By Karen of 365 Days of Slow Cooking
I’ve made a lot of recipes in the slow cooker in my lifetime. It’s kind of an obsession. I like to see what will work and what traditional recipes I can switch up and make into slow cooker favorites. One dish that works really well in the slow cooker that sometimes surprises people is lasagna.
I’ve made traditional lasagna with mozzarella, ricotta, marinara sauce and Italian sausage; and I’ve made other versions, including Alfredo lasagna, veggie lasagna, pesto mushroom lasagna, and chicken and spinach lasagna. For this dish I was inspired take the flavors from tacos and make them into a cheesy Mexican dish that will be totally family-friendly and perfect for dinner any night of the week. You never know – Taco Tuesday at your house could become Taco Lasagna Tuesday from now on!
If you’re like me, the slow cooker is your best friend. It frees up your time so you don’t have to make dinner at dinnertime. Because, let’s face it, dinnertime is most often the worst time to make dinner. Parents are fighting traffic on their way home from a long day at work, younger children can be cranky, and older kids have all sorts of lessons and activities that they are going to and from. It’s ideal if dinner can somehow already be ready and warm in these situations. Enter the slow cooker.
This taco lasagna recipe has a fairly short cooking time, so I like to make right before the kids get home from school and let cook while getting homework done and shuttling kids to sports. It’s the perfect quick and easy meal!
P.S. You may be wondering what type of crockpot I used for this recipe. It’s called a Casserole Crock and it’s shaped like a 9 x 13 inch pan. I love my casserole crock for recipes like this. The really cool thing about it is that you can use it in the oven too! You can cook a casserole in the oven and then keep it warm in the slow cooker. Or if you want to slowly cook a casserole and then quickly brown the top or melt cheese on the top, you can put it under the broiler to finish. The one that I have is only $40 but you can also get one with a timer on it for about $70.
By Karen of 365 Days of Slow CookingServings: 10-12
1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 package (1.25-ounces) taco seasoning
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 container (16-ounces) Wisconsin ricotta cheese
10 whole-wheat lasagna noodles*
3 cups picante sauce or salsa
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin queso quesadilla cheese, grated
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin queso blanco cheese, grated
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin cotija cheese, grated
1 can (2.25 ounces) sliced black olives, optional
Sour cream, for topping
Diced red onion, for topping
Cilantro, chopped, for topping
Sliced avocado, for topping
Heat skillet over medium high heat; add ground beef. Use wooden spoon to break meat into even pieces. Add taco seasoning and tomato paste, stirring occasionally for even browning. Continue to brown beef until no longer pink; drain excess fat. Set aside.
Place ricotta in medium bowl; add egg and whisk until combined. Set aside.
In casserole slow cooker or 6-quart oval slow cooker, layer 5 uncooked whole-wheat lasagna noodles over bottom (you may break some noodles in half to fit slow cooker shape). Spoon half of ricotta mixture over noodles as evenly as possible. Sprinkle half of beef over ricotta. Pour half of salsa over beef.
Mix queso quesadilla, queso blanco, cheddar and cotija to blend. Sprinkle half of cheese mixture over salsa.
Repeat layering, starting with remaining lasagna noodles and ending with remaining cheese mixture.
Top cheese layer with sliced olives, if using. Cover slow cooker; cook on high 2-3 hours or low about 4 hours. Serve lasagna immediately with favorite toppings (sour cream, red onion, cilantro and avocado are my favorites.).
*Note; I like using whole-wheat lasagna noodles for this recipe because they do not get mushy like white pasta tends to do in the slow cooker. The noodles do not need to be oven-ready noodles.