Crockpot Veggie Lasagna

Ingredients:
2 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
Kosher salt
16 ounces (2 cups) good quality store bought tomato-based pasta sauce (or homemade)
1 medium red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
16 ounces low fat cottage cheese (do not use skim—I used 1%)
2 large eggs
8 ounces part-skim shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese, divided (about 2 cups)—I used a blend of both cheeses
For serving: Parmesan cheese, freshly chopped herbs such as basil or parsley

Directions:

With a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice the eggplant and zucchini length-wise into long, thin (1/4-inch) sections so that they resemble lasagna noodles. Spread the vegetable slices out onto a kitchen towel or layers of paper towels and sprinkle them lightly with kosher salt. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow some of the excess liquid to drain off. Pat dry. Prepare the zucchini according to one of the three methods below:
GRILL METHOD: Preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium. Lightly coat with canola oil, then grill the eggplant and zucchini strips until cooked and lightly brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.
BROIL METHOD: Place the top oven rack about 5 inches from the upper heat element. Set the oven to broil at 500 degrees F. Arrange the zucchini and eggplant slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. (Do not line the baking sheet pans with wax paper or parchment, as they will burn.) Lightly brush the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip over the slices and repeat for the other side. Broil for 8 minutes, or until lightly brown, working in multiple batches as needed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Place the slices on paper towels to remove excess moisture.
NEITHER: Move ahead with the recipe—Skip grilling or broiling the zucchini completely. The lasagna will have a lot of excess liquid around the veggie slices in the slow cooker (even after salting them in step 1), but if this doesn’t bother you, you can scoop out the noodles and discard it.
Lightly coat a 6-quart crock pot with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup layer tomato sauce on the bottom of the crock pot—the layer will seem very thin. In a small bowl, beat the cottage cheese together with the eggs.
Create the first veggie lasagna layer in the crock pot as follows: 1 layer of eggplant “noodles;” 1/3 of the cottage cheese (about 2/3 cup); 1/3 of the bell peppers and onions; 1/3 of the mozzarella; 1/2 cup tomato sauce.
Create the second veggie lasagna layer, this time using zucchini: 1 layer of zucchini “noodles;” 1/3 of the cottage cheese; 1/3 of the bell peppers and onions; 1/3 of the mozzarella; 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
Create the final layer: 1 layer of eggplant “noodles;” remaining cottage cheese; remaining bell peppers and onions; 1 layer of zucchini noodles; 1/2 cup tomato sauce; remaining mozzarella.
Cover the crock pot and cook on high for 2-3 hours, until the eggplant is tender. To test, insert a long, thin knife into the lasagna and ensure the eggplant feels tender. Recover, turn off the slow cooker, and let stand until any remaining liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes to 1 hour (note: if you did not grill or broil the vegetables first, you will have a lot of remaining liquid). To serve, slice and scoop desired portions, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and herbs as desired.

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