RECIPE: Lighter Slow Cooker Pesto Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Some of you may know, I am a first generation Italian, so my Italian meals can get pretty traditional and labor intensive, especially when cooking for my parents. But when it comes to busy American life reality-I need to cut some corners to get some Italian on the table for my own family. (Shh, don't tell my mom.)

That's why I love my slow cooker. And it came in handy last weekend when I had to spend both days in the yard performing spring to-dos-all day. This was a fix it and forget it dinner. Serve it with a light salad and ta da! Done. 

Lighter Slow Cooker Pesto Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

2 10 oz. boxes frozen spinach, defrosted and wrung dry of excess water
2 cups (16 oz.) sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup commercial pesto
3/4 cup part skim mozzarella
3/4 cup low fat Italian mix grated cheese
1 15 oz. tub light/low fat ricotta
1 large egg
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided
1 25 oz. jar Barilla Tomato Basil sauce
8 oz. can tomato sauce
cooking spray
1 16 oz. box lasagna noodles


Spray the liner of a crock pot with non stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, mix the egg with the ricotta cheese, mozzarella and Italian cheese mix. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan and fresh ground pepper. Set aside.

When wringing out the spinach dry, keep a little moisture in it, it helps to have moisture for cooking the pasta. Mix the mushrooms with the spinach. Add the pesto and mix until evenly distributed. Set aside.

 Finally mix the two sauces and set aside. Mix water into the sauce jar to draw out the rest of the sauce, about 1/2 cup's worth and add it to the sauce.

Time for assembly! Have the rest of the Parmesan cheese nearby as well as all the other fillings.
 Start with a 1/2 cup worth of sauce along the bottom. Lay raw noodles, breaking up ends to get an even layer. Next layer 1 cup's worth of cheese and lay it evenly. Next lay 1/3rd of the spinach mixture and drizzle a little sauce over. Sprinkle some Parmesan. Add a layer of noodles on top of the spinach. Start the process again. (cheese, spinach, light sauce drizzle and noodles. You should have three layers of filling. Finish with a layer of noodles. Pour the rest of the sauce over all of it and give the liner a good shake to settle everything. Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan. Reserve a little sauce to serve with the lasagna for dinner.

Cook on low for 5 hours. Once ready, tilt open the lid to let steam escape and turn off the crock pot. Let the lasagna settle and set for 10 minutes. Then cut into squares and serve with a little extra sauce (heated through).



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