My fondest memories of lasagna take me back to Bologna. Surely, in this scholarly Italian city ― home to one of Europe's oldest universities ― the pasta that separates the layers of brick red, mellow meat sauce is the thinnest to be found in all of Italy. It's also often green from spinach, which, to my mind, contributes more color than flavor. It's the contrast between the delicate density of the pasta and the creamy béchamel and subtle meat sauce that pushes Bologna's lasagna to the top of the class.
At home, instead of making pasta, I have settled for thick, ripply dried lasagna, which doesn't quite stack up. But a recently introduced oven-ready dried lasagna meets Bolognese standards with ease.
Fresh from a box
Ho hum! Another no-boil, just-bake lasagna pasta. Is this news? I was a doubter until the Barilla folks dropped by and turned their product into a layered casserole anchored by pasta thin and tender enough to pass for fresh-made.
A 9-ounce box of the Barilla OvenReady Lasagna is just the right amount for four layers of pasta separated by a total of 8 to 10 cups of sauce and cheese in a shallow 3-quart casserole (9 by 13 in.).
However, to provide adequate moisture for the dried oven-ready pasta to rehydrate as it bakes, add 1/2 to 1 cup more liquid, such as meat or vegetable broth, to the lasagna sauce you ordinarily use ― purchased or homemade. Also, be sure the top layer of pasta is evenly coated with some of the sauce.
Seal the casserole with foil to keep the moisture in as the lasagna is baking, then uncover the container if you want more browning. The pasta will be cooked by the time the sauce is bubbling vigorously, usually in 40 to 50 minutes.
Barilla OvenReady Lasagna is sold in many supermarkets, including most major chains, alongside other dried pasta products.