You Can Make Many Pasta Shapes From Just One

You Can Make Many Pasta Shapes From Just One

Show me someone who can turn away a bowl of heart-shaped cacio e pepe, and I’ll show you someone who needs a hug. It might be hard to find such whimsical pasta on the shelves of the grocery store, but you can make hearts, squares, linguine, pappardelle, and countless other shapes of pasta all from one greater canvas: Lasagna sheets. Those clunky lasagna sheets have so much potential.

How to make different pastas from lasagna sheets

Since lasagna noodles are essentially giant rectangles of pasta, you can cut out any shapes you want — all you have to do is soften it to a cuttable consistency. Both dry lasagna and the no-boil variety will work, but in order to cut them you’ll have to defy its name and boil them briefly. According to the serving size on the box, two pieces of lasagna is a full serving. If you’re cooking for yourself, you can keep it to two sheets and multiply per person from there.

Put enough water in a pot to cover the amount of lasagna noodles you’ll be working with, and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water generously and add the lasagna noodles. Boil them for five minutes (if using no-boil, it will take one to three minutes). This amount of time cooks the pasta sheets until they’re flexible and soft, but not completely tender. They’ll be easy to cut but not break apart while you handle the sheets. Shake out the pasta over the boiling water (hang on to the pasta water, you’ll need it later), and lay them flat on a wire cooling rack. The cooling rack will obviously allow them to cool, but also let any residual water evaporate or drip off and will prevent a slippery work space and ultimately keep you safer if you’re cutting with a knife. Let them cool for about five minutes. Dust a cutting board with all-purpose flour and lay out one of the sheets, and flip it so there is flour on both sides. The flour will prevent the semi-cooked pasta from sticking to itself, the knife, or a cookie cutter. Now you can cut this sheet of pasta in any of the following ways.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Linguine, fettuccine, mafalda and pappardelle

The most straightforward way to transform your lasagna canvas is to use a knife and make long cuts. This is easiest with a larger chef knife. Take the knife and cut parallel lines, lengthwise, down the sheet of pasta. Depending on the width of each strand, you are making a different hand-cut pasta. Make narrow linguine, or go slightly wider and make fettuccine, or just make three cuts down the lasagna sheet and end up with a wide pappardelle. Technically, fettuccine is made with egg but that hasn’t stopped Ronzoni from labelling their boxes as such.

Mafalda is a flat pasta with a ruffled edge, so if you happen to have the lasagna with the decorative edge, you can make semi-mafalda. Both edges are supposed to be ruffled for a true mafalda, but if you’re cutting strips, you’ll inevitably get a pasta that merely has some mafalda “vibes.” Even still, only a monster would turn it away. (For more information on pasta shapes, read this article from Masterclass.)

Quadretti and quadrettini

These little pasta cuts are perfect for soups. Think of the itsy-bitsy pastina in Italian wedding soup, or orzo. Making tiny rice-shaped pellets from lasagna sheets is asking a lot, and I’m more inclined toward something that doesn’t require any agonizing over. Quadretti and its little sister quadrettini are squares of pasta that are fast and simple to make.

Cut strips along the lasagna like you would for linguine, about ¼ inch wide. Gather them together in a pile all running the same direction and cut them all at once, crosswise at ¼ inch intervals. Vary the size of the quadretti by adjusting the initial strip-width to make bigger or smaller squares.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Hand-cut rustic style or cookie-cutter shapes

I promised you hearts and, by golly, you’re gonna get ‘em. In fact, the thickness of lasagna sheets is ideal for cutting out short or irregular shapes. Layer two to six lasagna sheets on top of each other and make sure they’re lightly floured so that they don’t stick together. Cut the noodles width-wise, and don’t be precious about it. In other words, vary the thickness of each cut slightly, and don’t worry about whether they’re exactly parallel. Maybe cut weird, long, triangle shapes on purpose. What you’ll end up with is “rustic,” homemade-looking pasta. The lasagna’s thickness plays into this, making it feel even more handmade, even though it’s not. You can say “hand-cut pasta” and you’re not lying. No one will ever know.

For a pasta that everyone will love — especially kids — use any small cookie cutter shape you like. Use heart cutters, stars, trees, pumpkins, or dinosaurs. As long as it’s small enough to entirely fit on the pasta sheet, it’ll work. For small circles, I’ve used metal piping tips — either side works. Use a fluted biscuit cutter to make scalloped-edged curved pasta. If you don’t want to cut out a ton of stars, only cut out five to ten, and make straight cuts on the rest of the pasta dough. What will initially appear like a boring bowl of linguine will have surprise pasta stars mixed in. You’re only limited by your imagination and sharp metal objects.

Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Photo: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann

Finish the hand-cut pasta

The last step is finishing the pasta. Bring that old pasta water back to a boil. Drop in your freshly metamorphosed noodles, and allow them to boil for two minutes. This final boil finishes cooking the noodles and brings them to the perfect consistency. Drain, and stir the hot pasta in with a sauce, or simply toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and cheese for an excellent midnight snack.


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