How to Make Crock-Pot Lasagna

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Start to Finish: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Difficulty: Intermediate

Lasagna made from scratch is not usually an everyday kind of meal. Just composing the layers takes time, and then you still have an hour or more of baking before it's ready to eat. 'With a slow cooker, you can assemble the dish when you have time and let it bake when you're not at home. Layer all of the ingredients in the slow-cooker insert early in the day -- or even the night before -- and slip it into the refrigerator; when you're ready, it needs about 4 hours to cook. Classic lasagna flavors of ricotta, beef and tomato prevail, but vegetable and whole-wheat versions are equally possible.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves 
  • Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Assembly

  • 15 ounces of  ricotta cheese 
  • Salt to taste 
  • 8 to 12 whole lasagna noodles -- not no boil

Tip

  • Use whole-wheat noodles, if you prefer, with no alteration to cooking time.

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan 

Make the Sauce

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a burner set to medium. Add the beef and break it up with a spatula until no pink areas remain. Remove the meat to a plate and return the pan to the heat.

Saute the onion and garlic in the residual oil from the meat over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the garlic fragrant -- 3 to 5 minutes. Add more oil if needed. Scoop the beef back in, along with the oregano and tomatoes.

Cook until the flavors are incorporated and the tomato juice reduces slightly, about 5 minutes. Season according to your taste.

Assemble in the Cooker

Mix the ricotta cheese together with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and the shredded Parmesan. Layer about one-quarter of the sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker insert. Top with a layer of the uncooked noodles -- you may need to break them to get them to fit. Add about 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture in a layer on top. Repeat the sauce, noodles and cheese until you use up all the ingredients. Finish with a top layer of sauce and the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Cover the slow cooker and set to low heat for about 4 hours.

Tip

  • Allow the lasagna to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving or it will fall apart when you cut it into slices.

Optional Changes

For a vegetable version, add about 1/2 cup of chopped, cooked spinach; Swiss chard; or other greens to the ricotta mixture. Plain, chopped parsley is another possible addition to the ricotta. Roasted slices of butternut squash, bell peppers or eggplant can also make a layer in your lasagna. Add this layer after the cheese. Substitute ground chicken or turkey for the beef. You could also leave the meat out altogether and use a jarred sauce for greater ease. Don't skimp on the sauce, though, or the lasagna will dry out during cooking.

If you miss the browned topping of traditionally baked lasagna, remove the slow cooker's insert and broil the lasagna in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese on top is bubbling.

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