Slow-cooker lasagna both logical and magical


POSTED: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Once in a while a recipe appears on my radar that is so intriguing I run out to the store to buy all the ingredients — prices be damned — and try it right away. This was the case when I came upon several online recipes for Crock Pot Lasagna.

It looked too good to be true. You layer meat sauce, cheese and uncooked noodles in your slow cooker, then walk away for hours and come back to lasagna in a pot. (By the way, if you've known about this for years, don't laugh at me.)

I am always looking for ways to make my slow cooker serve me better, but often the results are vapid, a function partly of the vast amounts of liquid that accumulate as the food cooks.

Soups and soupy dishes turn out well, but when it comes to stews and many other dishes, I prefer the results I get in the oven or on the stovetop, where you can count on the taste-boosting processes of browning and the reduction of liquids into nice sauces.

But all that liquid you get in a slow cooker works to your advantage with lasagna. You need it to cook the pasta. If you did this in the oven, you'd need to add a hefty pour of wine or other liquid.

The slow-cooker concept seemed both logical and magical. I studied several recipes and made adjustments, using ground turkey, nonfat cottage cheese, whole-wheat lasagna noodles and a layer of spinach and zucchini.

Everything went into the pot and we went to the movies. Came home and there was dinner. The noodles were tender, but with a bit of al dente chewiness; the sauce was flavorful; and the cheese was nice and gooey in that way that makes lasagna so comforting. The only thing missing was a browned top, but we didn't miss it.

My family demands that this dish be put in the regular dinner rotation. And that is the mark of success.



1/2 pound ground turkey
1/2 pound (2 links) hot Italian sausage
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 pound nonfat cottage cheese
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
1 13-ounce box whole-wheat lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of all liquid
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Lightly brown ground turkey, sausage, onion and garlic (don't cook until well done or it will toughen in slow cooker). Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano and rosemary. Stir well, heating just long enough to warm sauce.

Combine cottage cheese and mozzarella.

Grease inside of slow cooker. Spoon about 1 cup meat sauce onto bottom of slow cooker, covering well.

Top with double layer of uncooked noodles (break to fit, using small pieces to fill gaps. Top noodles with half of cheese mixture. Add more sauce, another layer of noodles and remaining cheese. Layer spinach and zucchini over top layer of cheese. Top with final layer of noodles. Pour remaining sauce over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover and cook on low 4 hours or until noodles are tender.

Turn off pot and remove cover for a few minutes to let noodles set. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 630 calories, 24 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 85 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,500 mg sodium, 60 g carbohydrate, 13 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 45 g protein


Nutritional analyses by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).