Lasagna on a weeknight!
The last time tried Lasagna was a few years ago. I made the marinara sauce, the béchamel sauce, boiled the lasagna pasta, assembled the whole thing and baked it. In the end all my efforts were rewarded by a not-so-delicious-mush. I swore to never bother making lasagna again.
It's been a while since that attempt and I came across this recipe at the Betty Crocker webpage. It had a good review and most of all used the slow cooker. Now I have been on the look out for recipes that that fit the desi palate and use the crock-pot. It lets me start the cooking in the morning, leave for work and come back to a dinner ready, which leaves me with more time to spend with my daughter in the evening. I have a couple of slow cooker cookbooks but most of the recipes are meat stews and we try to not to eat red meat too often. The chicken dishes turn mushy if left on for 8 hours. (My slow cooker does not have a timer) but would be quite perfect if I could shut it off after 4-5 hours which I can't since I don’t get home early enough. Anyway, I have been looking out for good slow cooker recipes since when made correctly they taste good and usually have no oil them.
Coming back to the lasagna, I did try it again and boy am I glad I did! It was so delicious and so simple. Just about 15-20 min prep time before hand, start the slow cooker and ready in 4 hours! The original recipe is here. I did modify it quite a bit to suit my family's taste, simplify it and also made a vegetarian version with a whole lot of veggies in it.
1 and 1/2 bottles of your favorite store bought marinara sauce (I used the RAGU brand)
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cups mozzarella cheese
1 small/medium onion (optional)
1/2 pound soy ground chicken (original recipe calls for ground meat but you could skip this soy or real meat completely)
1 tbsp dried basil or Italian seasoning
1 packet lasagna noodles
optional vegetables I threw in:
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 a green pepper chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms chopped
One could throw in any vegetables of your choice - zucchini, broccoli...
If you are using real meat, fry the onions and ground meat till it is slightly browned, mix the marinara sauce. Add salt and the basil. Add any vegetables you plan to use. I used to the soy meat so I switched off the gas, then added the soy and mixed well with the sauce.
Mix ricotta, parmesan and 2 cups mozzarella cheese together.
Spray the slow cooker with a little oil to prevent sticking. I used a slow cooker liner, so skipped this step altogether.
Put a layer of the sauce to cover the entire base of cooker.
Add the lasagna noodles on top of this. I has to break some to cover it entirely due to the oval shape of the cooker.
Add a layer of cheese mixture (use 1/2). another layer of marinara sauce (use about 1/2 of what is left), then another layer or noodles. Then again cheese and remaining sauce.
Cook on low for 4 hours. Check for the noodles being soft and cooked before shutting off.
Add the last 1 cup of mozzarella on top after shutting off. The heat already present will make it melt.
I was at home the day I made this and found mine the lasagna was done around 4 hrs. It did look a bit watery when I shut it off, but it let it stand for a few hours till dinner time and was surprised to find all the extra water had been absorbed and the end result was quite restaurant-like.