Saturday, March 28, 2020

Crock Pot Lasagna

   Ok, so this one is more of a technique than a recipe. I wanted to do a quick and easy something that I could assemble in advance, and then have dinner ready by the time I returned home from work. So I looked in my pantry and fridge to see what ingredients I had on hand, and I just happened to have all the components of a lasagna. Perfect! Now, of course, you can go in any of several directions with a lasagna. Marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, you could do just cheese, or add veggies, or do a meat sauce, or even seafood, and so on. But at its most basic, in my opinion, you just need 4 components: lasagna noodles, sauce, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. For me, that's the bare minimum. So that's where I started with this particular lasagna. At first, I was going to just assemble the lasagna in a casserole dish as one would usually do, and then have it ready to pop in the oven the next day. But then I saw a video of someone making it in a slow cooker. THAT seems like the right idea! I just layered the ingredients into my slow cooker and by the time I got home from work, BOOM! A fabulous lasagna dinner was waiting for me! TBH, I was kind of expecting it to be too mushy, or maybe burnt around the edges, but it turned out perfectly! This is definitely something a novice cook can make. Maybe next time I'll add other things to it, meat sauce, etc. For this one, I didn't even really measure out the amounts, but I'll just give you a ballpark of how much of everything I used. I hope you'll try it!

2 lbs ricotta cheese
2 eggs
Parmesan cheese
chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 lb lasagna noodles
2 jars (maybe about 4 cups?) marinara sauce
2 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese

 In a mixing bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, eggs, a handful or two of Parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped parsley, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Congratulations, you've just completed the most difficult part of this recipe! Now it's time to layer:
First, you want to spray your 6 qt slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Now do a generous layer of sauce on the bottom. Next, do a layer of lasagna noodles, uncooked, dry, right out of the box. Break the noodles to fit. Now do a few dollops of the ricotta mixture, and use a rubber spatula to spread into an even layer. It doesn't have to completely cover. Finally, top with a handful of shredded mozzarella cheese.
Repeat layers until you use up all ingredients. I think I did 4 layers, so use roughly a quarter of each ingredient per layer.
For the last layer, I ended with a layer of sauce and then more mozzarella cheese.
Cover and cook it on low for about 4 to 5 hours. And that's all there is to it!
Serve it with extra sauce, if desired.

First, be sure to be VERY GENEROUS with your sauce for each layer. It's the extra sauce that will cook the noodles, so your lasagna won't be dry at the end. Come to think of it, I probably used more than 4 cups of sauce. I used 2 jars plus a little extra, but then again, I like a saucier lasagna.
After you finish the cooking, turn the crock pot completely off, and let it sit for at least 15-20 minutes. This lets everything relax and your lasagna will set up better. Now you can cut it into segments for serving, and it will stay together.
If your crock pot has a removable insert, you can assemble it the night before you want to serve it, and just keep it in the fridge overnight. Then, the next morning, be sure to take it out of the fridge about a half hour before you turn on your slow cooker.

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