It sometimes does, nevertheless. That is not disastrous.

Recipe to come on Friday.

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