I receive lots of questions about how to make authentic and delicious Italian lasagna through the Lasagna Q&A page of this site.
However there are some lasagna-making questions that pop up again and again.
So to save you from searching through the numerous topics on that Q&A page, this quick guide answers the 6 Most Common Italian Lasagna Questions.
I hope you find the info you need.
My very best suggestion is to prepare the lasagna the day before, or earlier on the same day.
This means making its sauce and layering this with the lasagna sheets/noodles in your baking dish or pan (see my How to make lasagna starter guide for a great layering overview). Then you simply need to bake the lasagna in the oven on the evening of your event.
Should you need to, you can even do this cooking the day before, then just reheat your lasagna prior to your dinner. The oven temparatures and timings are almost identical: bang your dish in a 180C/350F oven for 20 minutes when cooking, or around 15 minutes if reheating.
Tip: Try and leave a few minutes free for the lasagna to stand and cool/firm-up after it comes out of the oven (especially useful if cooking on the evening itself to avoid sloppy layers).
And don't forget - if you are creating a lasagna with dried packet lasagna, you do not need to boil/cook these lasagna sheets/noodles in advance. This is only necessary if you're using fresh homemade pasta.
I am asked this question so often that I created a dedicated page about the topic.
Read Freezing Lasagna (includes a FREE downloadable PDF guide).
There are several tips to bear in mind to ensure your lasagna doesn't become a liquid feast:
A general point first: make sure your sauce is nice and thick. A very liquid sauce is the most likely culprit in most cases.
Second, if you are adding ricotta cheese in your lasagna, don't worry about doing what some cooks do and mixing eggs into this cheese. These eggs will make the mixture expand during cooking, which will bring forth the ooze!
Third, in general with cheese, remember it melts. Which means more liquid! So don't go overboard with the fromage.
Lastly, if you are using freshly made pasta sheets in your dish, be sure to pre-cook these in boiling water until 'al dente' (which means a little more firm than you would usually eat.) This is the one key difference between making Italian lasagna with fresh pasta and building this dish using dried packet noodles, which don't require this pre-cooking.
Also, when making lasagna sheets from scratch, don't roll them out too thin either - you want a medium-thick noodle if possible.
My How to Make Lasagna mini-guide discusses the layering process in depth.
But either way, here's a quick a re-cap:
1) 'Stain' the bottom of your baking dish/pan with a little sauce.
2) Add the first layer of lasagna sheets, being sure to use broken bits to plug any gaps.
3) Add an even layer of sauce over these, along with any cheese you're addding.
4) More pasta sheets, positioned differently to the first layer if possible (for a sturdier lasagna structure). EG: cross-ways to the first layer's vertical noodles.
5) Repeat until you've only one layer of sauce and parmesan cheese left.
6) Cover your top layer of pasta with just a good helping of sauce and grate over some parmesan (don't add mozzarella on top as this can burn, unless you throw it on really at the last minute, just to melt it). Make sure that no pasta is visible, as this will dry and maybe burn too.
Tip: be really careful to leave enough sauce for this very top layer. I almost always fail to leave enough and it drives me crazy. One day I'll learn!
Only if you have made fresh lasagna noodles (in which case cook them until al dente or slightly firm).
Dried packet sheets do not need pre-cooking, no matter what anyone tells you.
The ideal approach is to defrost your lasagna at room temperature. I just pop a clean towel or paper over the dish for hygiene purposes. Then when defrosted, cook or reheat in a pre-heated 180C/350 F oven (for 20 or 15 minutes respectively).
If however you are really pushed for time, I will pop the lasagna in the oven on a lower heat - maybe half the temperature above - to defrost it. Defrost it like this until you can push in a toothpick without hitting ice.
Then ramp up the temperature and cook for 15 mins at this full heat. Add any extra 5 minute blasts until the dish fully cooked through.