I’m not sure why, but I’m still a little amazed my first slow-cooker lasagna venture ended so well. Our taste buds were ecstatic, our bellies were satisfied and my husband mentioned it was possibly the best lasagna he’s ever tasted. Now that’s a stamp of approval if I’ve ever heard one! I concur. I used Southern Living‘s method and cooked it on low for about 2 1/2 hours, but I layered the lasagna as I normally would with my own marinara, a large batch of cheese mixture (nothing wrong with cheesy), WW noodles, beef and onions, and sauteed mushrooms.
The secret to my marinara sauce is this: I don’t actually have a recipe. I always include the same ingredients, usually use the same technique (although sometimes I use a mixture of fresh tomatoes and canned sauces) and taste it at least a dozen times as it simmers. I use this version for lasagna, spaghetti, pizza, etc. When making spaghetti, I add seasoned, cooked and drained beef & sliced fresh mushrooms toward the end of cooking time. For lasagna, I usually layer the beef and mushrooms with the sauce. This ‘recipe’ is very versatile. If you like less tomato flavor, omit the tomato paste or use less. Use fresh herbs, dried herbs or a combination and don’t be shy with the herbs or sea salt. Remember to save some fresh herbs to stir in toward the end of cooking.
Amy’s Delicious Marinara (large batch)
1, 6oz. can tomato paste
1, 8oz. can tomato puree
4, 8oz. cans tomato sauce
1, 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
4 lg. fresh garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Basil, fresh and/or dried (heavy on the basil)
Oregano, fresh and/or dried (lots of oregano)
Fennel, fresh and/or dried (about the same amount of fennel as oregano, maybe a little less)
Thyme, fresh and/or dried
3 or 4 small pinches of sugar
1 or 2 pinches nutmeg
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Place 2-3 T. EVOO in a large simmering pot. Heat on low and press garlic cloves into the oil with a garlic press or mince and add. Stir tomato paste into the garlic and oil mixture and cook until garlic is aromatic. Add the remainder of tomato products and begin adding herbs and seasoning. Stir and simmer on low heat for about 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more herbs and seasoning as needed; meat and mushrooms, if desired.
1 box WW lasagna noodles
1 lb. lean hamburger meat or sausage, optional
1 small onion, diced
1 lb. fresh mushrooms
1, 15oz. container ricotta cheese
1-2 c. fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
2 c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Brown beef and onion in a little EVOO, seasoning with kosher salt. Drain. Meanwhile, place ricotta cheese, 1-1/2 c. fresh Parmesan and 2 c. Mozzarella in a bowl and stir until blended. Saute’ mushrooms in a little EVOO and set aside.
Make your lasagna: Prep slow-cooker by pre-heating on ‘low’. Pour about 1-2 T. EVOO in (to avoid sticking) and use a paper towel to coat the sides. Add a little sauce first before adding your first layer of noodles. Cover as much surface as you can with the noodles, leaving them in as large pieces as possible. It sounds complicated, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Believe me, mine wasn’t! Cover noodles with more sauce, then sprinkle beef and mushrooms over sauce. Add a little more sauce over the beef and mushrooms, then spread 1/3-1/2 cheese mixture. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Cover and cook on low about 2-2 1/2 hours or until noodles are soft and lasagna is heated through. Once it has finished cooking, switch setting to warm for about 30-minutes before serving (to set). The trickiest part of this method is removing it from the slow-cooker. I cut each serving all the way through first and used a short spatula. Serve with extra marinara and grated Parmesan.