Lasagna, a classic Italian dish that can take hours to prepare depending on the recipe, is often thought of as a fancy weekend dinner by busy families; however, Crock-Pot® lasagna makes it easy to have this decadent meal during the week as well. The sauce can be homemade or jarred, and nearly any type of meat, vegetables, or cheese can be included. Two of the most popular aspects of this dish are the fact that the noodles do not have to be precooked and that the only real work involved is layering all of the ingredients together before letting the slow cooker do all of the cooking.
A red sauce is typically the most common used in Crock-Pot® lasagna, and is usually a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, such as basil and oregano. The quickest variety of this dish is made with store-bought marinara sauce, which can be used as-is or have additional spices and ingredients added to it. When the sauce is homemade, all of the ingredients are briefly cooked together until they come up to a boil before being layered in with the rest of the lasagna components. In some cases, a white sauce, which can also be store bought or homemade, will be used in place of or in addition to the red sauce, most commonly with chicken Crock-Pot® lasagna. Unlike red sauce, which is quick cooking, a white sauce typically has to cook longer outside of the slow cooker in order to thicken properly.
Meats and vegetables are often added to the sauce, whether red or white, to make layering easier. Sausage as well as ground beef, pork, or veal are some of the most popular additions to this dish, although ham and chicken are also common. Leftover or freshly-prepared meatballs or meatloaf can also be broken up and added to the sauce. In both meat and meat-free versions of Crock-Pot® lasagna, vegetables are added for additional flavor, with spinach, mushrooms, and carrots being common in both red and white lasagnas.
One or more layers of cheese are also often included in this dish. Soft cheeses, most commonly ricotta, cottage cheese, or even cream cheese, may make up an additional layer to the lasagna outside of the meats, vegetables, and sauce. Oftentimes, this layer is mixed with shredded hard cheeses, one to two eggs, and herbs or spices for flavor. The final layer is almost always one or more shredded cheeses.
Unlike traditional oven lasagnas that usually require that the noodles be boiled before layering, the slow cooker makes this step unnecessary in Crock-Pot® lasagna. In this dish, the dry noodles are layered in the slow cooker, and the steam from the appliance and the moisture from the sauce cooks them through with the other ingredients. This not only makes preparation easier and quicker, but also allows the noodles to soak up the flavor from the sauce, enhancing the flavor of the dish.
Crock-Pot® lasagna is prepared by layering all of these ingredients in a slow cooker in the same manner one would a classic lasagna. Most recipes call for a layer of sauce mixed with meat or vegetables, noodles, and then cheese, with this order repeating until the slow cooker is full. The top layer is made up of shredded cheese, and the entire dish is cooked on low for three to five hours, or until the noodles are tender and the cheese is melted. In most cases, Crock-Pot® lasagna is not cooked on high, as this can cause the noodles to develop an unwanted texture or could burn the bottom before the rest is cooked through.