There's a certain comfort that comes with an Italian meal. Twirls of spaghetti topped with meatballs have made Garfields out of all of us, and pizza is such a crowd-pleaser that we've figured out how to prepare it for any time of day. Italian food is about affection and flavour—that's why the best dishes are famously made by grandmothers—and perhaps no dish better showcases that than lasagna.
Whether it's slathered with a meat sauce or it's coloured with fresh vegetables, lasagna has to be carefully cooked and then assembled in order to achieve that perfect layered look. It all takes time and effort, and that's why it's so comforting. Right? Well, not if you use a slow cooker to get things done.
Thanks to Genius Kitchen, these are the basics for making slow cooker lasagna recipes. Instead of creating tiers in a dish, simply place sauce on the bottom of your lasagne, top it with uncooked noodles (broken to fit), and add cheese. Repeat this process until you get to the rim, and then place the setting on "low" to cook for four to five hours.
We found eight lasagna recipes you can re-create using a slow cooker, which will deliver those same heartwarming flavours without the same time commitment. Don't worry. Those you serve it to will still feel the love.
Slow-Cooker Sausage and Spinach
The lowdown: Here's why we like this slow-cooker sausage and spinach lasagna recipe from Anne Wolfe Postic at Kitchn: It's the type of meal that is well worth the effort. Sausage mixes with ricotta, diced tomatoes, and yellow onion to create a rich texture that's offset by smooth noodles.
Keep in mind: "Smashing the fresh spinach into the ricotta and mozzarella takes some time, but I think it's worth it. The alternative—using frozen spinach, thawing it, and pressing out the water—just doesn't taste as good. On occasion, I've also substituted baby kale, chard, or a blend for the spinach," Anne says.
Prosciutto White Lasagna
The lowdown: We can't help but crave this inventive recipe from Tieghan Gerard's Half Baked Harvest, which uses mozzarella, whole milk ricotta, and provolone to create an extra cheesy lasagna. If you're assembling this in a lasagne, we suggest waiting to top it with prosciutto until close to the end of its cooking time.
Keep in mind: "Of course, if you're a vegetarian, you can leave the prosciutto off, but if you don't mind a little ham, please, please, do not skip this part. It adds a saltiness that pairs really nicely with the sharp cheeses," Tieghan says.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
The lowdown: This lasagna from Ina Garten is much like her other beloved recipes since its easy-to-re-create steps include a mix of eggplant, zucchini, and garlic and herb goat cheese. Only use "good" ingredients to make Ina proud, and keep an eye on the vegetables as they cook in the slow cooker.
Keep in mind: You'll need to roast the vegetables before assembling the lasagna. After 25 minutes, "sprinkle the garlic evenly on the vegetables, and roast for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through," she says.
The lowdown: Anytime we can eat vegetables in a way that feels decadent, we're in. And that's the case with this recipe from Jen at Savory Simple, which pairs thick slices of eggplant with chopped thyme, minced garlic, and ricotta. As with all vegetables in a slow cooker, monitor the eggplant as it cooks to make sure it doesn't get mushy.
Keep in mind: "You do not need to salt the eggplant before roasting it," Jen says. "It will not impact the flavour or texture."
Chicken and Spring Vegetable Lasagna
The lowdown: The green sauce in this chicken and spring vegetable lasagna recipe from Steph at I Am a Food Blog is created from a mix of broccoli florets, snap peas, shelled peas, and spinach. It's going to get better with time—so even if you want seconds and thirds, save some for tomorrow.
Keep in mind: "Blanch the vegetables in batches: one to two minutes for the broccoli and peas, 30 seconds for the spinach," Stephanie says. "Immediately plunge into the ice water to stop the vegetables from cooking."
Mexican Zucchini Lasagna
The lowdown: Ricotta and garlic mix with salsa and taco seasoning to make an unconventional Mexican zucchini lasagna from Taylor Kiser at Food Faith Fitness. Taylor uses zoodles to create her layers in this recipe, but we'd also try classic noodles to make sure they hold up in the slow cooker.
Keep in mind: "You only need three zucchinis for the recipe, but I always like to use four so that I have some extra if some zucchinis break or stick to the pan," she says.
Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna Soup
The lowdown: Who knew lasagna could be soup? That's the case with this slow-cooker recipe from Foodie Crush, which combines the noodles with sliced mushrooms, spinach leaves, and minced garlic in a vegetable broth. It's also topped with ricotta and mozzarella, of course.
Keep in mind: "Once the cooking time is done, cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, drain and rinse and add to the soup," Heidi says. "Cut them into smaller pieces if you'd like."
Spicy Spinach and Kale Lasagna
The lowdown: Jessica Merchant from How Sweet Eats fills this lasagna with just about everything you'd want in a cosy Italian dish thanks to hot Italian sausage, grated mozzarella, and a fresh herb topping. And to make it a little more healthy, it's also made with whole wheat noodles and curly kale.
Keep in mind: You'll need to cook the sausage in a skillet until it has browned, but you can skip Jessica's tip to add the kale, too. It'll cook in the slow cooker.
Shop Russel Hobbs' 7L Slow Cooker ($69) to make a week's worth of dinners with ease.