A different spin on the classic lasagna is to cook it in your crock pot. The basic premise is the same. You layer the ingredients and then you bake. This time, however, instead of using pasta I chose to use sweet potatoes.
Why use sweet potatoes? Simple, they’re nutrient rich and tasty. When I cook I try to incorporate as many nutrients in my dishes as possible. Nutrient density is just as important as flavor.
If you’ve ever made lasagna before you don’t have to read the rest of this post, which gives instructions on how to make it in a slow cooker. Just do what you would normally do but instead of baking it in an oven, bake it in a crock pot.
For those who you haven’t made lasagna before, here are more detailed instructions. I have to warn you, if you follow this recipe, you’ll have to use your taste buds to flavor your food. I don’t provide measurements. Honestly, I believe that’s the best way to learn to cook is to trust your buds.
- Sweet potato/yam. I choose the organic jewel yam variety. I like the deep orange color and flavor. If you can’t find jewel yams, any yam will do. You can even substitute the yam with white potato. The white potato isn’t as nutrient rich as the yam, but it will work in this dish.
- Meat sauce: I make my own spaghetti meat sauce. It is possible to use jar sauce for this dish, but not recommended. Why isn’t it recommended? Read the ingredients on the sauce label. That should give you a hint as to why I don’t recommend jar sauce. Homemade sauce is easy to make. It takes longer to prepare than jar sauce, but if you make a large enough batch you can freeze some for a later date.
- Grated mozzarella cheese: I sometimes add ricotta cheese, but I didn’t have any in the house at the time, so mozzarella was the only cheese used for this batch.
Making the Meat Sauce
For those of you who don’t already have a meat sauce for the lasagna, here’s a simple tasty and nutritious sauce:
Ingredients for Sauce:
- Ground beef: Since I was making this dish in a 6 qt crock pot, I used approximately 3 lbs of grass fed beef. If you don’t have access to grass fed beef, use the best beef you can find. Modify the amounts for the size of your crock pot
- Tomato paste
- Maple Syrup (I strongly recommend using the real maple syrup, not the high fructose corn syrup stuff, but if you don’t have real syrup, use what you have)
- Himalayan salt (regular salt will do if you don’t have Himalayan salt)
- Garlic fresh, roasted or powdered. I used roasted garlic since that’s what I had on hand.
- Black pepper
- Bone broth or water (or a combination of both)
- Red pepper flakes
- Lemon or vitamin C
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Here’s what you do:
- Heat a large pot and brown the ground beef. Once the beef is pretty much separated (doesn’t have to be cooked through yet), add tomato paste. In my case I used two 12-ounce cans of tomato paste.
- To the beef and tomato paste I added bone broth and water until the sauce reached the consistency I liked. Not too thick and not too watery. This is a subjective measurement. If you don’t have bone broth, water works just fine. I use bone broth because, as I’ve said before, I like to make my dishes as nutrient rich as possible.
- Once the sauce began to bubble a little, I turned the heat down and started adding my seasonings. This is where your taste buds get put to work. My taste buds had me put in ample amounts of garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, black pepper, rosemary, red pepper flakes and grated Parmesan cheese. I stirred them and let them marry for a bit in the pot. In other words I allowed it to simmer a little bit (about 15 minutes or so). Then I add the heavy-hitters.
- According to my taste buds the heavy hitters are salt, syrup, red pepper and lemon. I add all the heavy hitters except for lemon. I stir, simmer and taste. Once I’m satisfied with the taste, I add the lemon. In this case I opened a 1,000 mg capsule of vitamin C since we were out of lemons. It’s amazing how vitamin C or lemon can punch up a sauce. Remember, this sauce should taste the way you want it so play with the ingredients accordingly.
Time to Make the Sweet Potato Lasagna
- Prep the crock pot: Prepping means make sure the pot is clean and then add a light layer of oil to prevent sticking. In my dish I used a very thin layer of coconut oil. This may not be necessary, but I tend to err on the side of caution.
- Peel the yams and slice them about ¼ inch thick. I didn’t use my V-Slicer for this dish so my slices were uneven. That’s okay because this dish is very forgiving.
- Place a layer of sliced yam on the bottom of the crock pot.
- Now spoon a layer of the meat sauce to cover the yams
- Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella cheese over the meat sauce. We like things cheesy here so I sprinkled a thick layer.
- Wash, rinse and repeat. Continue layering the ingredients until you have about an inch of space left from the top of the crock pot. You don’t want to fill it too much because the juices may bubble over.
One additional flavoring tip: Prepare the lasagna and let it sit in the refrigerator over night before cooking. This gives the flavors even more time to marry. When you wake up in the morning, turn on your slow cooker and begin cooking.
I like cooking things low and slow (yeah, it’s that whole marrying flavor thing) so I let it cook for 7 hours on low. I would cut the cooking time in half if I were to put it on high.
The most time consuming aspect of this dish is making the meat sauce. It is also the bridge that brings the yam and cheese together. As I said earlier, you have the option of using store-bought spaghetti sauce, but I think you’ll like the results better if you make your own.
The sweet potato lasagna prepared in the crock pot won’t be firm like the pasta lasagna prepared in the oven. Let me rephrase that, my sweet potato lasagna does not come out firm like traditional lasagna. We love the taste, but it’s rather loose.
Our preference is to put the lasagna over a vegetable with a bit of backbone such as raw kale or shredded raw cabbage. The heat of the lasagna slightly softens the vegetables and makes a very tasty dish.