I realize that this, being Part I, is supposed to come before Part II, but I decided to do things a little differently. The reason being that while I was writing Part II, it made sense to introduce the idea of finding recipes in alternate places (ie; newspaper, magazines, online/Pinterest…) and THEN delve into one particular example, that just so happened to work really well for us, and happened to be from the newspaper.
I give you: SLOW COOKER LASAGNE. Brilliant. And tasty. My one dislike about it (if you can even call it that) was that it lacked the crispy, crunchy cheesy goodness that accompanies traditional lasagne that’s been baked in the oven.
I digress…the recipe is actually quite brilliant, as I stated before. Like many slow cooker recipes, it’s designed to save time and I think it does – needing only 4 hours for the actual cooking process, where other recipes tend to need 6-7, depending on the heat setting. It also calls for a pre-made sauce – which if you ask me, is a personal preference. If you have the time (and perhaps fresh garden tomatoes), I would definitely make a fast, tasty homemade sauce, as opposed to using pre-made. Also, something different to traditional lasagne, this recipe calls for a pound of ground Italian sausage, as opposed to ground beef. I quite liked the change, as the sausage gives it a bit of spice and flavour that you don’t get from ground beef alone. If (or should I say, when, as the bf was quite enamored with this test) I/we make it again, I would possibly consider browning the meat before putting it in the slow cooker. There was a lot of liquid in the slow cooker once all was said and done, and I’m curious to see if tweaking something like that would make a difference.
And now, to the good stuff: the droolworthy pictures and the actual recipe.
Courtesy of Winnipeg Free Press website, however, originally, we must say thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for their version of the Slow Cooker Revolution. To start, you’ll need:
~8 lasagne noodles – regular, not the no-boil ones (more if you like it to be extra noodle-y, like me!)
1-15 oz container of ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
salt and pepper
1-24 oz bottle pre-made tomato sauce (see above re: notes about making fresh tomato sauce)
1 lb ground Italian sausage meat
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese
First comes the noodle cooking. I find just boiling water for these suckers takes the longest. You want them to be about 97% cooked. They’ll be nice and juicy and soft after being in the slow cooker.
While the water is boiling/noodles are cooking, mix the ricotta, egg, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and basil together. I don’t believe we used fresh basil, as we were in the deep in the recesses of winter when we made it and anyone who lives in Winnipeg knows, fresh basil is a hot commodity approximately 2 months of the year. We did use a blend of dried oregano, basil, and perhaps some Italian seasoning and it was just as tasty.
Next comes the layering fun! First, sauce the bottom of the slow cooker with about a half cup:
Then some noodles:
Then clump some of the ricotta mixture in:
And some meat right on top of that:
And your first set is done. You want to do that twice more: sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese, sauce-noodle-ricotta-meat-cheese. You should have noodles, sauce and cheese left over. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan to your remaining mozzarella. Finish the lasagne by pouring in the rest of the sauce, covering it with noodles and the rest of the cheese.
Turn that puppy on to low for 4 hours and you will have a delicious, hot mess when you are ready to eat!
For me, lasagne is definitely one of those things that I could probably eat for the rest of my life without getting tired of it (provided there is unlimited garlic bread, salad and wine) and was very satisfied with the idea of putting it in the slow cooker and enjoying the smell of it as it cooked. I’m not saying you should join me in my lasagne-eating obsession (you are more than welcome to however…), but I hope this take on it might inspire you to try a classic dish in a new-ish and more accessible way!
Thanks for reading! Happy eats!