How are no-boil lasagna noodles made?

Unlike regular pasta, no-boil noodles don’t have to be cooked separately; you can skip straight to layering and baking when making dishes such as Lasagne alla Bolognese. Two of the most common no-boil lasagna noodle brands, Barilla and Ronzoni, use different methods to create quick-cooking pasta sheets.

Most commercial pasta is made by extruding the dough through dies under very high pressure, which makes a dense noodle that wouldn’t rehydrate easily while baking. Kamal Dagher, former vice president of research and development (and current consultant) for Barilla Pasta, says that instead Barilla manufactures its no-boil noodles with giant rollers. “The advantage of this process is that the dough is not very dense,” he says. “Rolled dough looks like a sponge under a microscope. It’s similar to rolling it by hand. You have less pasta, and it’s porous, so it hydrates during cooking.”

Barilla also includes eggs in its no-boil dough, an ingredient that isn’t used in the manufacturer’s standard pastas. “We have to add the eggs to give it strength,” says Dagher.

Dave Hahn, the director of research and technical services at New World Pasta, which produces oven-ready lasagna sheets for brands such as Ronzoni, San Giorgio, Creamette, Prince, American Beauty, and Skinner, says that his company’s oven-ready noodles are formed using the same extrusion process and ingredients as its other, boilable products. But the sheets are precooked and dehydrated before they are cut and packaged.

Hahn says it’s possible to use a conventional lasagna noodle without precooking it if you add extra liquid to the dish, but advises against doing this. “Long, slow cooking with a low water ratio allows pasta to gelatinize,” he says. “It would be rubbery and most people won’t like the taste.”

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday.

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