comfort. italian style.

Before.

It’s been a decade or more since we’ve had a functioning oven in our house. As it turns out, finding a replacement 24-inch gas wall oven is significantly more difficult — and more expensive — than one might expect.

Much of the time, I don’t miss it. And by “much of the time,” I mean I don’t miss it in the summer, when I would be hesitant to turn it on anyway. The rest of the year, though, can be tough. I would totally bake cookies in December if I could. Having an oven could have improved my first crack at smoking a brisket earlier this year. And as the weather starts to cool off, my brain immediately starts craving things I can’t make — casseroles, baked ziti, stuffed shells … and lasagna.

Necessity is the mother of excessive kitchen toys, and at some point a few years back, my craving for lasagna drove me to the internet in search of a solution. And the internet told me that our crock pot could help.

I’ve tinkered with the original recipe to the point that it’s no longer derivative — it’s pretty much my own. And since you guys asked:

What you’ll need:

Olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large onion, diced

2 jars of spaghetti sauce

1 small can of tomato paste

1 pound of ground beef

1 pound of ground sweet Italian sausage

1 box of lasagna noodles

15 oz tub of ricotta

About 3 cups of shredded mozzarella

About 2 cups of shredded parm

Spices: Italian seasoning, dried basil, dried oregano, parsley flakes, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and a bay leaf

Sugar to taste

What you’ll do:

  1. Dump the cheeses in a mixing bowl and stir until all three are combined evenly. Set aside.
  2. Brown the meats in a skillet, breaking up the large pieces as you go. Drain the fat and set aside.
  3. Sweat the garlic and onions in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a sauce pan. Add the jars of sauce and the seasonings. You’ll add about a tablespoon of each of the spices except salt and black pepper — add just a little of those. Drop in a bay leaf and let it simmer for a half hour. When time’s up, remove the bay leaf, add a little sugar to suit your personal taste and once you’ve got it down, add the meat. I’ll simmer this for a bit too, although with hours to come in the slow cooker, it’s probably not necessary.
  4. Haul out your crock pot and get ready to layer. You’ll go in this order: meat, noodles and cheese, and you’ll have enough stuff to repeat that for three layers. Note that the noodles are just straight out of the box; break them up to fit a full layer each time. The crock pot will take care of cooking them.
  5. Cook on low for four or five hours.

When you’re done, cut out a wedge of lasagna and drop it on your plate. If you’re lucky, you’ll have one whole side of that wedge kind of brown and crisp like those ridiculous brownie pans that are arranged so every piece is an end piece. Make a salad, open a bottle of red wine and go to town.

No oven necessary.

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