September 12, 2018
Trying to boost your veggie intake? Try swapping spiralized raw veggie “noodles” for your regular pasta. Ribbons of zucchini, sweet potatoes and beets cook in about the same time as fresh pasta, and make a more nutrient-dense, flavourful and gluten-free option. Once you get going, you’ll think of new combinations yourself — it’s a great way to get a simple, veggie heavy dinner on the table in less time than it takes to hit a drive-thru.
A gooey lasagna is a wonderful thing, but it’s a dish often reserved for special occasion meals because it can be a production to make. This streamlined version is assembled and cooked in the slow cooker, which makes it a doable dinner any day of the week; using Calgary Co-op zucchini chips in place of some of the noodles is easy, and provides a healthy veggie boost.
There’s no need to source no-bake lasagna noodles, or to boil them first; with all the moisture trapped inside a slow cooker, even regular dry noodles will cook perfectly as the lasagna does. Start with any kind of sauce, as if you were making spaghetti—with ground meat and chopped veggies, as you like it—and the assembly couldn’t be simpler. There’s no need for perfection, just snap dry noodles to make them roughly fit your round or oval slow cooker, and don’t worry about them overlapping. You can alternate layers of noodles and zucchini, or simply layer the zucchini along with the sauce and cheese, before the next noodle layer. Best of all, there’s no pressure to serve perfectly clean slices; use a spoon to dole it out, and round out your meal with a simple green salad and soft focaccia or crunchy baguette.
Slow Cooker Zucchini Lasagna
This lasagna is easy to make with meat or without—feel free to use any chopped, sautéed veggies you might add to your regular spaghetti sauce.
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red, yellow or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 lb ground beef or 1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup ricotta
6 uncooked lasagna noodles (regular or oven-ready) or 4 fresh pasta sheets, trimmed to fit
1/2 pkg Calgary Co-op zucchini chips
2 cups grated mozzarella or shredded Italian cheese blend
Set a large skillet over medium heat, add a drizzle of oil and sauté the onion and pepper for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the beef or mushrooms and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink or excess liquid has cooked off of the mushrooms. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper and stir in the tomato sauce.
Spread about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker, then lay 3 noodles overtop, snapping them so that they roughly fit (they don’t have to be perfect), using the broken pieces to fill any gaps. Spread about a third of the sauce over the noodles, drop spoonfuls of ricotta overtop, and sprinkle with a handful of grated cheese. Make another layer using zucchini chips in place of the noodles, and repeat with sauce-ricotta-cheese-noodles (or zucchini), ending with a layer of sauce and mozzarella.
Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until the noodles are tender all the way through when you poke a knife into it. Remove the lid and let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 4-6.
- Julie Van Rosendaal
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