This slow-cooker lasagna takes minimal preparation. Simply brown the meat, layer it with a cheesy filling and sauce, and set it to slow-cook for a few hours. Then go about your business knowing you’ll have a cheese-filled, saucy pasta dish ready for dinner.
Like other ways to make lasagna, this slow-cooker lasagna is super customizable. You can swap different meats, go vegetarian, or change up the sauce.
Ingredients for Slow-Cooker Lasagna
- Ground beef: Any ground beef, lean or not, is fine for this lasagna recipe. Whatever you do, don’t rinse ground beef once it’s cooked. It might be trendy, but it’s unnecessary.
- Aromatics: Even if your canned or jarred tomato sauce already contains seasonings, you can always add more garlic and onion. They bring nuance to the entire lasagna as it cooks low and slow.
- Tomato sauce: Canned tomato sauce is called for in this slow-cooker lasagna recipe, but you can substitute in your favorite jarred pasta sauce or make homemade sugo tomato sauce.
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste adds a rich tomato flavor and extra umami to any sauce.
- Lasagna noodles: No-bake lasagna noodles are easy to use because you don’t have to cook them in advance. If you want to use regular lasagna noodles, cook them before starting this recipe, and make sure they’re on the more al dente side. Leftover pasta? Here are a bunch of recipes with lasagna noodles.
- Mozzarella cheese: You’ll use part-skim mozzarella cheese for this lasagna, not fresh mozzarella you’d find in a Caprese salad. Grating cheese from a block has a great texture for melting, but pre-shredded cheese is a quick and easy alternative. See our Test Kitchen’s picks for the best mozzarella cheese for any preparation.
- Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese is making a comeback! Stick to a higher fat-content cottage cheese for this recipe. If it’s too thin, you’ll get a thinner lasagna filling. Or use ricotta cheese as a substitute for an even creamier filling.
- Parmesan cheese: Pre-grated or -shredded is fine to use. If you grate it yourself, make sure to use the finest section on your grating tool. Or make quick work of it with your food processor: Simply cut the cheese into small cubes, and process about 1 cup at a time until finely grated. Use leftovers in other Parmesan cheese recipes.
Step 1: Make the meat sauce
In a skillet, cook the ground beef and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink. Add the garlic, and cook one minute longer. Drain any drippings from the skillet, then stir in the tomato sauce, water, tomato paste, salt and oregano.
Editor’s Tip: If using canned tomato paste and you have some leftover, wrap in plastic wrap or small bag, and freeze it. You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray, and then wrap it up. Use it in other recipes with tomato paste.
Step 2: Make the cheese filling
In a separate bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan, and set aside.
Step 3: Build the lasagna in the slow cooker
To build the lasagna, start by spreading one-fourth of the meat sauce in an ungreased 5-quart slow cooker. Arrange one-third of the noodles over the sauce, breaking the noodles to fit if necessary. Then spoon one-third of the cheese mixture over the noodles. Repeat these layers twice. Top with remaining meat sauce.
Step 4: Cook the lasagna
Cover the lasagna, and cook on low until the noodles are tender, for four to five hours.
Editor’s Tip: When it’s finished, if you’d like, sprinkle more Parmesan or mozzarella on top, and cook for a few minutes longer, until melted.
- Change the meat: Instead of ground beef, try ground turkey or chicken, or go for a bold flavor with half ground beef and half ground Italian sausage (hot or mild). To make the lasagna vegetarian, sub plant-based meat for the ground beef.
- Make it veggie-heavy: Add spinach, kale, zucchini or any vegetable you like to the lasgana. To avoid watery lasagna, cook moisture-rich vegetables first, then add to the meat sauce. If using frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze out excess liquid before adding to the skillet.
- Add some herbs: Sprinkle a few ribbons of fresh basil or chopped fresh parsley on top of the lasagna before serving. Adding some fresh herbs to the sauce before layering the lasagna would be great, too. Or take cues from a more traditional lasagna recipe, and add dried oregano or fennel to the sauce for more flavor.
How to Store Slow-Cooker Lasagna
Allow the slow-cooker lasagna to cool to room temperature in the insert, then remove it to a container to store it. It will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for three to five days. To reheat one piece at a time, use your trusty microwave. Cover the lasagna with a damp paper towel to keep it moist.
Slow-cooker lasagna is a great meal to make ahead of time, too. You can store the entire lasagna in the refrigerator and reheat it in a 350°F oven until it’s warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.
How to Freeze Slow-Cooker Lasagna
To freeze slow-cooker lasagna, let it cool in the slow-cooker insert, and refrigerate it (in the insert) overnight. That makes it easier to remove the whole lasagna from the insert for storage. Either wrap the whole lasagna, or wrap individual slices, in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Store in the freezer for up to three months. To reheat a frozen lasagna, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it. Follow the directions for reheating the lasagna: In a 350° until it’s warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.
Slow-Cooker Lasagna Tips
How many layers should lasagna have?
Any good lasagna should have at least three layers, but it can go up to five layers.
What do you serve with slow-cooker lasagna?
You can serve many things with slow-cooker lasagna. Slow-cooker lasagna is already comforting and hearty, so something green is always welcome for a well-rounded meal. Think about serving alongside roasted vegetables, a nice green or Caesar salad, or steamed green beans or broccoli. Of course, some garlic bread always works, too.