New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
  • Follow me
  • Subscribe to newsletter
  • Follow me on Pinterest
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Become a fan on Facebook
  • Follow me on Google Plus

A Year of Slow Cooking

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slow Cooker Pesto Spinach Lasagna Recipe


I didn't grow up eating lasagna. I first heard of this dish while reading a comic book---although Jim Davis always spelled Garfield and Odie's favorite dish "lasagne." I remember asking my mom what it was and she said it was a layered pasta casserole with cheese.

I ate my first plate of lasagna when I was 12 or so at a friend's house during a sleepover. It was from Stauffer's. It was delicious, and I was hooked.

It's really not hard to make a good lasagna. I make it quite a bit, either in the crock or out. I like that I can shove extra veggies in without too much notice, and I like that I can use the odds and ends of bags of pasta---if I've only got a few traditional lasagna noodles, no problem---I throw in a layer of penne! If I've got the bits of a few different kinds of cheeses, who cares? I've even used the individually packaged string cheeses. It's all good.

There are very few vegetarian lasagnas worth eating. I've probably offended a bunch of people.
I'm sorry. But I stand by this claim: I haven't found a vegetarian lasagna (even in restaurants) where I haven't walked away wishing for meat and more flavor.

but I've found the secret to worthwhile vegetarian lasagna: Throw in pesto!


The Ingredients.
serves 8

1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 (10-ounce) box lasagna noodles (I like tinkyada brown rice)
1 (11-ounce) container pesto (or by all means, make your own!)
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/4 cup water

The Directions.

Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Put a spoonful of pasta sauce (about 1/4 cup) into the bottom of your cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (you're going to have to break them to make a layer). Smear ricotta cheese and pesto onto the noodles. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and slice mozzarella cheeses. Repeat layers until you've run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you're going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.
Before closing the pot, put 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.
Now cover up and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for about 3 to 4. You'll know it's done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. Taste-test a noodle to check texture.
Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

The Verdict.

This recipe was a complete surprise. I was on the phone with my friend Danielle, and Adam walked in the door with 2 packages of pesto (I had asked him to pick up one, and it was buy 1 get 1 free). Instead of being a gracious wife, I began to whine about having too much pesto in the house to Danielle, and she told me to put it in lasagna.

She was right. I shouldn't have complained, life is good, lasagna rocks, it's fun to get the kids to eat spinach without them realizing it, and there are DEFINITELY worse things in the world than extra pesto.

Lesson learned.
Head held in shame.

more vegetarian main dish options:
end of summer harvest soup

sweet potato chili
borscht
honey lentils
jamaican pumpkin soup

potato leek
vegetarian no noodle lasagna
ratatouille
Print Friendly and PDF

79 comments:

JoAnn said...

Can't wait to try this - maybe this weekend. I have some homemade pesto in the freezer that would be perfect. Thanks~

Jesser said...

This sounds totally tasty! I will have to try it. I generally agree with your comment about veggie lasagnas too, though I have had some good ones. My aunt makes a butternut squash one with bechamel sauce that is AWESOME and I've also had a WW version of a butternut squash one (with golden raisins and pine nuts) that is very good. And my best friend makes a noodle-less one with zucchini that is wonderful, though now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure it has turkey or something in it. ;)

Sweet and Savory said...

I did grow up on lasagna, even though we aren't Italian. I'm a meat fan as well, but I did find an incredible vegetarian lasagna at one of my favorite Iowa Italian restaurants, The Brown Bottle. I order it every time I go there...

ochenpryatna said...

No such thing as too much pesto! My basil plant has grown like mad this summer so I have lots of pesto stashed in the freezer. This sounds like a worthy use for it. :)

kenpen said...

I hated Stouffer's lasagna. It put me off of lasagna for years. When I started making my own, I realized how good it actually was.

Linda said...

What other veggies could we stick in here? Onions? Zuchinni chunks? Eggplant? Just spinach is too veggie-plain for me! This sounds delicious though, and I'm very excited to use that huge bag of greens I bought from the market last weekend.

Headless Mom said...

This sounds divine! (We're trying the Tamale Pie from the book tonight.)

michelle said...

sounds fabulous. Only problem is that while my daughter and I will eat pesto, my husband is not a fan. It is still worth trying though.

As for a good vegetarian recipe, I found this one http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/vegetable-lasagna-recipe.htm and it is wonderful! I probably play around with some of the proportions and add mushrooms, but this one is a winner in my household.

Emily said...

Thanks for the recipe!! It's in my crock pot right now. I got the Progresso Sun Dried Tomato Pesto because it was a better price than the other, and I can tell it's going to be SOOOO good. I can't wait to try it, and I know my husband will love it.

Krystal said...

no such thing as too much pesto! :) This recipe sounds wonderful, can't wait to try it out.

Heather said...

SO gonna try this. I can't wait. thanks.

Joni said...

I cannot WAIT to try this! Over the summer, we decided to start doing Meatless Mondays at our house, so I'm trying to compile a good collection of vegetarian recipes... I know what I'm cooking next Monday!! Thanks!

Amie said...

Hmmm...pesto....in lasagna....really? I believe you, but I'm having a hard time picturing it!

Lizzzzzzz said...

I'm a vegetarian and I have actually been contemplating unsubscribing from your blog in google reader. I love crock-potting but there have been very few vegetarian recipes lately. But I love veggie lasagna and so I will stay!

And as a vegetarian, I have to say here's the reason why you might have offended me if I were not thick skinned:

The truth is you have probably had bad meat lasagna before too and many people hate Stouffer's just like kenpen does. It's not the vegetables that make the lasagna bad, it's someone not knowing how to make good lasagna. This is like the time that an acquaintance told me she didn't like organic food because she bought an organic muffin once and it molded.

Emily said...

I already commented while this was cooking, but I had to leave another comment. This recipe was AMAZING! I loved it and my husband and 3-year-old both loved it. I added a couple layers of fresh mushrooms, and like I said earlier, I used the sun-dried tomato pesto because it was cheaper (but I loved the flavor of it, so I would use it again). This was, honestly, my favorite meal I have ever prepared. I couldn't believe it came from my kitchen, and especially from my slow cooker! It was so easy, hardly any cleanup, and SO good. Thanks again!

Debbi Does Dinner Healthy said...

I would never have thought to put pesto in lasagna. I love vegetarian dishes. I'm finding less and less reason to actually need meat! I actually make a really good veggie lasagna. I seriously don't think they need meat at all. In fact, I think I'm making a zucchini lasagna this week sometime. The pesto lasagna will go on the menu in the next few weeks! Thanks!

Umatji said...

Hi, just found your blog when I was searching for a oat bread recipe. Looks great - one of my first posts on my blog was about crock pot cooking - bread! Do you have an oat bread recipe?

Erin Starks-Teeter said...

This sounds really yummy. I've never thought of making lasagna in a slow cooker before. Thanks for the idea.

Travelin'Fool said...

dear me, i am salivating. and it's only 9 a.m!

Candice said...

This looks good! I grew up on "Lazy Man's Lasagna" (aka baked ziti.) My question: is the spinach taste noticeable? I made a spinach lasagna before and there was just enough spinach taste for me to be put off. (Note: I'm a vegaphobe, and have to hide my vegetables in sauces and cheese.)

Anonymous said...

If you want an excellent (and different) veg. lasagna recipe, there's one in Didi Emmons's "vegetarian planet" for a smokey mexican lasagna (there are chipotle peppers in the sauce) which is FANTASTIC.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

This sounds and looks really tasty!

I'm So Pretty said...

This lasagna sounds wonderful! I will definitely bookmark this for the next slow-cooker meal - thank you!!!

Lisa said...

I can't wait to try this. Pesto truly is the food of the gods.
I was surprised at how nice and green the spinach was in your photo. One would think it would lose its nice color, but yours looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

I love vegetarian lasagna, but only the kind with alfredo or cheese sauce instead of tomato sauce. Somehow tomato sauce lasagna needs meat for me. And the kind with eggplant instead of noodles, while an interesting casserole, is not lasagna.

Toemailer said...

The recipe sounds great. I'm going to try it because one of my favorites is lasagna!

AP said...

Thanks for the recipe. It sounded so good I went to the store and picked up the ingredients yesterday. However, I have a question about the noodles. Should we use the no-boil or regular lasagna noodles? Part of me assumed that if you didn't specify, you must mean regular. The other part of me thought that if we are not cooking the noodles ahead of time, I should use no-boil just like I would in the oven.

Stephanie O'Dea said...

Hi AP,
I always use regular noodles. Even before we went GF, I'd only use the regular--the no boil ones sometimes get too gummy for my liking.

I hope you enjoy it!

Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free said...

I am *thrilled* to see this recipe. I was standing in the grocery store last week with a box of Tinyada g-free noodles wondering if they'd work in my slow cooker. I'm going to make a GF Slow Cooker lasagna this week...but I might add meat. :)

katherine_rondeau said...

It's the basil from the pesto that makes it so delicious! I always blend in fresh basil with my ricotta when I make lasagna, and everyone always loves it. To give this dish an even "meatier" taste, adding mushrooms (like you do in a previous lasagna recipe you have posted) would be a great idea. Thanks for your great site!!!

Jenn said...

This was AMAZING! Made it last night, and even ate it for breakfast this morning! Thanks so much! BTW, I linked back to your blog on my Facebook account. Is that ok?

Modern Home Chef said...

Good and bad lasagnas are out there both with and without meat. You just need to have good ingredients. I like the pesto idea and can't wait to try it.

wonderousclusterf#@k said...

My boyfriend made this for dinner last night! It was very good! I was amazed at how well a crockpot lasagna could turn out. Tasted just like the kind you make in the oven, but better because of the pesto! The pesto wasn't too overwhelming either, which I was worried about, it just had a nice, slightly nutty, flavor to it!

Teresa said...

That sounds delicious, and we have roughly 10 tons of pesto in the freezer. I haven't tried lasagna in a crockpot before, but it does seem to take a lot of the fussiness out of it.

I'm in the opposite camp where lasagna is concerned. It's all about the cheesey goodness and the veggies for me. Meat is a nice touch, but doesn't add enough to be worth the extra expense and calories in an already rich and fairly pricey to make meal.

Ailmik said...

I made the dish and it was very easy and tasted delicious. Even the meat eaters loved it. I found the cooking time was only 4 hours on low in my cooker.

Jamiffer said...

I made this tonight and it is by far one of my favorite things that I have made from your website. It is reeeeeally good! I cant wait to eat the leftovers!

Jessie said...

This looks fantastic- can't wait to try it; I am so happy to see vegetarian meals made easy. And I just wanted to tell you how much I LOVE your blog- my husband and I both started graduate school last year, and your blog has saved my sanity and our marriage :) I even asked for more crockpots for Christmas after seeing all the wonderful recipes you've shared here! Thanks so much!

Joni said...

I made this for dinner tonight, and IT. WAS. AWESOME!!! Universal acceptance from the whole family. Definitely going in our regular lineup! Thanks!!!

Erika said...

Oh! My! Goodness!! This is soooooo yummy! I goofed and only had 6 oz. of fresh spinach. So, I finely chopped half of a medium onion with a huge carrot and added one egg to help hold everything together. I put this between each handful of spinach, to up the volume AND sneak another veggie into my diet. It was a win-win!! I have told several of friends about this. I will definitely be making it again! YUUMMMMMM!!!

Julie said...

WOW! That was really really yummy and super easy. All three of my boys liked it and ate it all! What a great find!!! Thank you!

gfe--gluten free easily said...

LOL on the pesto shame, Steph! I remember how much lasagne was talked about in Garfield. I actually prefer that spelling, but you don't see it much. What a great veggie lasagna recipe!

xo,
Shirley

Beth said...

My family LOVED this recipe, and it made for great leftovers. Next time I will add layers of eggplant to make it "meatier". Thanks for passing along!

Anonymous said...

No wonder you don't like vegi lasagnas - you only put spinach in it! I'm not a vegetarian, but I made a vegi lasagna once that had a variety of grilled and fresh vegetables such as squash, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, black beans, corn, tomatoes, etc. So yummy!

SAM said...

I tried it... and it came out SUPER! MY husband wants me to make this everyday now! Thanks 4 this one it was lovely :)
SAM

Anonymous said...

OMG! This. Was. Fabulous. Seriously fabulous! I actually browned a pound of ground chicken and added it into the layers as well. Used my own homemade pesto (used up my frozen stuff from last summer). I have just enough for DH and myself to take to work for lunch tomorrow! Highly recommend! This is one of our new slow cooker faves!

Kendra said...

OK I have to say pesto ROCKS! in this recipe. I had to hide some so I had lunch then next day. There were really no "leftovers". Will be adding to my regular rotation. This week will be making it with thin slices of eggplant and crumbled baby bella mushrooms( I cant take big slimey pieces. I liked the idea of alfredo instead of red sauce I am thinking we will have to try that as well. Oh the lasagna we will be eating!

Kari said...

DELICIOUS! One friend who doesn't like spinach had two helpings. Another friend said she could eat this every day. Thank you!!

Courtney said...

This lasagna was awesome! I love your blog sooooo much. Hope you don't mind that I just blogged about this one - and told all of my friends to visit your blog! =)

Whitney said...

Could you use frozen spinach? I know it has more liquid, so maybe omitting the water would work? Jsut wondering if anyone has tried that or has an opinion on how it would pan out... I am crockpot illiterate, this is totally new for me as I previously believed that crockpots were for soups/chilis only.

Stephanie O'Dea said...

Hi Whitney,
hmm. I'd guess if you thaw the spinach overnight and really squeezed it to death to get the water out, it'd be okay. Interesting idea to omit the 1/2 cup of water...
I think it depends on how juicy the spinach remains after being drained and squeezed. If it feels pretty dry, I'd go ahead and use the water, but if your gut tells you that it's kind of wet and slimy go ahead and omit.

HA! how's that for the most non-conclusive answer ever? :-) What I DO know, is that playing around with the cooker is fun and once you do it a few times, it's addicting and super easy. The best way to learn is through trial and error, even though I hate the idea of wasting food.

xoxo

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering about using 2% cheese and lowfat ricotta; has anyone tried this? I don't have enough experience with the slow cooker to know whether it makes a difference or not.

Melanie {The Tiny Tudor} said...

Just put this recipe together in the slow cooker! Used the last of the basil in my garden to make pesto, so coming across this recipe is perfect timing. You can never never have tooo much pesto : )

Jenn said...

Anonymous, I used fat free cheese and fat free ricotta and it came out wonderful! Hope that helps!

Paula Headland said...

I wanted to thank you. I tried this recipe a few months ago and my family of three starving boys and one hungry man have been asking for its return to the dinner table. This recipe is going in my stockpile.

lisaroyhandbags said...

I will definitely be trying this recipe! I've had a crock pot gathering dust for years and you've inspired me to dust it off! :)

Katia said...

THANK YOU. I am so tired of "vegetarian" lasagnas having the ubiquitous alfredo sauce rather than a regular marinara. It's ALWAYS that way. No idea why people do that (can you tell I'm not big on alfredo sauce?). Dare I hope that restaurant people will read this recipe? :)

Recipes said...

This is a good recipe for me because I don't eat meet much.And I never try to make lasagna because of this reason.This is a perfect recipe for me.

Anonymous said...

I was a little dubious of lasagna in a slow cooker but I have to say this is the very best lasagna I've ever had.

I used whole wheat noodles but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I can't wai to try it again with some Italian sausage or ground turkey for my meat-loving partner.

If I were to give this a thumbs-up rating I'd need more hands!

meegan said...

Hi Stephanie!
I'm giving this recipe a go today in my trusty slow cooker, and will post a pic on my blog if it all goes to plan :)
I hope I can extract a decent slive out of the slow cooker bowl of an OK pic tonight!

fanficzombie said...

This was DELICIOUS! I made two pots, one veggie, one with Italian Sausage added.

Changes: I did add cut up portabellas and zucchini to both (tossed in S&P and EVOO). And I also made fresh pesto instead of store bought.

I had never made lasagna before and always felt intimidated by it...no longer!!

Thanks for the great recipe!!

Allison said...

I only have a large crock pot. Could I still make this in that or would I need to do some kind of adaptation?

Karen said...

I LOVE this! Tomorrow I'm making a bigger batch for a picnic. BTW, I have a black-bean lasagne that is WONDERFUL. When I first heard of it, I thought "blech!" because my image of lasagne was traditional. But the black bean lasagne my sister-in-law introduced me to is sooooooo yum! I wonder if I could do that in the crockpot? hmmmm....

MyInnerCheerleader said...

Delicious! My husband doesn't typically like pasta type dishes, but he loved this one. Very easy and yummy. Thanks for the recipe.

Food Safety Training said...

Adding lasagna with extra pesto already sounded like heaven. I always have a thing for lasagna. I love the cheese, the sauce and the overall taste. Thanks for sharing this. I'll definitely make this at home.

Megan Villa said...

HEAVENLY ~ I never seem to have Ricotta on-hand but have found I prefer the following substitute. It's smoother & not gritty.

Just boil 1 C. of Chicken broth & add 8 oz. Cream Cheese. Cut into chunks & stir till blended smooth. As a vegetarian, I use 1 C. Water and add 1 tsp McKay's Chicken Style Seasoning.

I also used whole wheat noodles which I generally don't care for. I was concerned that this would be too dry. Couldn't been more perfect & I didn't even notice the noodles were whole wheat flour.

Will be making this amazing recipe again.

Matt said...

Just had to leave a comment on this WONDERful Delicious Lasagna. I dont have a smaller slow cooker so I went ahead and used my Bigger size slow cooker and it still came out FANTASTIC!!. I have tried many recipes on here and must say this one was my favorite and I'm sure many many more to come. Thanks again for another fav in this household.

Julie S. said...

Hey Steph!!! This is absolutely one of my favorite recipes from you. My boyfriend, recently requested for me to fix it for his work pot luck today. He absolutely loves, loves, LOVES it when I make it. I added fresh mushrooms, chopped up garlic, and hot Italian sausage to mine. I do have one question though, after cooking it on low for 4 hours, is it ok to leave it on warm the rest of the time? Thanks again SO MUCH for this recipe.

Stephanie O'Dea said...

Hi Julie,
yep, it's fine to leave it on warm for a few hours before serving. The warm setting will stay on for up to 12 hours, and there is a lot of moisture in this lasagna--it'll be just fine.

Julia Meadows said...

This is in my crockpot right now! Due to my husbands lack direction following, I ended up with the larger container of ricotta and a 6 ounce bag of spinach.
This is going to be a super cheesy lasagna!

Amy said...

This is amazing! My boyfriend and I both love it, like all of the other recipes we've tried on your blog. I do have a question though - how many layers did you make? I used my 6 quart and made 5 layers with lots of room to spare and it cooked in about 2 hours. Will definitely make this again :)

Kristin Mistin said...

This was really really good, but WOW was the oil from the pesto overwhelming! We're definitely going to try this one again, sneaking in more veggies alongside the spinach and making the least oily pesto we can. The flavor in this is AMAZING!!!!

nikkimence said...

This was amazing! i used less pesto than the recipe stated (only because the jar I bought was 190g) and it was divine - I'm amazed you can cook lasagna in a slow cooker!

Charlotte said...

I love your site and many of your recipes are favorites!
I have two questions- there's really no reason why this couldn't be made in a pan in the oven right?
Second question- if it is made in a pan- this is freezable right?
Doing the baby thing soon- wanna stock up the freezer!

Bethany said...

This was delicious! I've made plenty of lasagna before -- meat, vegetarian, red sauce, white sauce, even crockpot -- and this was completely different from anything else I've made. Adding pesto is brilliant! One thing, though -- at least with the ingredients I used, I don't think the extra 1/4 cup of water was necessary. It was a little soupy. But still delicious! And we will eat every last bit of it.

KatrinkaJane said...

Could you double this in a 6qt pot? We are making dinner tomorrow for a friend's family while they move, and they're vegetarian. That would be 8 people to feed, and I only have a 6qt... :)

KatrinkaJane said...

We did it in our 6qt after all, and one recipe almost filled it (with no spinach squashing); since I had the ingredients for a double recipe, I ended up filling the crock with a little more than one recipe's worth. However, 6 hours on low was way too long! The cheese got gummy and tough. The servings I took out early for my friend were perfect, though -- recommend 5 hours on low instead, for a 6qt.

Mishelle said...

Okay, I obviously did something wrong as the recipe did not turn out good at all. Should the red sauce be added to every layer? It doesn't say so in the steps of the recipe but I'm guessing that was my problem. I do want to try again since it sounds good......

Rachel Evans said...

I made this last night for dinner! It was yummy, but I would change a few things.
1. I added sliced zucchini.
2. The cooking time seemed a bit long
3. I added more water than the recipe suggested
4. The oil from the pesto seemed to sort of soak into the ricotta so next time I'll separate those ingredients

What a yummy meal!

Ezra_C said...

I was so looking forward to this... it tasted so delicious going in! I let it cook while I slept during the day (I'm a night shift worker) and when I got up, it was least half black-char-burnt! Definitely going to have to try again!

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment! I will try my hardest to answer questions as they come up, but if your question gets buried, you may try me on twitter or facebook.

Due to a CRAZY amount of spam, anonymous comments are no longer allowed. Please use one of the free account services listed.

Happy Slow Cooking!

 
You are using Internet Explorer 6 which is unable to render this web site properly or display the drop-down elements in the main menu. Please upgrade your browser to the latest version of Internet Explorer or try installing Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox instead.