November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is deep into football season. It is the start of cooler nights here is Virginia. It is the unofficial start of the holiday season, which now seems to kick off the nanosecond the clock strikes 12am after Halloween’s revelries. Whatever your hibernation or food trigger, November is a good month to whip up comfort food that is delish but low maintenance.
I am dubious about slow-cookers because there is an awful lot of fussing before hand, and I can often whip up a full dinner in the same amount of prep time. So, when I found a slow cooker veggie lasagna recipe on Big Oven, I was skeptical, but willing to give it a shot since I’ve committed my afternoon to making more fondant figures for Em’s birthday cake. I have modified the recipe to liven it up a bit (No seasoning? In lasagna?? Whaaaa..tttttt???) and did add the additional step of preparing a quick sauce, which is worth the effort, without sacrificing time. You can also substitute brown rice or quinoa lasagna if you need to go gluten-free.
- 1 large onion chopped (about 3/4 – 1 C)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 15- to 16-ounce container part-skim ricotta
- 1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 5-ounce package frozen spinach, coarsely chopped
- 1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces), uncooked (I used brown rice)
- 3 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add cans of diced tomatoes.
3. Measure out 2 Tbsp parsley, the basil, sugar and salt (yes, I use my palms as measuring spoons for cooking – never baking)…
…And add seasoning to tomatoes. Stir and bring to a simmer. You do not want to reduce the sauce, just heat enough to simmer (about 10 mins on medium-high) as the extra liquid will cook the pasta.
4. Mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, 1 Tbsp parsley, oregano and egg.
5. Quarter and slice the zucchini…
…What in the world??? I left this scary part out…
6. Pour frozen spinach into a bowl and set aside. You can sprinkle salt and pepper on both the zucchini and spinach, so that the veggie layer gets seasoned.
7. When sauce comes to simmer, remove from heat and carefully blend with an immersion blender, leaving some tomato chunks. Alternately, you can use a few pulses in a food processor or blender, but be careful. Hot sauces can give off a burst of steam.
8. Oil the sides and bottom of slow cooker. I use avocado oil due to its high smoke point (i.e. tolerates high heat without breaking down & smoking & becoming bad for your body)
9. Add 1/3 sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker.
10. Layer in about 5 noodles, breaking them as necessary to cover the sauce and fit the pot.
11. Add 1/2 of the ricotta mix, followed by 1/2 spinach and 1/2 zucchini. Don’t forget to add 1 C of mozzarella like I always forget do on my bottom layer!
12. Repeat steps 9-11…Add 1/3 sauce…(Note: you should have a layer of mozzarella on the veggies 🙂 before adding this sauce layer)…
…Remaining ricotta mixture, spinach, zucchini, 1 C mozzarella.
13. Layer on remaining sauce…
14. Then finish with 1/2 C of mozzarella cheese, reserving remaining 1/2 C for after cooking.
15. Cover and cook 2 hours (high – I tried this) or 4 hours (low). I found that 1 1/2 hours on high was plenty, but my crock pot cooks high.
16. Add remaining cheese, and turn off slow cooker.
17. Let rest at least 10-15 minutes, then serve. Bon Appetit!
To my surprise, the lasagna came out quite good, with plenty to share or store away for leftovers when you don’t have time (I.e. feel like) cooking. Enjoy!