My Lasagna Pan: The Slow Cooker

My Lasagna Pan: The Slow Cooker

The ubiquitous slow cooker was conceived by some revolutionary thinker at Chicago’s Naxon Utilities Corporation sometime before 1964. Called the “bean pot,” the device was little more than a pot with a built-in low-wattage electrical coil. The device went all but unnoticed until the Rival corporation purchased Naxon in 1970, primarily to get at their lucrative sun lamp and laundry equipment business. The head of home economics at Rival discovered the diamond in the rough, gussied it up a bit and unleashed the “Crock Pot” on the world in 1971. By ’75, sales were up to 93 million. Then along came the microwave and the need for speed overtook the culinary collective. Luckily, cooks have rediscovered the long-lost ingredient that is time, and the Crock Pot is back.  I much prefer the old-school, three setting analog models to the modern digital ones if for no other reason than that I can use a hardware store — issue lamp/appliance timer to turn it on and off without having to be in the house. That and I dig harvest gold.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

  • 1 pound lasagna noodles
  • 1 small eggplant (quartered lengthwise and sliced on mandoline)
  • 1 small zucchini (sliced lengthwise on mandoline)
  • 1 pound hot and mild beef sausage links (preferably grass fed)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 14.5 ounces canned whole tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 ounce all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 ounce goat’s milk powder*
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps (cut into 3/16-inch-thick strips)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella (grated)
  1. Put the noodles in a 9-by-13-inch metal pan and pour enough hot water over to cover. Set aside for 30 minutes or until pliable. Drain the noodles, separate them, and set aside.
  2. Put the eggplant and zucchini in the bowl of a salad spinner. Sprinkle with the salt and purge for 20 minutes, tossing after the first 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the sausage from its casing and chop or pinch into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.
  4. Rinse the eggplant and zucchini under running water and spin until mostly dry.
  5. Use 4 noodles to line the sides of a 2.5- to 3-quart slow cooker. Overlap the noodles slightly and press against the sides so they stick.
  6. Crush 1 tomato with your hand into the bottom of the slow cooker.
  7. Cover with half of the sausage.
  8. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning, 1/4 of the flour, and 1/4 of the milk powder. Add 1/4 of the purged vegetables in a layer, slightly overlapping the pieces. Add 1/4 of the mushrooms in a layer. Add 1/4 of the remaining noodles in a layer, cut to fit any gaps, slightly overlapping the pieces. Gently press down on the noodles before building next layer.
  9. Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, substituting half of the pork for the sausage.
  10. Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, using the remaining sausage.
  11. Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, using the remaining pork.
  12. Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato juice from the can on the top of the last layer of noodles.
  13. Cook on low for 4 hours, or until a knife easily slides through the layers. Degrease according to note below. Turn off the slow cooker, top with the cheese**, cover, and leave for 15 minutes before serving.

*You can substitute the same amount of non-fat dry milk if you can’t find goat’s milk powder.
**If you want your cheese browned, hit it with your blowtorch or a hardware-store heat gun.

Degreasing Note:
One of the most common lasagna-centric complaints is that it’s often greasy, what with all that sausage. This is indeed a difficult issue to wrangle when a rectangular vessel is involved. Cooking deep and round presents far more effective options. Simply place a lid from a 2-quart saucepan on top of the cooked dish and press gently downward. The fat will gurgle up the sides and into the top of the lid pretty as you please. When full, simply lift up and discard as you wish. Repeat until you’re happy with your grease content.

Alton Brown's Slow Cooker Lasagna Recipe


Add yours
  1. 1
    Lisa B.

    I wonder if I could place a springform pan inside the crock pot with a foil sling or a crock pot liner underneath to make removing it easier? A springform pan would make serving it much easier.

  2. 3

    If I wanted to omit the tomato sauce because of my intolerance to tomatoes. What could use in place of it? The same goes for the milk powder. Could I use Coconut milk instead? And the same goes mozzarella cheese (Dairy intolerance), should I use vegan mozzarella?

  3. 6
    Daniel Bressler

    This looks terrific, but I’m calling shenanigans on the salad spinner. I just don’t believe that Alton would have or use one. This recipe’s on my to-do list, but I’ll stick with a colander and pressing occasionally with paper towels.

  4. 8

    Really? The whole point of lasagna is a long, messy cooking experience. I feel positively virtuous once the completed PAN is ready for the oven and the kitchen and every pot I own is washed. I can justify too much cheese and too much wine because of the rigor of the lasgna’s preparation.

  5. 9

    Omgosh. Off topic. Take your cow arguments elsewhere. They’re only going to spread anger and arguing. Before you know it, other arguments will appear and Alton will lose his post, if he hasn’t already. This is about stunning deep deep dish lasagna, not grass vs grain.

  6. 13

    Not the cows who are kept pregnant to provide milk. They are so overbred to be high quantity milkers they were huge sling bras and are in constant discomfort if not pain. They lose their caves so you can have ricotta in your lasagna.

    • 23

      I agree. I also need lots of ricotta and mozzarella in my lasagna. Another thing I noticed is how dry this looks. Using only one 14oz can of plain tomatoes would not provide for much moisture. I generally have faith in Alton’s creations, but I must say that I’m a bit too weary of this one and will likely pass.

    • 31

      Grass fed is much tastier, plus by purchasing grass fed, you are ensuring that you are purchasing an animal that didn’t stand in its own feces for most of its life. Dunno about you, but the idea of any living being that was maltreated and has to stand in their waste up to their knees, just to feed me, doesn’t sound like good eats!

      • 32

        Gail, I will assume that you have never been to a feedlot. Likely, you have only held witness to a few select photos or some questionable testimony on facebook. Either way, being a PhD candidate in beef nutrition (not boasting, simply providing credentials on the matter), I can assure you that most cattle fed grain in America have an extremely high and healthy standard of living. Without healthy cattle, America cannot be fed and producers cannot make money. Having different palates is great and even encouraged when considering beef; however, it is unfair to spew false information about Americans trying to feed America the healthiest beef in the world while keeping America’s grocery bill among the lowest in the world.

        • 33

          Someone drank the kool aid! I have a similar degree and have been to many feed lots, dairies, poultry farms, and hog farms. As a result of what I was exposed to during my education, I was turned off of the industry and have since started my own small farm to feed myself happy and human meat. Just because they are “healthy” doesn’t mean they get to walk around, eat the grass their bodies are used to consuming, and be happy. More likely means they are pumped full of hormones, chemical wormers, and who knows what. And farming all this grain to feed animals that don’t even need it…Don’t get me started on that, lol. The water, energy, topsoil, transportation and most likely chemicals that go into feed production….. it’s all in your perspective really, not your degree.

          • 34

            Greengoat, it is unfortunate that some people still are hesitant to look at the science behind agriculture and technology. Technology and agriculture are not enemies. With a growing population, expected to reach 9 billion by the year 2050, we not only have to increase our food production, but we also have to do this on less land. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) released a report in 2009 which presented information explaining how we will need to increase food production by 70%. Of this 70% increase in food production, 80% will need to come from increases in efficiency while only 20% will come from land expansion. So when you look at the facts, such as a need for a growing food supply and how methane production from grass fed ruminants is approximately 3 times greater than those fed grain, it is simple to realize that small grass fed operations, such as your own, will not provide the protein needs of the future.

            Since you mentioned it, lets take a moment and discuss hormones provided to livestock. I am a ruminant nutritionist, so I will stick mainly to what I know – cattle. Before I delve into beef, I would like to note that hormones are not used in pork or poultry production in this country, simply because of their lack of efficacy. In ruminant production (cattle, goats, sheep), hormones are used due to their beneficial effects on production. It has been proven time and time again that hormones provided to beef is not in any way harmful to humans. Let me provide you with some values that can be found in several scientific journal articles which I will provide the titles below. First off, for those who are not aware, estrogen is the hormone that is predominantly used and scrutinized by a public who hasn’t truly looked into the science. An average non-pregnant woman produces about 480,000 nanograms of estrogen daily. If that woman chose to take an estrogen based contraceptive, she would receive an extra 35,000 nanograms of estrogen every day. A pre-pubertal boy produces more than 41,000 nanograms everyday of estrogen. Looking at the food that we consume, cabbage has about 2,700 nanograms per 4 oz. serving, 1 egg provides nearly 1000 nanograms of estrogen. Finally, lets look at a 4 oz serving of beef (same amount as a 1/4 lb burger patty), when a steer has never received implanted hormones, the 4 oz of beef would provide 1.6 nanograms of estrogen; however, a steer which has been implanted would have 2.5 nanograms of estrogen in 4 oz of beef. It is also important to note that only about 10% of hormones ingested are absorbed by the body.

            I hope this cleared some things up for those who may have had questions regarding these topics.

            FAO. 2009. How to feed the world in 2050.
            Hoffman and Evers. 1986.
            Collins et al. 1989.
            Verdeal and Ryan. 1979.
            Booth et al. 1960.

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