I never knew about the 9×13 slow cooker until my friend Tracy brought one to a homeschool potluck. I was amazed that someone like me with unconventional kitchen toys like a deli slicer, hadn’t heard of the casserole slow cooker. This size makes it easier to slow cook ribs, casseroles, and just cooks individual cuts of meat better in my opinion. Instead of stacking all the ingredients on top of one another, they can lay side-by-side.
Today’s slow cookers aren’t as slow as the 1970’s and 1980’s models, doing the job in half the time. This is a real shame. My cousin Jenny’s old model just burned up, and now she knows leaving a dish (unless it’s a big hunk of meat or a sturdy soup) for 8 hours isn’t going to turn out. The good news is, we now have warming, sautee, and even baking options on our slow cookers. And now, we have the 9×13 size, and I’m taking full advantage.
After getting my 9×13 slow cooker, I was excited to test drive with a casserole-type recipe. I knew with this size, I wouldn’t have to slop the food on the plate, but could cut even slices. And since the insert is oven safe, it can be placed in the oven for browning the top. I made a lasagna, which took about 3 1/2 hours to cook, and it turned out perfectly. While this isn’t something to turn on low and leave for the day, it does mean I can make a late-in-the-day dinner decision. I can put the lasagna on at 2 p.m., run errands, pick Katelyn up from school, take my other daughter to pottery, walk in the door at 5:30 and serve dinner. I can leave, and know a beautiful lasagna is waiting for me when I get home.
I don’t use ready-oven noodles, just the regular lasagna sheets. I make my own sauce, but jar sauce is great too. In this experiment, I used my frozen ground beef crumbles I made in advance.
Slow Cooker Lasagna
2 jars marinara sauce, or equivalent amount of homemade
1/3 cup water
12 lasagna noodles
2, 16 ounce containers of whole milk ricotta
1 egg, beaten
1 pound cooked and drained sausage, or ground beef
1 pound shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (optional)
Beat the egg, and mix with ricotta.
Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish, and add 1/3 cup of water. Layer three noodles on the bottom, and break another noodle in half, and put one on each side of the dish to create a “bib.”
Spread with 1/3 of ricotta. Put a layer of sauce on top of ricotta, sprinkle with 1/3 of meat and 1/3 of mozzarella.
Repeat two more times, then top with Parmesan. Cover, and cook on low for 3/12 hours. If you want the top even more brown, place in oven on broil and brown top.