I think Lasagna is an unbeatable meal. Everyone loves it–young and old. You can cook it ahead of time and freeze it or eat it out of the oven or straight out of the pressure cooker. It can be served with your favorite salad or vegetable. Many Italians serve it on major holidays with the turkey, ham, or roast. It is always pleasing to everyone that may not want to eat the main meat that is served. Also, many serve it at dinner parties as a vegetarian side dish, made with only vegetables, to honor those vegetarians that might not find anything else that meets their taste.
That’s right–I did say “straight out of the pressure cooker”. There are several reasons a lot of people like the idea of cooking Lasagna in the pressure cooker. If everything is prepared ahead of time. It can take only about 7 to 10 minutes to cook. The reason I like to cook lasagna in the pressure cooker is because I don’t have to turn my oven on in the summer and heat up the kitchen.
There are many different pressure cooker lasagna recipes around. So your challenge is to try out a few different options and see which works best with your own pressure cooker. Here are some different options to get you started. See which works best for you and your family.
There are several different types of pasta to use:
Regular dried pasta in the box that needs to be pre boiled. Some pressure cooker recipes suggest they don’t need to be pre boiled, other say to pre boil. If you are using this type of pasta try pre boiling just for 2 to 3 minutes. That way they will be thoroughly cooked, but not turn out tough as overcooked pasta can.
Dried pasta in the box that doesn’t need pre boiling. I use this pasta often and get good results in the pressure cooker and the oven.
Fresh pasta. I have found fresh pasta in specialty stores and sometimes at Whole Foods. It is kept in a refrigerated case, so you may have to ask for help in locating it. Every time I have used this pasta I have been very happy with the results.
Pasta from Scratch. Many years ago I use to make my own lasagna pasta from scratch. It would take some time, but the results were amazing. I think if I were to do that again today, I would try using a pasta accessory attached to a stand up mixer. This would be a fun activity to do with the kids. Almost like a science experiment!
Directly in the Pan
The easiest cooking method is to brown the meat and onions in the pressure cooker pan first. Then add the sauce and other ingredients to finish the meat sauce. Remove the meat mixture from the pan. In another bowl, make the cheese and egg mixture. Then add ¼ cup water in the bottom of the pressure cooker pan.Then start making the layers, starting with the meat sauce then the noodles, followed by the cheese mixture.
The last layer should be the sauce on top of the noodles.Noodles should be completely covered. Cheese can be added after the pressure is released and the lid is lifted up. Just put in finely grated mozzarella cheese and replace the lid. (Do not heat or pressure cook any more). After 10 minutes the cheese will be melted. The main complaints about this method is that you can’t cut nice square pieces and also you can’t place it under the broiler to get a crisp topping.
Using an Insert
Another method is to use an insert in the pressure cooker. A metal type of insert works really well when cooking lasagna. There are silicone inserts, usually used for making desserts, that can be used. Actually, any type of oven proof cookware can be used in a pressure cooker.
Glass and ceramic cooking inserts will take a little more time to heat, so it is suggested a little extra cooking time be added.The internal temperature of a pressure cooker will reach between 250-260 degrees, so just keep that in mind. You can make lasagna the way you would to be put into the oven and then insert it into the pressure cooker. Just make sure the insert is on some type of rack and not sitting on the bottom of the pan unless it is an insert designed for your specific pressure cooker.
Add one cup of water on the bottom of the pressure cooker pan, add the insert, and then place the lasagna on top. Cover the lasagna with a tight fitting foil cover. I prefer this method of cooking lasagna because I like to sprinkle some cheese on top when the lasagna is finished cooking I can place it under the broiler for about 2 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Still another method is to make lasagna rolls. Individual pasta noodles are spread with a layer of sauce, then meat or vegetable mixtures and then a layer of cheese and then some more sauce. They are then rolled up. These can be made by putting directly into the pressure cooker or using an insert.
I like to take them out and put them on an ovenproof dish and sprinkle cheese on top and broil until the cheese is melted. Fresh pasta does not need to be pre cooked, but the dried pasta needs to be put into boiling water for about a minute so it can be rolled.
Pressure Cooker Recommendation
An eight to 10 quart pressure cooker is ideal for cooking lasagna because it is usually big enough to find the perfect sized pan to fit inside if you want to use a square pan.
A 6 or 7 quart pressure cooker can also be used if you want to cook the lasagna directly inside the pressure cooker or use a special insert that is made for the pressure cooker.
Meat and Vegetables
There are some recipes that say you can put the meat mixture in without cooking the meat first. The meat will probably be cooked, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be as good as pre cooking the meat mixture. We all want a fast way of cooking, but this is one time those few extra minutes will make a big difference.
If you are making a vegetarian lasagna (spinach or eggplant is very good), the vegetables do not need to cooked first. In fact, it is better if they are not pre cooked as they will turn out too soggy tasting.
Natural Release vs. Quick Release
It will add a few extra minutes, but I prefer the natural release method. It gives the lasagna a little extra time for the flavors to meld and the lasagna to set up. Also, when you remove the pan it is easier to handle if you want to add some cheese and stick under the broiler.