Lasagna is the consummate comfort food, but it's not the fastest dish to whip up. This has many cooks reaching for oven-ready and no-boil lasagna sheets, but is there a difference between these types? We've done the research to serve up the solution to this perplexing pasta puzzle.
"Oven-ready" and "no-boil" mean the same thing for lasagna sheets. Different brands use both terms to refer to pre-cooked sheets of pre-cooked pasta. However, the instructions to use these sheets may differ between brands. Check the instructions and which brand your recipe uses for best results.
Since different brands use different terms, we'll take a look at some of the top brands and how they label their sheets. We'll see how they differ from their conventional counterparts and answer some other lasagna quandaries, such as if you even need to boil traditional lasagna sheets. Read on to learn more!
Oven-Ready and No-Boil Lasagna Sheets
Traditional lasagna sheets need to be boiled before they go into the oven. Not so for oven-ready or no-boil lasagna! These sheets can save you time by skipping this step, getting you to your lasagna destination faster.
There is no regulation for the terms "oven-ready" or "no-boil," so a brand may use one, the other, or both to refer to their pre-cooked pasta sheets. Let's look at some popular brands and how to find their convenient, pre-cooked lasagna sheets.
Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagne
Barilla is one of the most popular pasta brands. You'll find their pre-cooked lasagna sheets with the "oven-ready" label.
Barilla's no-boil lasagna recipe is also a favorite in many homes. You'll find the recipe right on the box, but you can also find it online over at Food.
365 No Boil Lasagne
The Whole Foods store brand, 365, also has its own line of pasta, including its no-boil pasta lasagne.
Trader Joe's No Boil Lasagna Noodles
Of course, Trader Joe's wouldn't leave all of the fun to Whole Foods. They also make their own pre-cooked lasagna. They decided to take both routes and label theirs with both "no boil" and "oven ready."
Delverde Instant Lasagne
The Italian brand Delverde forgoes both the "oven-ready" and the "no-boil" label, opting instead for "instant." However, they work the same as the other pasta sheets on this list. These lasagne are a bit pricier but well-regarded for their flavor and texture.
Capello's Gluten-Free Lasagna Sheets
If you or someone you're cooking for is cutting gluten from their diet, finding quality pasta can be tough. Just because one is abstaining from gluten doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to enjoy a tasty lasagna though!
Capello's lasagna sheets don't require any boiling and are made with almond flour, so they're completely grain and gluten-free!
What is the Difference Between Lasagna and Oven Ready Lasagna?
We've seen that "oven ready" and "no boil" are used interchangeably, but what separates these from regular lasagna sheets? There are a few differences, but the most important is that oven-ready lasagna sheets are partially cooked before drying, while regular lasagna sheets are dried without pre-cooking or soaking.
In effect, this means that you should boil regular lasagna sheets before assembling your lasagna, but you don't need to with oven-ready or no-boil lasagna sheets.
That being said, you can find recipes online that use regular lasagna sheets without boiling them. Typically, these recipes call for using a thinner sauce or more sauce, since regular lasagna sheets will absorb more water in the oven. This recipe, from Tastes of Lizzy T, uses regular sheets but suggests adding water if you use a thick sauce.
Do Oven-Ready Lasagna Expand?
When you boil conventional lasagna sheets, they expand as they absorb water. Because of this, you may wonder if oven-ready lasagna will expand in the oven.
Oven-ready lasagna will expand slightly when cooking. However, they won't expand as much as traditional noodles do when boiled. This is because the starches in the pasta have already been pre-cooked before packaging.
The extent to which the sheets expand will differ somewhat between brands. However, the swelling should be minimal in all cases, so you don't need to leave large gaps as you lay out your noodles.
Do You Need to Boil Lasagna Before Baking?
We've seen that there are special lasagna sheets that don't need to be boiled. We've also seen that there are special recipes to make lasagna with regular sheets without boiling them. But is special pasta or a special recipe really necessary? The answer may very well be, "No."
Lasagna generally bakes for around an hour, most of that time covered in foil. The foil prevents too much moisture from escaping, and the length is certainly long enough for the dry pasta to cook. But how are the results?
According to food YouTuber Adam Ragusea, lasagna made without pre-boiling the noodles may actually be better. The pasta will be a bit firmer, but you may prefer this depending on your tastes. And if you like leftover lasagna, that firmer pasta will hold up better when reheated the next day.
He also compared adding more water as recommended in some no-boil lasagna recipes. He found that there wasn't a noticeable difference between the pasta with water added and that without it in texture. However, the flavor was more concentrated in the lasagna without extra water.
So adding extra water might not even be necessary, but he does recommend adding more salt. Lasagna sheets are pre-boiled in salted water, seasoning them. Because of this, you'll want to increase the salt in your lasagna filling to compensate.
He does say that boiled sheets are better in one case: when using fresh pasta instead of dried pasta. So if you're a from-scratch lasagna enthusiast, you may want to continue boiling your noodles.
You can see his side-by-side lasagna experiments in the video from his YouTube channel below:
Which is Better: Oven-Ready or Regular Lasagna?
Oven-ready lasagna and regular lasagna both have their advantages. The best one for you will depend on your priorities. In terms of convenience, oven-ready lasagna wins easily. While boiling water isn't so tricky, it does take time and it can be difficult to cook the sheets without them sticking or tearing.
Also, if you stick with a single brand, it's easier to get consistent results with oven-ready lasagna than with regular noodles. Taking boiling out of the equation reduces the number of factors that can change your results. There are even those who prefer lasagna made with oven-ready noodles!
Still, many prefer regular noodles for several reasons. You can get a firmer texture with regular noodles than with the oven-ready kind. The surface starch on regular noodles can also help improve the structure of your lasagna as it binds with the sauce.
That being said, many people swear that if you want the best lasagna, you'll have to make the noodles from scratch. This adds some serious time, effort, and technique to your recipe, but it can be a fun project, especially when shared with friends or family!
Can You Boil Oven-Ready Lasagna?
Many see oven-ready lasagna's biggest benefit as the fact that you don't have to boil it. However, they may be times when you want to. For example, if you want to make cannelloni, you'll need the sheets to be flexible enough to roll.
You can absolutely boil oven-ready lasagna, but remember that it will take much less time to cook. It may only take 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the brand.
Instead of boiling, you can also pour hot water over the sheets and let them rest in a bath. How long it will take them to become pliable will also depend on the brand. Ranzoni says their oven-ready lasagna will become pliable enough to make roll-ups after 10 to 15 minutes.
Softened oven-ready lasagna can be used for more than just cannelloni or roll-ups too! You can cut them into triangles, pat them dry, and fry them up to make these lasagna chips from Tasty. You can also cut them into strips and use them like noodles for your favorite pasta dishes!
Now you know that "oven-ready" and "no-boil" are just two ways to label pre-cooked lasagna. And we saw that just because lasagna is labeled "no-boil" doesn't mean you can't boil or soak it if you want it soft for roll-ups. We've also seen that you might not even need to boil conventional lasagna sheets, depending on your tastes.
Everyone should be able to enjoy a great lasagna at home. Whether you whip up a quick weeknight lasagna with oven-ready noodles or spend all Sunday stirring ragù and rolling out pasta dough, lasagna is one dish that is always satisfying and comforting.
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