*V* *GF* How do I spell comfort food? L A S A G N A. How often do I make it? Almost N E V E R because it's so much dang work. When I discovered you could throw lasagna ingredients in a crock pot and come back to beautiful layers of savory pasta luscious-ness, I was sold. I love, love, love my crock pot, because it will fix dinner for me so I don't have to. I load it up at lunch time (when I'm in the kitchen fixing food anyway...) and when the 5 o'clock dinner rush hits, I let loose with a maniacal laugh, Mwa-ha-ha-ha! knowing I have outfoxed the dinner demon once again, because mine is already simmering happily away. I especially love non-traditional fillings for the crock, knowing how everyone can tire easily of soup or roasts. Here is a how to video on one of my best slow cooker offerings!
Now, if the video didn't say it all, I will. First a little regional history lesson. Ok, and treatise on my tastes...
I don't care for ricotta. Its just to darn bitter and grainy. My sister (who makes a mean lasagna the traditional way) always uses cottage cheese with an egg stirred in to firm it up, and I liked that before I went dairy -free. (which I no longer am, but that's another story and since we're already two stories deep, we'll save it for another day.) AND if you're not dairy-free you can certainly use the cottage cheese, or traditional ricotta with success in this recipe, but back to my original premise: So when I started on this venture, I was out to find a replacement for ricotta that didn't remind me of, well, ricotta. And weirdy vegan dairy subs and tofu are, let's face it, gross. SO I got online and found out that in some regions of Italy, (where lasagna purportedly originated) it was traditional to make it with a bechamel sauce instead of ricotta. (yes, I'm aware that there is an accent over the e, but have not figured out how to insert special characters in this blogging platform.)
This info sent my lasagna up to a whole new level. Bechamel was delightfully smooth and creamy with no metaphysically transmogrified ingredients I couldn't pronounce or reproduce with my Mister Widget Junior Science Lab Kit.
Still, having originated with the original consistency of small curd cottage cheese, I decided that I wanted to add a bit of texture to the bechamel, and so I opted for some cooked mashed cauliflower and found it to be just the added ballast and texture I was lacking. Then, answering the call of my inner couch potato, I figured out that the crock would cook the cauliflower for me if I simply diced it up and stirred it into the bechamel before assembly. Making things simpler is my middle name. After all, we are already making this lasagna instead of just defrosting one someone else made and charged too much for.
Speaking of simpler, you can just use your favorite bottled spaghetti sauce for this. I have made my own in the past, and if that's your thing and you have the time and resources, feel free. But my current MO dictates bottled sauce. Its 3 for $5.00 at Costco, and saves loads of time.
A word on veggies. This is a very versatile platform for your favorite vegetable combinations. Spinach is a solid yes. Toss a few handfuls in with, or instead of, the mushrooms. I have also enjoyed paper thin sliced zucchini and summer squash, or even tiny broccoli florets and shredded carrots. Take your pick and make the combo that fits your fancy.
Lastly, the powdered almond topping is what I use to replace that nasty wish-I-was-like-real-parmesan in the green can. It is actually far superior to that in my humble opinion. If you are currently enjoying real cheese, feel free to top this lasagna with some quality freshly grated Parmesan that has been made from raw milk and aged at least 24 months. Simply replace the lid of the slow cooker to allow the heat of the lasagna to melt the cheese.
These provisos having been given, I hope your lasagna turns out as terrific as you hope it will. To your health!