We’ve all been to a gathering with bad banquet food. You know what I meant. There might be Salisbury steak, there’s generally overcooked baked chicken, and there’s always a bad vegetable lasagna. It’s probably mushy and overcooked, and it’s usually watery and runny. I’ve only been to one banquet to that had great food: my culinary school graduation, of course. Those chefs know what they’re doing!

Vegetable lasagna can be great if it’s made well. But the fact is that vegetables give off a lot of moisture as they cook, and too much moisture is the enemy of any great pasta dish. It wasn’t until I took a class from a vegan chef instructor in culinary school that I learned how simple this problem is to solve.

The cheap, quick, painless solution? Couscous. Ordinary, dry, uncooked couscous. As you’re assembling a vegetable lasagna (or any lasagna that has a hefty load of veggies), sprinkle a few teaspoons of dry couscous on top of each layer of vegetables. That’s it. No other changes to the recipe or assembly needed.

As the lasagna cooks, the vegetables will begin to give off a bit of moisture. No worries, because the couscous is there to save the day, absorbing the wetness and cooking alongside the rest of the ingredients. The great thing about this trick is that the couscous is virtually undetectable in the finished dish. You won’t be able to recognize its flavor amongst all of the other tasty morsels in your lasagna, and unless you’re looking really carefully, you probably won’t see it, either.

vegetable lasagna with cous cous

This couscous trick is something to keep any mind anytime you’re making a dish that seems to have a bit too much moisture. It works for any type of pasta bake that includes lots of veggies, plus vegetable gratins and baked beans that are just a little too runny. Stock your pantry with a bit of couscous and say goodbye to watery veggie lasagna forever!

Lori Yates is a Detroit-area food writer, photographer and recipe developer. She is the author of Foxes Love Lemons, where she posts special yet simple original recipes and restaurant reviews. Her mission is to encourage people to enjoy the act of cooking at home. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.