Crock Pot Main Dishes

There are an amazing number of things that can be cooked in a crockpot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that enchiladas and lasagna are two popular main dishes that can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than a conventional oven. Here are two recipes that are sure to delight.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due tot he many variations that are available for each.

Cooking enchiladas in a slow cooker means less mess, which is always a good thing. Make your favorite enchilada filling and roll it into corn or flour tortillas. Evenly spoon a cup of salsa into the slow cooker and lay out the enchiladas onto the salsa with the folded edge facing down. Cover with more salsa and cheese. Repeat and create a second layer. Make sure to spread the last layer of salsa out to cover all exposed tortilla parts to keep them from drying out during cooking. Cook on high for four hours and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of cheese in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve hot and delicious.

The best part about crock pot lasagna is that you don’t need to precook the noodles, which means less mess and fewer dishes to clean up. In a crock pot, place two cups of your favorite meat/cheese/veggie tomato sauce. You may also drop in various sliced or shredded veggies and pre-cooked meat (See suggestions below). Put three noodles on top, then another layer of sauce and add-ons. and 1/2 cup of cheese. Continue to build two more layers and reserve 1/2 cup of of cheese. Cover and cook on low for six hours. Sprinkle with cheese and cook for 10 more minutes.

Use pre-cooked meat, such as Italian sausage or hamburger, for less grease in your dish. Pepperoni, prosciutto, and other preserved meats will add some grease and a lot of sodium. Sliced eggplant, sliced or shredded zucchini, shredded carrots, and sliced or diced bell peppers of any color are all great additions to a lasagna.

Give these dishes a try and see if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these traditional main courses.

— Ann Cathey

Lasagna Style Bake

This dish is so simple, and it takes leftovers out of your fridge in a heartbeat. Leftover pasta is often something foodies face, be it long and thin or round and stuffed. In our case it was a batch of tortellini filled with Italian sausage and cheese. There was a jar of left over red sauce with spinach, shredded carrots, roasted garlic, and onions, about 16 ounces, and a few other goodies. We added a ton of mozzarella cheese and it became a meal. The trick is in the layering to create an entirely new dish.

This is not so much a recipe as a guideline, really.

Lasagna Style Bake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes to an hour
Pre-heat: oven to 300F
Serves: 4-6

Check out your fridge and see what you’ve got. Our list included these items.
A pasta – spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini, whatever is on hand
A sauce – red, white or rose, or a mix of flavors
Veggies? Spinach, zucchini, onion, mushrooms, and garlic all work wonderfully
Olives? Black, green, kalamata…
Cheese – mozzarella and Provolone work best
Olive oil

1. Choose a pan that will comfortably hold the ingredients. I chose an 8×8 Pyrex pan. Yours may need to be larger.
2. Spray or wipe pan lightly with olive oil.
3. Dribble in just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan. Mine was a tomato based sauce quite chunky with spinach and onion.
4. Lay in a layer of veggies. Sliced zucchini and mushroom were the veggies du jour.
5. Spread cheese everywhere in the pan. Don’t ignore the corners. At this point you may use shredded mozzarella, sliced provolone, a smear of ricotta or even well drained cottage cheese.
6. Add your pasta and distribute evenly across the pan. If you have a spaghetti style pasta, you may want to make several layers of it. Lumpier pastas, such as tortellini and ravioli, can be settled in a single layer if preferred.
7. Drizzle on some more sauce and another layer of veggies.
8. Add another layer of cheese at this point.
9. Pour the remaining sauce on top and distribute evenly. The heavier layer of sauce at the top will cook down into the rest of the dish.
10. Top with a goodly layer of cheese.
11. Cover with foil and bake at 300F for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how done you want your veggies.
12. Once removed from the oven, allow to rest for five minutes or so while you get ready to emplate.

There are so many variations on this dish that your imagination is the only possible limit. It can be done as a quick fix meal with canned sauce, any pasta, and cheese. Add whatever strikes your culinary fancy and have fun with it.


–Ann Cathey