A no-fail lasagna recipe that is super simple because it removes the loathed step of pre-cooking lasagna noodles. You will find layers of flawlessly cooked noodles, a mixture of cheeses and of course, a sauce flavored through and through with spices, fresh herbs, and flavor galore. Slow cooking this Easy Crockpot Lasagna for a good half a day makes for the ultimate comfort food satisfaction.
Why I love this Easy Crockpot Lasagna Recipe:
- First and Foremost, the recipe is gloriously easy. It discards the need to pre-cook the lasagna noodles which, in my opinion, is the most dreaded part of cooking lasagna. Everything goes into the slow cooker and all you need at that point is time.
- Slow cooking permeates a depth of flavor throughout the dish. The sauce itself is intensely rich with onion, garlic, spicy chorizo, lots of spices and fresh herbs. Cooking it with the noodles all day just intensifies the taste.
- The cheese mixture uses fresh mozzarella, fresh parmesan, and whole milk ricotta cheese. Some recipes cheat a little and use cottage cheese, but not this one.
- This recipe makes a huge amount. You can serve a lot of people or have plenty of leftovers.
This culinary journey begins with onions and garlic to increases the flavorful depth of this delectable red sauce. Sauté the onion in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil which has been added to a heated pan (medium-high heat). Use a large heavy-bottomed pan like a Dutch Oven which distributes the heat evenly.
Sautéing intensifies the onions’ natural sugars and releases a heavenly sweetness as the onions become softened. It takes anywhere from 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, to achieve this stage. If you would like to know more about cooking onions, you can find lots of information here at recipetips.com.
Adding the Garlic
Adding the garlic after the onions have softened is the best practice. If you throw them in at the beginning, they will cook too long and burn which will leave a bitter taste in the recipe. One minute really is all these amazing little gems need to cook. And oh the aroma that permeates your kitchen when they release their fragrance. Also, everything you ever wanted to know about garlic can be found here at recipetips.com.
Bringing a little heat with “Hot” Italian Sausage
You can use Sweet Italian Sausage, but I and my family prefer jazzing the sauce up with a tad bit of heat from Hot Italian Sausage. For this recipe, I used two pounds of sausage which made a nice ratio between it and the crushed tomatoes that come later. Add the sausage once the onions and garlic are finished cooking and cook until it becomes brown.
Italian Sausage, in general, is known for the flavors of fennel and/or anise. Spices have been added like those of cayenne pepper, smoked and hot paprika, and crushed red pepper flakes. Mmmmmm – I can already taste it on my tongue.
Draining the Meat
There’s a lot of greasy juice that is collected at the bottom of the pan while cooking the sausage. Once the meat is browned, use a large metal sieve to drain it into a bowl. I’m a little particular about the amount of grease I want to remain which ultimately finds its way into the finished sauce. So, I further use paper towels to dab up any additional grease on the meat. It just satisfies a little “greasy” pet-peeve I have.
Putting all the ingredients in the Red Sauce
The homemade sauce, in my opinion, is the BEST component of this recipe. We’ve now come to the moment where all the magic collides to create a glorious red sauce that will ultimately encase the lasagna noodles. The abundance of spices, herbs and a little bit of sweetness is what truly makes this sauce.
Fennel, I mention first because I love it so much, has an anise-like taste that is both light and sweet, similar to licorice. Onion and garlic powder, both contribute an additional dimension to the already sautéd onions and garlic. Fresh (and please use fresh) basil, which is delightfully fragrant in every way, is the superb complement to the crushed tomatoes. And to me, it’s not Italian, unless it has oregano. I used fresh, but dried can work just as well. You just don’t want to use as much – a third as much to be exact. And the finishing touch for this red sauce is a sweet kiss from a little bit of brown sugar.
Usually, I want my “spaghetti” sauce to simmer for hours to let all the flavors meld together. And if you wait until the next day to eat it, the richness of the flavors is increased even more. But because this sauce will “simmer” in the slow cooker for at least four hours on high, the desired results will be accomplished just the same.
Cheese, and lots of it, is what delivers on the “comfort” and “cozy” side of this dish.
Ricotta Cheese – My mom’s old recipe called for cottage cheese, which I am not a full-fledged fan of. I love cottage cheese, just not in my lasagna. It’s mostly used for those wanting to lower the cost and reduce their fat and calorie intake. But listen, if I’m gonna go all out and eat lasagna, I’m not counting my calories or the cost. I’ll count them “tomorrow.”
Ricotta cheese, which is more traditional in Southern Italy (bechamel is used in North Italy), is creamier, subtly sweeter and more flavorful than cottage cheese. Cottage cheese, which in my opinion has become an American substitute.
Parmesan Cheese – There are specific ingredients that constitute an Italian type dish and one of those is definitely parmesan cheese. It has a hard, gritty texture while the taste is nutty and fruity which is a wonderful complement to the other cheeses in this recipe. Never buy pre-grated parmesan cheese. It’s always fresher and best when grated right before needing it.
I used to grate parmesan cheese down to the rind and throw the rind away because I thought there was no other use for it. But there are a plethora of ideas to use this part of the cheese. Throw them into pots of soup, stews or tomato sauce to give additional flavor. When done, pull out the rind and then you can throw it away. Use it as an infusion to olive oil. Throw it in when you are steaming artichokes. Put the rind in the pot when you are making risotto, then remove it before serving. It’s an expensive cheese, so you want to make the most of it.
Fresh Mozzarella Cheese – Using fresh mozzarella instead of shredded mozzarella adds a deeper, richer dairy flavor. It not only gives a nice texture to the dish but brings with it more taste. The “fresh” mozzarella tends to be a little more difficult to grate but I used the coarse side of a box grater and accomplished the task.
Easy Crockpot Lasagna with No-boil noodles
When buying lasagna noodles for this recipe, don’t grab the pre-cooked ones. The regular, good-ol’ ones that your mama always cooked with, grab those. All that saucy goodness in the crockpot cook the noodles to perfect tenderness over a four-hour period. It’s like magic.
Layering the Lasagna – Bottom Layer
The photo above shows probably five to six lasagna noodles per layer which when I made the recipe to take these photos was too many. The end result was somewhat dry because the noodles expanded and soaked up a lot of the sauce. So the second time around and in the recipe below, I pulled back the number of noodles per layer to four or five. Therefore it made the ratio between noodles and sauce a perfect blending.
The very first layer that lines the bottom of the crockpot is two cups of sauce and then comes the noodles. Since we’re not using a rectangular baking dish, the noodles need to be broken a bit to fit.
Layering the Lasagna – Layers 2 and 3
Once you get the noodles in place, dollop the cheese mixture on top of them. Use a lot of small dollops though because it doesn’t spread that easily. You have to gently coerce the cheese to fit in all the space while not rearranging the noodles. Be patient. What worked best for me was to use the back of a wooden spoon and gently roll the spoon back and forth over the cheese.
Next, comes another two cups of sauce over the cheese mixture. This continues one more time. Another layer of noodles, another layer of cheese mixture, and another layer of sauce.
Layering the Lasagna – The Last Step
To finalize this layering process, you end with a layer of noodles and a layer of meat sauce. This is the layering count – four layers of sauce, three layers of noodles, and two layers of cheese mixture.
Now, is the time to place that crockpot on high, grab a good book, maybe even a glass of wine, and enjoy four hours of relaxation. Because the hard part is completely done and it’s up to the slow cooker to get the work done. (You can cook it on low for 6-8 hours.) You don’t want to cook it too long or the noodles will become somewhat mushy.
Once the noodles are tender, pull out the removable pot, dot the whole surface with cubes of fresh mozzarella, and put the lasagna in a 400°F preheated oven or under the broiler until the cheese melts. For a pretty garnishment, you can scatter small basil leaves on top once it comes out of the oven.
Freeze the Leftovers
This makes a good amount of lasagna, enough for you to have leftovers the next day or put in the freezer. The best way to freeze would be to cut individual servings and set them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer until they are frozen solid. Remove and place them in freezer ziplock bags. When you are ready to reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Cover with foil and reheat in a 300°F oven until heated through.
Oooey, gooey, cheesy, saucy – what a beautiful mess. This Easy Crockpot Lasagna recipe has never failed me yet! Over the years, I’ve made it on numerous occasions. People have always said it’s the best lasagna they’ve ever had. Now I’m a little biased, so I want to be careful to not brag. But, in my humble opinion, I would have to agree (wink, wink).
The best way to serve this is with some toasted crusty garlic bread. Some days, you just need a little bit of “comfort.” YOU’RE WELCOME!!
If you’re looking for more “comfort” food, check these recipes out:
Puff Pastry Chicken Pot Pie
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Easy Crockpot Lasagna
No-fail lasagna that is super simple and you don’t have to pre-cook the noodles. It is loaded with flavor through and through. This is a tried and true recipe that I have cooked many times over the years.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 4-8 hours
- Total Time: 53 minute
- Yield: 10-12 servings 1x
- Category: Pasta Dishes
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 1/2 large Sweet Onion, chopped
- 6 large Garlic Cloves, chopped
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
- 2 lbs Hot Italian Sausage, bulk
- 2 – 28 oz cans Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
- 3 tablespoons Fresh Oregano, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Fennel Seeds
- Meat Sauce (see above)
- Approximately 16–20 Lasagna Noodles, dry
- 20 oz fresh Mozzarella Cheese, divided (12 oz grated) (8 oz cubed)
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan Cheese, grated
- 3 cups Ricotta Cheese
- Saute 1 1/2 large onions (chopped) in large dutch oven over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until tender and translucent. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add 6 cloves garlic (chopped) and continue cooking for 1 minute.
- Add 2 pounds Hot Italian Sausage and cook until browned. Drain.
- Add 2 -28 ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes, 1 teaspoon Onion Powder, 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder, 1/2 cup Fresh Basil (chopped) 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar and 1 tablespoon Fennel Seeds. Set aside until ready to assemble the lasagna.
- Combine 12 oz of grated Mozzarella, 1 1/2 cups Parmesan Cheese (grated), and3 cups Ricotta Cheese.
- In a 6-quart, removable crockpot, add 2 cups meat sauce and 4-5 dry noodles (broken to fit).
- Layer – 1/2 the cheese mixture, 2 cups sauce and 4-5 noodles for 2 times. End with the meat sauce. You should have 4 layers of sauce, 3 layers of noodles and 2 layers of cheese mixture.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
- When noodles are tender, remove the ceramic pot from the slow cooker and add the remaining 8 oz cubed mozzarella to the top of the lasagna. Place in a 400°F preheated oven or under a broiler until the mozzarella cheese melts. Remove from oven and add small basil leaves for garnishment (optional).
- Sautéeing intensifies the onions’ natural sugars and releases a heavenly sweetness as the onions become softened. It takes anywhere from 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, to achieve this stage.
- Throw the chopped garlic in after the onion has become tender. If you let them cook from the beginning, they will cook too long and burn which will leave a bitter taste in the recipe.
- There’s a lot of greasy juice that is collected at the bottom of the pan while cooking the sausage. Once the meat is browned, use a large metal sieve to drain it into a bowl. Use paper towels to dab up any additional grease on the meat.
- Never buy pre-grated parmesan cheese. It’s always fresher and best when grated right before needing it.
- Using fresh mozzarella instead of shredded mozzarella adds a deeper, richer dairy flavor. It not only gives a nice texture to the dish but brings with it more taste.
- When buying lasagna noodles for this recipe, don’t grab the pre-cooked ones.
- The noodles need to be broken a bit to fit into the crockpot.
- Serving Size: 1/12 of Pan
- Calories: 640
- Sugar: 20 g
- Sodium: 1414 mg
- Fat: 21 g
- Saturated Fat: 11 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 85g
- Fiber: 15 g
- Protein: 33 g
- Cholesterol: 71 mg
Keywords: Easy Lasagna in the Crockpot, Crockpot Lasagna, Crockpot Lasagna with No-Boil Noodles