Slow Cooker Lasagna
Serves: 6-8 Difficulty: Moderate Prep Time: One Hour+ Cooking time: 5 hours on low
Note: The slow cooker is a very moist cooking environment. There are many steps in this recipe that may look like “extra” work- these are done in an effort to dry out ingredients prior to cooking. Following these steps will ensure the correct consistency in your lasagna. It’s OK to skip them or to deviate from them, but just know that you may end up with a more watery lasagna.
Vegetable oil spray
Aluminum foil (optional)
8 curly-edged lasagna noodles (7 ounces) broken in half
salt and pepper
1 tbs vegetable oil (preferably olive oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground pork
2 tbs dried italian seasoning
2 cups (about 16 ounces) small curd cottage cheese, drained*
1¼ cups grated parmesan cheese (2½ ounces)
10 ounces (about one package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained*
1 large egg
1 (24 ounce) can or jar tomato sauce
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (16 ounces)
Boil Noodles: Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add broken lasagna noodles and one tbs salt and cook, stirring often until noodles are just barely cooked. They should be chewy but firm and not crunchy (al dente). Drain noodles and rinse under cool water to stop them from cooking. Then spread noodles out in a single layer on clean kitchen towels to dry.
Cook Meat: Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium-high. When oil is glistening but not smoking add onion into pan and fry for about 5 minutes until translucent and soft. Add pork and fry, stirring occasionally to break up pork, until browned. Drain off most of the grease. Return drained pork and onion to pan and put pan to medium heat. Add chopped garlic and dry spices and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes more or until you can begin to smell the garlic and spices. Taste meat and add salt and pepper to your liking. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Mix Cheese filling:Place the drained spinach into a bowl and mix in the drained cottage cheese, 1 cup parmesan, egg, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper together.
Layer: Spray inside of slow cooker with vegetable oil spray. Spread ½ cup tomato sauce into prepared slow cooker. Arrange four lasagna noodle pieces in slow cooker (they may overlap, and you may have small gaps. That’s OK), then dollop 9 rounded tablespoons of the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread 1/3 of the ground pork mixture over the cottage cheese mixture. Sprinkle with one cup mozzarella cheese and the spoon ½ cup sauce over the top. Repeat this layering of lasagna noodles, cottage cheese mixture, sausage, mozzarella, and sauce twice more. For final layer, arrange remaining 4 noodles in slow cooker, then top with remaining sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
Cook: Cover and cook until heated through, about 5 hours on low. Let lasagna cool for 20 minutes before serving.
OPTIONAL: Lining a Slow Cooker with Foil
Most slow cookers have a hot side and a cold side. If you find your lasagna is not cooking evenly try lining it with foil. To do so make a foil collar and place it on the opposite side of the control panel and then line the whole cooker in foil for easy clean-up. To make the collar pull out one long sheet of aluminum foil (about 3-4 feet) and fold, hot dog style. You now have a 2 ply sheet. Now fold this sheet over itself two times, to make a 6 ply sheet. When you are finished insert it into the slow cooker, and it should look something like this:
Then line the whole slow cooker in foil and spray with cooking oil spray.
*To Drain Cottage Cheese:
For best results place needed amount into cheese cloth. Gather loose ends of cheese cloth and tie around your kitchen faucet. Allow to drip for at least one hour. Alternatively, you can dump the cottage cheese into a colander to drain, but allow at least two hours.
*To Drain Spinach:
Place defrosted spinach into the center of a clean kitchen towel. Grasp the towel on both sides of the spinach and simultaneously twist. The towel will begin to twist up against the spinach and water will drain out. It sort of looks like a taffy wrapper:
If you do not have something, don’t panic! For instance, I substitute the dried italian seasoning with 1 tbs dried Oregano, 2tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried thyme, and a fat pinch of dried Rosemary. Alternatively, you could use pre-spiced italian sausage, which would save time on preparations as well. You may omit onions and garlic if you have a family that doesn’t like them. I like to substitute frozen swiss chard for the frozen spinach. The possibilities are endless!
Make this recipe your own, and your family is sure to enjoy it! – Anny