Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crock Pot Lasagna

Lasagna in the crock pot? Yeah, sounded a little weird to me.

But with little miss's busy activity schedule, the crock pot is a necessity in order to have meals on the table at the right time on some nights.

So when daddy chose lasagna as our crock pot meal this week, I was willing to give it a shot.

There is really not that much of a difference between "regular" lasagna and crock pot lasagna, at least as far as the preparation is concerned.

I made a meat sauce the way I always do and prepared the ricotta filling the way I always do. All I didn't do was boil the noodles (though I know there are recipes for lasagna that don't require boiling the noodles first, but I digress...).

Then I built the lasagna right in the crock.

Small layer of sauce, uncooked noodles, ricotta mixture, a generous sprinkling of cheese.

Repeat a couple more times, top with a final layer of sauce and sprinkling of cheese, then just put the lid on the pot.

Then turn the crock pot on to low and, well, that's it.

Five hours, a few chores and one ballet class later, here's what we came home to:

Well look at that! It's an oval shaped lasagna!

It was a little tough to serve it out cleanly, but other than that, there was no difference between this and my "normal" lasagna, I just didn't have to be home at a specific time to get it into the oven. Pretty convenient!

This got good reviews all around, so I think we have a new crock pot meal to add to our arsenal!

Crock Pot Lasagna
(just the way I usually make lasagna, adapted for the crock pot... no recipe source)

for the sauce:
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 - 1 1/2 lb ground beef
salt/pepper/garlic powder/Italian seasonings to taste
1 26-ounce jar of your favorite pasta sauce
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (or another half a jar of pasta sauce - your choice. I've done it both ways.)

for the cheese layers:
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (or to taste)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
(you can adjust the mozzarella and Parmesan amounts if you like your lasagna ooey-er and gooey-er!)

1 1-lb box lasagna noodles, uncooked

to make the sauce:
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat, then add the chopped onion and green pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and the peppers have softened. Add the ground beef and brown until cooked through, breaking it up so that it is in crumbles. Drain any excess fat. Add the sauce, tomatoes (or, well, the more-sauce) and spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit.

to prepare the ricotta:
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, eggs and spices. Beat with a spoon until smooth and creamy.

to construct the lasagna:
In the stoneware of your crock pot, spoon a small amount of sauce - just enough to cover the bottom.
Layer in noodles, barely overlapping, to cover the bottom of the pot as well as you can. Mine took three to three and a half noodles per layer - don't be afraid to break the noodles to fit your crock.
Spread one third of the ricotta mixture over the uncooked noodles, then sprinkle with about one third of each of the other cheeses.
Top the cheese with one third of the remaining sauce, then another layer of noodles, another layer of ricotta and another sprinkling of mozzarella and Parmesan.
Repeat with another layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta and shredded cheeses.
After your third layer of cheeses, add a top layer of noodles, then cover generously with your remaining sauce, making sure that all of the noodles are covered with sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
Set crock pot to low and cook for about five hours.

We served ours with broccoli and garlic bread, and this was a delicious dinner.

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