Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cooking Tip of the Day

Even the most ambitious multi-tasker can use a break now and then.  One of the more maddening multi-tasking dishes is lasagna.  You chop your scallions/shallots, you saute them, you add the tomatoes (Bonus Hint:  spend a little more and try San Marzano one time.  They're milder and really enjoyable.  I'm guessing that they're also more migraine-friendly), or you make alfredo sauce.  While that's going on, you have to brown the meat - ground beef, chicken, or whatever.  THEN, you have to heat up the water to boil and boil the noodles.  Not only does your range top start to get crowded, but you have two more dishes to wash.  Then you stir your chives/parseley/whatever into your ricotta so it's ready for the layering process. . . It's very doable, but it's also a tremendous amount of work.

The latest cheat I have found for this undertaking is "no boil" noodles.  So far, I have seen Kroger and Barilla varieties.  The Kroger variety has the nice lasagna edges that you get when boiling your own; the Barilla has flat edges to more resemble homemade noodles.  Even though they are hard like uncooked noodles, fear not.  The only thing you do need to be careful about is to have enough sauce to cover the top layer of noodles.  Otherwise, they can turn out more "al dente" than most people prefer (and that's being kind. . . ).  I've tried the Kroger and (other than the top layer) it turned out exactly like boiled noodles.  Barilla is a bit more high end, so I would expect it to work at least as well. 

For taking this shortcut, you lose time needed to heat a lot of water, a boiling pot that needs washing, a strainer or inside for a pasta pot that needs washing, a crowded range top. a pasta facial when you strain the noodles, and burnt fingers when you layer the noodles.  The only good thing you lose is the pasta water that most expert cooks like to add to their sauce.  Although I like to do that myself, the loss is a small price to pay to avoid a lot of aggravation.  Give it a try!

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