Kitchen Curious: Put your slow cooker to work with this lasagna

Slow-Cooker Spinach Ricotta Lasagna is from the new cookbook “Lasagna: A Baked Pasta Cookbook” by Anna Hezel and the Editors of TASTE (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $16.99). LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Slow-Cooker Spinach Ricotta Lasagna is from the new cookbook “Lasagna: A Baked Pasta Cookbook” by Anna Hezel and the Editors of TASTE (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $16.99). LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

In this age of instant everything, I find myself seeking ways to slow down — at least in the kitchen. These days, that includes plugging in the slow cooker, and savoring the evolving smells for hours.

This reluctant Instant Pot owner still treasures her slow cooker. (The stubborn mindset reminds me of the period when I clung to my BlackBerry, desperate to call it relevant, while eyeing early iPhone adopters thumb swipe their screens and snap enviable photos.) Oh, but a slow cooker is still relevant, I’ll argue, and it holds court over other kitchen equipment when you’re feeding a crowd during chilly weather.

RELATED: More Kitchen Curious recipes

Thanks to a creative slow-cooker lasagna recipe from Anna Hezel, author of newly published “Lasagna: A Baked Pasta Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, $16.99), I pulled out my battered appliance (the knob has fallen off, so now I use pliers to change the heat setting) for the first time this fall, and was reassured that the old girl still has some life in her.

Newly published cookbook “Lasagna: A Baked Pasta Cookbook” by Anna Hezel and the Editors of TASTE (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, $16.99) includes 50 lasagna recipes, including Slow-Cooker Spinach Ricotta Lasagna prepared in a slow cooker. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LFIGUERAS@AJC.COM

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The spinach filling for Hezel’s vegetarian lasagna could be replaced by — or complemented with — ground beef. Seasonings are swappable, too. The red sauce, as well, is up to you. What’s not flexible for this recipe is the kitchen towel that is placed between slow cooker and lid to sop up condensation. It’s one thing that you can’t do with an Instant Pot.

Slow-Cooker Spinach Ricotta Lasagna

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (optional)

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)

10 ounces baby spinach

Coarse kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal) and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups (15 ounces) ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1 pound low-moisture mozzarella cheese (not fresh), shredded (about 4 cups), divided

4 1/2 cups prepared red pasta sauce, homemade or commercially made

9 dry, curly lasagna noodles (uncooked)

Make the spinach-and-cheese mixture: Set a 5-quart slow cooker to the high heat setting and preheat while you prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and rosemary and red pepper flakes (if using), and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach to the skillet in large handfuls and give it a few stirs, allowing each handful to wilt for about a minute before adding more. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, basil, three-fourths of the mozzarella (about 3 cups; save the remaining mozzarella for the top), 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Fold in the spinach.

Assemble the lasagna: Spoon 1 cup of the sauce into the slow cooker. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce, breaking them to fit and cover any empty spots. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and top with 1 cup of the sauce. Top with 3 more noodles, breaking to fit. Add the remaining ricotta mixture and another cup of the sauce. Top with the remaining 3 noodles, breaking to fit, and the remaining sauce.

Slow cook the lasagna: Cover the slow cooker, placing a clean kitchen towel between the lid and the slow cooker to catch condensation. Cook on high heat until the noodles are tender and the sauce is absorbed, about 3 1/2 hours. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top, cover, and cook until melted, about 10 minutes. Turn cooker off and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. Serves 6-8.

Per serving, based on 6: 993 calories (percent of calories from fat, 36), 44 grams protein, 117 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 39 grams fat (19 grams saturated), 103 milligrams cholesterol, 794 milligrams sodium.

Reprinted with permission from “Lasagna: A Baked Pasta Cookbook” by Anna Hezel and the Editors of TASTE, copyright © 2019. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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