Here we go, recipe #2 of Slow Cooker October! I love lasagna and I will admit I make a really, really good one. But lasagna takes a looooong time to make. It isn’t hard, there are just so many components. Not today my friends, I have really tried to simplify everything for you (but don’t tell the Italian side of the family, it seems like cheating).
First, I bought 2 big jars of marinara sauce from the store. I never do that, I always make it. And I usually go to The Hill to my favorite Italian grocery store and buy their salsiccia (Italian sausage, remember how to say it? sa-zeet-za) and fresh ricotta. Not this time, today I went to the grocery store that is seconds from my house and bought ground chuck and a container of ricotta cheese. I didn’t cook the lasagna noodles at all! And I prepped the meat and the cheese the night before so I could just throw it together in the morning. I found that just a few tweaks made a huge difference.
You can definitely make this all in one day. I only prepped the meat and the cheese the day before because I thought that would be easier for anyone who has to rush out the door in the morning. And unlike last week’s post, I wanted to try it myself so I could confidently tell you it was delicious instead of “I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.”
I started by putting the ground chuck in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I immediately seasoned the beef then mixed it all around and broke it up into tiny bits. When the beef was browned nicely, I drained out all the grease, put the skillet back on the stove and then mixed in some of the store bought sauce. I also had an open bottle of red wine in the fridge so I added a nice splash of that. You don’t have to, but I figured it was there so why not.
While the meat was browning, I mixed up the ricotta cheese. I like to use an electric hand mixer for this. It makes this go really fast and I feel like it “fluffs” up the cheese. Anyway, I beat the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper together. Then I switched to a spoon to just stir in some chopped parsley.
I put the meat sauce in a container with a lid, slapped some plastic wrap on top of the ricotta, threw them both in the fridge and went about my day.
The next morning I sprayed the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray, spread some marinara sauce (not meat sauce from the day before) in the bottom and then started with my layering.
I broke up the noodles to fit in the bottom. I got better at this with each layer but it doesn’t really matter what it looks like, as long as it is basically covered. And don’t forget, the noodles will expand as the lasagna cooks.
Then I added half of the meat sauce
Topped that with half of the ricotta mixture
Sprinkled the ricotta with some shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Then, starting with the noodles, I repeated the layers one more time. The final layer is just noodles, plain sauce, mozz and parm.
Put the lid on, set the slow cooker to low and that’s it!
I only set this for 5 hours. My slow cooker immediately switches to warm after the set time is up, as I think most do. It can sit there on warm until you get home from work. If it has been on warm, you can serve it as soon as you’re ready for dinner. If not, I would turn the slow cooker off and let it sit for 20 minutes. This will really help it set up and make it easier to “slice.” Or don’t worry about it and just scoop it out with a spoon, it will still taste just as good.
I served this with some good bread and a bag of Caesar salad I picked up at the grocery store. It was a stress-free delicious dinner!
I feel that I have an obligation to share the following “situation” with you. My lasagna cooked on low for 5 hours and was on warm for at least 2½ hours. When we were ready to eat and I took the lid off… I’m not going to lie… it didn’t look pretty. The noodles had, well the only way to describe it is that they mounded. It looked like what I imagine the hills of Ireland look like if they were made of pasta sauce and cheese. And the edges were crusty and brown, almost burned. I did not take a picture because I thought this recipe was going to be a flop. But, I figured some people really like crusty cheese so that isn’t really a problem, they can get the pieces on the edge. We’ll have it for dinner tonight and I’ll tweak it later.
No need to tweak my friends. This lasagna is definitely not the most beautiful dish I have ever made, it might be one of the ugliest, but man does it taste good! The time I saved is worth the sacrifice in beauty. You can always top it with some fresh basil or parsley to make it pretty. I will be making this again and again! And, I loved the leftovers! I ate it cold for lunch the next day and devoured it. I realize cold lasagna might not be for everyone but it sure hit the spot for me. Whether you like your lasagna hot or cold, you are going to love this recipe!
Slow Cooker Lasagna
1 ½ lb Ground Chuck
1 ½ tsp Salt, divided
¾ tsp Pepper, divided
½ tsp Granulated Garlic Powder
3 ½ c Pasta Sauce, divided
15 oz container whole milk Ricotta
1 Egg, beaten
½ c fresh Parsley, chopped
2 c shredded Mozzarella, divided
5 T grated Parmesan, divided
Lasagna Noodles (I used 9 noodles)
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat
Add ground chuck and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper and ½ tsp garlic powder.
Break beef into small bits while browning, then drain.
Pour 2 ¼ cups of pasta sauce into the beef and stir to combine.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, use an electric hand mixer to combine the ricotta, egg, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
Once the cheese mixture is smooth, stir in the chopped parsley; set aside.
*You can prepare the meat sauce and cheese mixture the night before and keep in the fridge if desired. Continue with the remaining steps the next morning.
Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
Put ½ cup plain pasta sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker and spread around.
Add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles to the slow cooker, breaking to fit as necessary.
Top with ½ of the meat sauce, spread out evenly then do the same with ½ of the ricotta cheese mixture.
Evenly sprinkle with ½ cup of mozzarella and 1½ tablespoons of Parmesan.
Repeat the layers of noodles, meat sauce and cheeses.
To finish, top with another layer of noodles, 1 cup of plain pasta sauce, 1 cup of mozzarella and 2 tablespoons of parmesan.
Cook on low for 5 hours.
Turn off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes, before serving.