Show me someone who can refuse a heart-shaped bowl of cacio e pepe, and I’ll show you someone who needs a hug. It can be hard to find such fancy pasta on the grocery store shelves, but you can make hearts, squares, linguine, pappardelle, and countless other pasta shapes from just one large canvas: lasagna sheets. These goofy lasagna sheets have so much potential.
How to make different pastas from lasagna sheets
Since lasagna noodles are basically giant rectangles of pasta, you can cut out any shapes you want – all you have to do is soften them to a cuttable consistency. Dry lasagna and the no-boil variety will work, but to cut it you’ll need to defy its name and boil it briefly. According to the serving size indicated on the box, two pieces of lasagna constitute a full serving. If you’re cooking for yourself, you can limit it to two sheets and multiply per person from there.
Put enough water in a saucepan to cover the amount of lasagna noodles you will be working with and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water and add the lasagna noodles. Boil them for five minutes (if you don’t use boiling, it will take one to three minutes). This amount of time cooks the pastry sheets until they are supple and soft, but not completely tender. They will be easy to cut but won’t break while you are handling the sheets. Shake the pasta over the boiling water (hold on to the pasta water, you’ll need it later) and lay flat on a cooling rack. The cooling rack will obviously allow them to cool, but will also let any residual water evaporate or drip off and prevent a slippery work space and ultimately keep you safer if you cut 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, then turn it over so there’s flour on both sides. Flour will keep semi-cooked pasta from sticking to itself, knife or cookie cutter. You can now cut this pasta sheet in one of the following ways.
Linguine, fettuccine, mafalda and pappardelle
The easiest way to transform your lasagna sheet is to use a knife and make long cuts. It’s easier with a larger chef’s knife. Take the knife and cut parallel lines, lengthwise, along the sheet of pasta. Depending on the width of each strand, you prepare different hand-cut pasta. Make narrow linguini, or widen slightly and make fettuccine, or simply make three cuts on the lasagne sheet and finish with a wide pappardelle. Technically, fettuccine is made with eggs, but that hasn’t stopped Ronzoni from labeling their boxes as such.
Mafalda is a flat pastry with a ruffled edge, so if you have lasagna with the decorative edge, you can make a semi-mafalda. Both edges are supposed to be ruffled for a real mafalda, but if you cut strips you will inevitably end up with pasta that only has some mafalda “vibes”. Even still, only a monster would turn him away. (For more information on pasta shapes, read This article of the master class.)
Quadretti and quadretti
These small pasta cups are perfect for soups. Think of the small pastina of the Italian wedding soup, or orzo. Making tiny rice-like dumplings out of lasagna sheets takes a lot, and I’m more inclined towards something that doesn’t require any angst. Quadretti and its little sister quadrettini are simple and quick to make pasta squares.
Cut strips along the lasagna as you would linguine, about ¼ inch wide. Gather them in a pile all in 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 larger or smaller squares.
Rustic style hand cut or die cut shapes
I promised you hearts and, fuck, you’re gonna get them. Indeed, the thickness of the lasagna sheets is ideal for cutting short or irregular shapes. Layer two to six sheets of lasagna on top of each other and make sure they are lightly floured so they don’t stick together. Cut the noodles widthwise, and don’t be fussy about it. In other words, vary the thickness of each cut slightly and don’t worry about whether they are exactly parallel. Maybe cut some weird, long triangle shapes on purpose. You’ll end up with “rustic” looking homemade pasta. The thickness of the lasagna plays into this, making it even more artisanal, even if it isn’t. You can say “hand cut pasta” and you’re not lying. No one will ever know.
For pasta everyone will love, especially kids, use any shape of small cookie cutter you like. Use heart cutters, stars, trees, pumpkins or dinosaurs. As long as it’s small enough to fit entirely on the sheet of dough, it will work. For the small circles, I used metal sleeves, on each side. Use a fluted cookie cutter to make curved pasta with scalloped edges. If you don’t want to cut out a ton of stars, cut out only five to ten and make straight cuts on the rest of the dough. What will initially appear as a boring bowl of linguine will be mixed with star pasta surprises. You are only limited by your imagination and sharp metal objects.
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 let them boil for two minutes. This final boil finishes cooking the noodles and brings them to the perfect consistency. Drain and toss hot pasta with sauce, or simply toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese for a great midnight snack.