Warm, mushy, hearty goodness
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
The name of this column is turning out to be kind of a misnomer: over the last few weeks, Lunch of the Week has focussed on all kinds of meals. We covered breakfast, and even a few dinner recipes that can be converted into delicious leftover lunches. Continuing in that vein, I am now going to spend my precious words convincing you all to buy a slow cooker and start using the shit out of it.
I got my first slow cooker as a hand-me-down. I don’t even know the name brand because it has worn off over time, but I like to imagine it’s part of the Super Awesome line from Timesaving Cookware. Everything I have made in it—stew, pulled pork, chilli, turkey soup, and even apple crumble—has been delicious. More importantly for my busy student lifestyle, the ingredients that you throw into it take almost no time to prep. And, since meals take four to eight hours to cook, you can easily complete almost a week’s worth of reading while you wait. It’s win-win-win!
Being a pressed-for-time student has meant that a lot of my food has been of the fast variety, or else made in huge batches and then eaten for every meal until I’m so sick of it I could never eat another bite (I’m lookin’ at you, chilli). I haven’t even tried the time-consuming, complicated dishes that I love, like lasagne—that is, until I discovered that slow cooker lasagne is not only absolutely delicious, but dead easy to make.
There are three steps to slow cooker lasagne, and they take about a half hour, maximum. There’s the meat sauce step, the cheese filling step, and then the assembly step. After that, all you need to do is wait—wait while saucy, cheesy goodness fills your house with delicious Italian scents, as your hungry tummy grumbles with anticipation. This recipe works in four-, five-, or six-quart slow cookers, and serves about eight people.
To make the meat sauce, first brown the beef with a diced yellow onion. Drain the fat (or don’t—decadent!), then add your can of pasta sauce, an extra can’s worth of water, all your spices, and your prepared veggies. Unlike with traditional lasagne, there is no need to let it simmer. All of that magic happens during the sauce’s lengthy stay in magic slow cooker land.
While your beef is browning, make the cheese filling by mixing the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg, and a bit of pepper in a bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup of the mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese—you’ll need that later.
To assemble, scoop one cup of your sauce into the slow cooker. Then cover with three lasagne noodles (they don’t have to be the ready-for-the-oven kind, any kind will do). You’ll have to snap them strategically to fit in your slow cooker—this is probably the hardest part of the process. Then layer half your cheese mixture on top of the noodles, then two cups of sauce, then noodles, then cheese mixture, then the rest of the sauce. That cheese you set aside? After your tasty meal has cooked on the low setting for four to six hours, throw the extra cheese on top. While it melts, you can throw together a speedy Caesar salad.
You will need:
1 lb ground beef/
1 can or jar (680 ml) spaghetti sauce
1 green or red pepper
1 or 2 carrots, grated
1 cup water
1 container (500 grams) ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp pepper
6 lasagne noodles, uncooked and broken to fit