You know who's always ready to lend a helping hand when it comes to dinner?The freezer aisle. When it comes to serving homestyle lasagna with a fraction of the effort, our favorite trick is frozen ravioli. You just layer it in a slow cooker with a tangy marinara sauce and mild shreds of mozzarella cheese and, eight hours later, you're digging into a bowl of saucy lasagna you barely had to lift a finger to make.
The Secret to Slow Cooker Lasagna Is Ravioli
Pasta, cheese, and sauce — these are the three essential elements of lasagna. While the no-boil pasta revolution streamlines the assembly process for casseroles, their angular shape is no help for a lasagna destined for the slow cooker. Ravioli, those small bundles of pasta and cheese, are a smarter choice to casually layer between robust tomato sauce and mild shreds of mozzarella cheese for a freeform casserole.
Traditional cheese ravioli makes for a classic lasagna, but with an abundance of ravioli varieties available in the market, you can make each meal different. I reach for spinach or artichoke ravioli when the crisper drawer is full of greens and mushrooms and a few lingering nubs of cheese beg to be used.
This recipe is for you if you love the tender inner slices of traditional lasagna, the part where the pasta is soft, the cheese is gooey, and the tomatoes offer a welcome bit of acidity. Embrace the casual, homestyle effect that a slow cooker brings and build the layers with frozen ravioli.
A Sauce That Needs No Stovetop
Most marinaras start on the stove with a quick sauté of onion and garlic, the building blocks of a simple sauce. When the lasagna cooks all day, as it does here, you can skip the stovetop and leave all the simmering to the slow cooker.
Choose good-quality canned tomatoes for the brightest flavor, knowing that you will need both diced and crushed tomatoes for a variety of textures in the sauce. Stir the tomatoes together in a bowl with a bit of garlic, some Italian seasoning, salt, and a zip of sweetly acidic balsamic vinegar. It's a simple sauce that takes mere minutes, but when pressed for time substituting a jarred sauce that you love also works.
Spread a generous spoonful of the sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker before layering with ravioli and mozzarella.
More Slow Cooker Pastas
Slow Cooker Ravioli Lasagna
3 (14.5-ounce) cans
1 (28-ounce) can
dried Italian seasoning
2 (22-ounce) bags
frozen cheese ravioli (do not thaw), divided
part-skim mozzarella cheese (4 cups), shredded and divided
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
Place the diced tomatoes and their juices, crushed tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and vinegar together in a large bowl and stir to combine.
Coat a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the slow cooker. Scatter 1/3 of the ravioli (about 3 1/2 cups) evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese (about 1 cup) over the ravioli. Repeat the layers of sauce, ravioli, and cheese two more times. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the sauce bubbles, the ravioli is heated through, and the cheese melts and browns, about 8 hours. Sprinkle with the parsley if desired and serve.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Meat variation: Brown 1 pound of ground beef, turkey, or sausage with 1 cup of diced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic on the stovetop over medium heat. Drain the fat and layer into the lasagna between the ravioli and cheese.
Jarred sauce variation: Use 3 (24-ounce) jars of good-quality pasta sauce in place of the canned diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and vinegar.