Home Foods 10 Hacks To Prevent Watery Lasagna (+Recipe)

10 Hacks To Prevent Watery Lasagna (+Recipe)

by Gina Elizabeth
how to prevent watery lasagna

Watery lasagna cooking mistakes you’re probably making (and how to avoid them)

Because everyone makes mistakes.

#UltimateLasagna

How to Prevent Watery Lasagna

For moisture coming from the tomatoes, ricotta, or vegetables: Allow your sauce to simmer longer before adding it to the lasagna dish. Strain your ricotta with cheesecloth or a sieve to remove excess liquid. Salt the vegetables before cooking to remove excess moisture.

1. Choose Lean Ground Beef

Fattier ground beef is cheaper than lean. But the extra fat content can cause moisture.

Make sure to drain any excess liquid before transferring the meat filling to the baking dish.

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2. Measure Ingredients Accurately

Baking is more science than art. Eyeballing ingredients isn’t good practice for baking!

Also, don’t make changes or substitutions to the recipe that may add moisture and cause runny lasagna.

For example:

  • Chopping ingredients instead of grating them if the recipe calls for grated
  • Skipping steps like not draining excess liquid
  • Using the wrong baking dish

3. Thaw Frozen Vegetables

Thawing frozen veggies is crucial to how lasagna turns out.

Thawing and draining it to get rid of excess water means you won’t end up with a watery lasagna.

4. Pre-cook Your Vegetables

Pre-cooked vegetables reduce moisture. Try par-cooking (partially cooking) your veggies with your meat filling. And be sure to drain the excess liquid from the filling before assembling the lasagna.

Tip: Use fresh vegetables, they contain less water than frozen.

5. Use An Oven Thermometer

Pre-heat your oven and verify the baking temperature with an oven thermometer (don’t trust your dial). If your oven bakes unevenly you may want to rotate your lasagna half-way through baking.

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6. Use A Glass Dish To Bake

Bake in glass dish in order to monitor the amount of liquid in the casserole.

The 10 Best Lasagna Pans

What type of pan is best for lasagna?

Use a 9×13 inch lasagna baking pan. A baking pan that is too small can cause a watery lasagna. A glass lasagna dish distributes heat better and stays warm longer on your table. It also looks great. High quality ceramic and metallic pans are also great options.

Here are the 10 best lasagna baking pans in each category:

BestProduct
Best OverallPyrex Oblong Lasagna Baking Dish
Best BudgetWilton Non-Stick Lasagna and Roasting Pan
Best CeramicEmile Henry HR Modern Classics Large Rectangular Baker
Best Cast IronLe Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Roaster
Best Stainless SteelAll-Clad Lasagna Pan
Best SquarePorcelain Square Heavy-Duty Lasagna Baker
Best Mirror FinishCuisinart 7117-14RR Lasagna Pan with Stainless Roasting Rack
Best Oven To TableStoneware Oven to Table Lasagna Dish Set
Best DisposablePlasticpro Disposable 9 x 13 Aluminum Foil Pan
Best Double HandledAll-Clad E9019964 Stainless Steel Lasagna Double Handled Pan

Everyone needs a great lasagna pan!

7. Do Not Overfill Your Baking Dish

Extra meat filling can cause runny lasagna due to the extra juice. Stick with the amount filling that your recipe calls for.

8. Do No Overlayer Your Lasagna 

Too many layers can prevent evaporation causing excess moisture.

How to layer lasagna:

  1. Spread a thin layer of meat sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.
  2. Make a layer of cooked lasagna noodles.
  3. Spread an even layer of the ricotta cheese mixture.
  4. Spread an even layer of meat sauce.
  5. Repeat those layers two times.
  6. Top it with a final layer of noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese.

9. Cool Before Slicing Or Refrigerating

Whenever you bake a lasagna casserole you need to give it at least 20 minutes before cutting it.

If you don’t allow lasagna to cool, it’s almost certain that you’ll end up with a juicy, wet mess when you cut into it.

How long should lasagna sit before cutting?

Let the lasagna rest uncovered for 15-20 minutes to avoid a sloppy mess. Or make your lasagna a day ahead of time and reheat to serve.

10. Adjust Recipe In High Altitude

If you live in a high altitude, adjust the recipe (ingredients and oven temperature).

Tip: Use no-bake lasagna noodles to absorb excess liquid, and allow the lasagna to sit for 30 minutes after cooking to reabsorb extra moisture.

Veggie lasagna has the tendency to be watery because vegetables give off quite a bit of moisture as they cook.

How To Fix Dry Lasagna

Lasagna is not meant to be dry or crunchy. To get perfectly moist lasagna every time, cover the lasagna pan with foil while it bakes. You don’t need to keep it covered the entire time.

How do you fix dry lasagna?

  1. Soften dried lasagna sheets by soaking them in a single layer in boiling water for 5 mins. Soaking improves the texture even if the box says not to pre-cook the lasagna sheets. Drain well to avoid watery lasagna.
  2. To keep you lasagna casserole moist, the first layer of your lasagna should be sauce. This also ensures the noodles won’t stick to the pan.
  3. To keep the top layer of lasagna from getting hard, add some bechamel or tomato sauce before covering it with cheese.
  4. If the top layer of your lasagna is a pasta layer, brush some oil on the lasagna sheets to keep them from drying out. And cover with foil.
  5. To fix dry lasagna that is already cooked, pour in a little tomato sauce, bechamel sauce, or beef broth. Then cover the pan and return to the oven too bake briefly. Keep baking until the liquid is absorbed.
  6. You can also turn it into another dish like: lasagna tomato soup, lasagna grilled cheese sandwiches, or lasagna dip.
  7. To reheat lasagna without drying it out, sprinkle two tablespoons of water on top of the lasagna and cover with foil. Place the lasagna in the oven and heat for 15 minutes, or until heated all the way through.

Did you know?

The secret to a mind-blowing lasagna is to find a good recipe and follow it exactly. Here’s a traditional lasagna made easy. Everyone needs a go-to lasagna recipe!

Easy Lasagna Recipe

Making your first lasagna? Want to impress everyone with your culinary skills?

Here’s everything you need to know to bake the best lasagna ever!

How To Prevent Watery Lasagna

Tip: Read the whole recipe once or twice before getting started. You’ll be much more likely to avoid dry or watery lasagna!

Easy, cheesy, beautiful.

Like your grandma, we used traditional store-bought sauce and boxed pasta sheets. It saves a ton of time without sacrificing any flavor.

  • YIELDS: 8 SERVINGS
  • PREP TIME: 20 MIN
  • TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR 15 MIN

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb. lasagna noodles
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 2 (32-0z.) jars marinara
  • 16 oz. whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Everything you love about a traditional lasagna. This may just be the best comfort food — and holiday side dish — of all time.

Tip: Extra-virgin olive oil is expensive, buy in bulk to save money.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain noodles in a collander. Drizzle olive oil to prevent noodles from sticking.
  2. Cook ground beef over medium-high heat in an oiled skillet. Break up with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and drain excess fat. Return beef to skillet and add garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir, then add marinara sauce. Stir continuously until warmed. 
  3. Combine ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and egg in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. In a large casserole dish, evenly spread a quarter of the meat sauce across the bottom of the dish, then top with a single layer of lasagna noodles, a layer of ricotta mixture, a single layer of mozzarella, and a layer of meat sauce. Repeat layers, topping the last layer of noodles with meat sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then increase temperature to 400º and bake uncovered for 18 to 20 minutes.
  6. Let lasagna set before slicing it to avoid a watery mess.

How To Layer Lasagna

How to keep lasagna from falling apart?

To keep lasagna from falling apart make sure that you layer it properly, avoid any excess moisture in your recipe, and then let it cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it. Letting the lasagna rest (uncovered) before cutting it will help avoid a sloppy mess.

How many layers should lasagna have?

Lasagna should have a minimum of three layers. Use a 13″x9″ lasagna pan. Start with a meat filling layer on the bottom, then a layer of noodles, followed by a layer of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Repeat until you have at least 3 layers. Top with little bit of extra mozzarella cheese on the final layer to brown in the oven.

Layer #1: Meat Filling

How To Prevent Watery Lasagna

Start with a small amount of meat filling at the bottom of your baking dish to keep your lasagna moist and prevent the bottom layer of lasagna noodles from sticking.

  • For the other meat filling layers, don’t let your layers get too thick! This can cause your lasagna to fall apart when serving and eating.
  • Make sure all your meat is fully cooked before adding it to your lasagna
  • Too much (or runny) meat sauce filling can cause a watery lasagna

Layer #2: Noodles

How to layer lasagna - 2nd lasagna noodle layer

Take 4-5 sheets of cooked lasagna noodles and lay them out flat in your baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Cover the entire bottom of the dish in lasagna noodles.

Tips when using boiled lasagna noodles:

  • Allow them to cool for a few minutes
  • Do not let the noodles sit too long after cooling, they will stick together
  • Lasagna noodles that extend over the edges of the pan may dry out so cut them or tuck them into the pan before baking
  • Do not overcook your lasagna noodles. Err on the side of under cooking them, you’ll be cooking them again in a hot oven.
  • After draining noodles, lay each noodle flat on an oiled baking sheet to avoid a clumpy mess.

Tips when using no-boil lasagna noodles:

  • Break them to fit the pan instead of overlapping them, as the overlapped parts can get hard while baking.
  • Use slightly more sauce. No-boil noodles will absorb more moisture during baking.

Layer #3: Ricotta Cheese

Follow your recipe guidelines to create your cheese mixture and cover the surface area of your dish with a thin layer of cheese. Use enough cheese so you can cover the previous layer.

  • The number one cause of soupy lasagna is wet ricotta. Strain your ricotta with cheesecloth or a sieve to remove excess liquid.
How to layer ricotta

Layer #4: Mozzarella Cheese

Top with shredded mozzarella.

How to layer lasagna

Layers #5-#12

Repeat! (2 more times)

Here’s what all 12 (overlapping) lasagna layers look like:

  1. Thin meat filling (bottom layer)
  2. Noodles
  3. Ricotta
  4. Mozzarella
  5. Meat filling
  6. Noodles
  7. Ricotta
  8. Mozzarella
  9. Meat filling
  10. Noodles
  11. Ricotta
  12. Mozzarella (top layer)

Lasagna Top Layer

  • All of the lasagna noodle layers should be slightly overlapped (including the top layer)
  • Leave a little bit of extra mozzarella cheese to drizzle on top.
  • Sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese too!

Garnish with fresh, chopped parsley when the lasagna is cooled (optional).

How long should you leave lasagna in the oven?

Cover the lasagna pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F – in a preheated oven – for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the foil; bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Let cool 10 minutes before serving to avoid a watery mess when you slice into it.

10 Lasagna Baking Tips

  1. Adding more than 12 (overlapping) layers may cause your lasagna to fall apart and could cause a watery lasagna.
  2. A lasagna is most often oven-baked, so remember to pre-heat your oven.
  3. If you leave your lasagna uncovered in the oven, it will become dry. cover your lasagna dish with foil. Once the lasagna has baked halfway through, remove the foil so the top can brown.
  4. When fully cooked, if the top still looks pale, turn on the broiler.
  5. Keep an eye on the casserole, it can burn quickly.
  6. Don’t overcook your noodles. Lasagna noodles need structure—so they can’t be too mushy.
  7. Oil ’em up. To prevent lasagna noodles from sticking, after you drain, slick them with olive oil and lay them flat on a baking sheet to cool.
  8. Drain beef. To avoid watery lasagna, drain the fat from the skillet.
  9. Season your ricotta mixture. The ricotta mixture tastes kind of bland. Make sure to season it salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, or Parm!
  10. When given the choice, always add more cheese on top.

#UltimateLasagna

Did you know?

Lasagna originated in Italy during the Middle Age. The first recorded recipe appeared in Liber de Coquina (The Book of Cookery) in the early 14th-century. – Wikipedia

Lasagna FAQs

Why is my lasagna so watery?

The most common reasons for runny lasagna are: over layering, over filling, using too much sauce, not draining excess fat from meat filling, wet noodles, wet ricotta, vegetables that give off moisture as they cook, inaccurate measuring, and not cooling lasagna enough before slicing.

Why does lasagna take so long to cook?

The number of layers and how much moisture there is in the core lasagna ingredients determine how long lasagna takes to cook. The noodles & meat are basically already cooked. So you’re just cooking until the cheese melts.

Do you have to cook the lasagna sheets before baking?

No. Just make sure that your meat sauce and your cheese/bechamel sauce are slightly thinner. Cover the top with foil if necessary towards the end of baking to stop it burning.

This works as long as they get extra moisture during baking just like the no-boil noodles (either by soaking before assembling or using a watery sauce, and covering the dish).

How long do you soak no boil lasagna noodles?

Put no-boil lasagna sheets in a baking dish and fill the dish with hot tap water. That’s it! Leave it on the counter for 15 minutes, while you prepare the other layers for your lasagna.

How long to cook lasagna that has been refrigerated?

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove lasagna from refrigerator while oven heats. Bake, covered, 45 minutes. Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes.

Can I assemble lasagna and cook later?

You can assemble lasagna and cook it the next day. Assembling lasagna the day before you need it makes it easy to get a delicious meal on the table after a long day. It’s also possible to freeze the lasagna to use several weeks later. Make-ahead meals are a great convenience.

How do you fix undercooked lasagna?

Pour the liquid of choice over the lasagna in its baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil or a lid. Return to the oven and bake briefly. Keep baking until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Does lasagna need to rest?

Let your lasagna set uncovered for 15 minutes to avoid a watery mess.

How do you keep the top layer of lasagna going hard?

Brush a bit of oil the top lasagna noodles to keep them from drying out. Cheese contains oil and that will help keep the noodles soft on top. Also cover with foil to keep moisture in.

How do you pronounce lasagna?

lah-zahn-yah or luh-zahn-yuh. The G is silent.

Can you blame your oven for runny lasagna?

Some ovens don’t heat evenly and/or display the wrong temperature. Bad oven, bad!  Try a toaster oven if your gas oven has hot spots, fluctuating temperatures, or the dial isn’t accurate.

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