Crockpot Lasagna

10 Aug

I had a girls-night-out date with friends last night, which meant whatever dinner I made at home was only for DH and the kids. And it was one of those days I felt like I was flying–this one has a doctor’s appointment, that one has a playdate, gotta register for ballet, grocery store run, and wow, gotta actually work a few hours–without a whole lot of spare time for playing with food.

My gang is an easy one to feed, generally speaking, and peanut butter sandwiches or cereal would have done them just fine. But I really did want them to have a hot meal, and so I gave them cow.

I’m not a red meat eater, but the rest of my crew loves beef from time to time. There’s no better time to indulge them than on a night I’ll be out, and there’s not an easier way than Crockpot lasagna.

This was a Weight Watchers recipe that was actually really good on its own. I’ve doctored it up to boost its heft a bit: I added an egg to the ricotta layers (and a bit more ricotta than the original recipe) to give them a little more substance, boosted the meat a little bit (you could also add mushrooms to this if you wanted even more oompf), and messed with the spices to simplify matters. The original recipe called for basil and oregano, and in my house, that translates to a shake or two of Italian Seasoning instead. I also used less onion than the recipe called for and upped the garlic.

A word on the meat: If you’re a beef eater, this is a great meal. My family gobbled it up. If you’re not, it works really well with ground chicken. I know. Turkey. Everybody uses ground turkey. But slow-cooking ground turkey results in a kind of odd chewy texture to the sauce. I love me a good turkey burger (we’ll talk about that soon), but turkey in spaghetti sauce doesn’t rock my world. Ground chicken holds up just like beef and since it absorbs the flavor of whatever you cook it with, is a great substitute in this recipe. My pathetic excuse of a Soviet-era supermarket carries ground chicken breast meat, but your butcher will grind a few breasts for you if you don’t see it pre-wrapped in the meat case at your store.

This recipe is super saucy when you put it in the crock. Fear not–you’re not cooking the noodles first, so they absorb a whole lot of the moisture. You’ll end up with a traditional lasagna texture here, not a soupy mess (as I feared the first time). I use the no-cook noodles, but I hear that regular noodles work just fine; if you’ve tried that, leave me a comment and let me know. 🙂 A friend of mine uses jarred spaghetti sauce instead of tomatoes and sauce and she says it comes out really nicely that way. This also freezes beautifully if you have leftovers and want to hold onto them.

Haul out the slow cooker and give this one a whirl. I hope your family likes it as much as mine does.

You’ll need:

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef (I use 7% fat) or ground chicken

1/2 small yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

15 oz can tomato sauce (I use the pre-seasoned)

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cup part-skim Ricotta cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

6 no-cook lasagna noodles

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with olive oil. Add meat, onion, and garlic and saute until the meat browns (you don’t have to cook it all the way through). Add the tomatoes, sauce, and spices. Simmer about 5 or 10 minutes to let flavors meld together.

In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, egg, and 1 cup of the mozzarella.

Spoon 1/3 of the beef mixture into your Crockpot (at least 5 quart size). Break three of the lasagna sheets into pieces and arrange over meat mixture to cover. Top that with half the ricotta mixture. Repeat layers, ending with a layer of meat sauce.

Put the lid on your Crockpot and cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Turn cooker off. Sprinkle top with Parmesan and remaining mozzarella and put the lid back on for about 10 minutes to let the cheese melt. Uncover and let sit about 15 minutes to firm up the lasagna.

I get about eight servings from this recipe. Your mileage may vary…

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7 Responses to “Crockpot Lasagna”

  1. Allison August 10, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    I use regular old lasagna noodles and it works just fine. I didn’t even know they made “no cook” lasagna noodles. LOL!

  2. Kim August 10, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    I’ve been wondering if the “no-cook” was just a ploy for an extra few cents. Thanks for weighing in! 🙂

  3. Susan August 10, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    I’ve made it with the sauce from scratch and with sauce from a jar and both are yummy. Thanks to you Kim I have made this many times. Sometimes I use Newman’s Italian sausage sauce from a jar and don’t add any extra meat…still yummy.

  4. Missy August 10, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    My crew are not big fans of ricotta. Normally when we make it (in the oven), I just use a bag of the pre-shredded italian cheese mix and add in extra parm. I wonder if that would still work in this crockpot version?

  5. Allison August 10, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Missy,

    Growing up, my mom always made lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I cringe NOW when I think about it, but back then, I loved it. LOL!

    • Missy August 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

      Oh, we won’t do cottage cheese either…none of those gloppy cheeses that come in a tub.

  6. Sheila August 17, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    Had this for dinner tonight. I was a bit skeptical of lasagna in a crockpot – thought it might turn out to be a big goopy mess. But it actually set up more firmly than some I’ve done in a baking dish in the oven — for a lot less labor! It was delicious, even my kids had seconds, which is rare in our house.

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