I’m currently obsessed with my Crock-Pot. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.
1) It’s easy. I like easy.
2) I just bought a 6-quart slow cooker. It’s black and shiny and so much better than the cheapo 2.5-quart model that got me through the first seven years of my 20s.
3) It doesn’t heat up my house. I live in a fairly small apartment. The oven is pretty much in the dead center of said small apartment. It hasn’t dropped below 70 degrees in New Orleans yet. Need I say more?
I’ve been trying to convert all of my long-cooking oven recipes to the Crock-Pot lately, and have gotten mostly delicious results. The Crock-Pot lasagna was one of the easiest and quickest, which is good because sometimes you just don’t think about dinner six to eight hours in advance.
Sometimes, I don’t even get around to eating breakfast until 2 p.m.
So, here goes. I don’t have a picture because I forgot…then, we ate it all.
2 cups of frozen spinach
1 15-oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1 small jar of pesto (or about 1/2 cup of homemade, if it’s basil season)
1 26-oz. jar red pasta sauce (I used Newman’s Own)
2 to 3 cups of shredded mozzarella
1 cup of fresh grated Parmesan
Thaw the frozen spinach in the microwave until most of the ice has melted. Bundle it into a kitchen towel and squeeze the spinach until you get the majority of the water out. It isn’t as important to make sure it’s totally drained as it would be if you were making the lasagna in the oven because the slow cooker requires a little extra moisture, anyway. Dump the drained spinach in a bowl.
Add the ricotta cheese and the pesto to the spinach and stir it until it’s totally combined. Taste it before you add any salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, etc. Usually, I’d want to throw in a ton of garlic and spices, but the pesto does a really excellent job of adding flavor on its own.
Pour about a third of the pasta sauce into the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart Crock-Pot. Layer uncooked lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Since most slow-cookers are round or oval-shaped, you’ll have to break up the noodles to make a layer that covers the sauce. If you don’t have that kind of time and energy, you could always just pour a layer of uncooked shell, macaroni or penne pasta over the sauce instead. Dried cheese tortellini would probably be good, too.
Spread about a third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles, then top that with a sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat, starting with the pasta sauce, two more times to make three layers total. Pour about 1/4 cup of water into the pasta sauce jar, shake it to pick up any dregs, and drizzle the saucy water over the top of the final cheese layer.
Cook the lasagna on low for about two hours, then check it. My slow cooker is a pretty powerful machine and the lasagna was almost done at that point, but if you were using a smaller one it might take longer. If the cheese is melted and the noodles are cooked, turn the Crock-Pot to warm and let it keep going until the lasagna pulls away from the sides of the crock and the cheese on top is slightly brown and bubbly. Scoop it out with a serving spoon.
I’d say it makes about eight sizable portions, which is four meals for us. You can freeze the extra helpings if you want. It makes a great quick lunch or dinner that way. You can also add extra veggies, like onions and red peppers, as well as meat. I don’t ever put meat in my lasagna, but I’ll bet this recipe would be really good with cooked Italian sausage mixed in the sauce.