Deliciously Simple Marinara + Penne Lasagna

There are a few dishes that I really don’t like to make unless I have people coming over.  If left unattended with said dishes I have been known to make a fair attempt at eating them in their entirety…on my own.  I don’t do it on purpose, but when the husband is at work until all hours of the night and Gemma and the cat are both trying their best to drive me crazy, it happens.  This is why I was SO happy that our good friends (and their baby) agreed to join me and Gemma for dinner this past Friday night!  I have not made my Penne Lasagna in such a long time (and have been craving it for weeks)  because it doesn’t really fit into the plan of “Look Cute at Cousin’s Wedding Memorial Day Weekend in Santa Barbara”, but it’s perfect for entertaining hungry guests!  What’s even better is that it’s a slow cooker recipe!!  I even make my own Marinara Sauce…yep…I’m awesome.   Deal with it.


Deliciously Simple Marinara

adapted from Dave Lieberman


*1 large can crushed tomatoes

*1/4 cup olive oil

*Garlic, chopped finely or grated (I used 4 large cloves)

*1 cup water

*1 tsp sugar

*Italian herbs to your taste (I used dried parsley and oregano)

*Salt to taste


To Make:

*Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

*Add the garlic and cook until you can just smell it…no longer than a minute.

*Add the tomatoes CAREFULLY!  Splattering is entirely possible if you just dump them in.

*Add the water, sugar, spices, and salt and bring to a simmer.

*Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15-25 minutes longer.


Survey Says:

This sauce is awesome!  Jarred sauce has never really done it for me, but after Jake and I spent three weeks in Italy a few years ago I refuse to spend money on it!  I love that I can tweak it to my particular tastes and that there isn’t a bunch of crap in it…I HATE chunky sauces.


Penne Lasagna (in the slow cooker)


*1 pound of penne pasta (I use Barilla Plus)

*24-28 oz (or 1 large jar) of tomato sauce (or a batch of the Deliciously Simple Marinara).  The husband insisted on buying this jar of pasta sauce the last time we were at TJ’s and I’m not sure why since he is never home to fix himself spaghetti and I will most certainly never use it!

*1 container ricotta cheese

*1 bag frozen chopped spinach

*1 1/2-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

*1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


To Make:

*Thaw spinach and squeeze out excess moisture. (I like to do this by putting it in my colander and pressing)  Mix thoroughly with ricotta cheese.

*Coat the slow cooker with olive oil or cooking spray.

*Layer pasta, sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella like you would a lasagna until all ingredients have been used (do not include the Parmesan here…it’s for the end)

*Cook on low for 5-6 hours and add Parmesan to the top about 30 minutes before serving.



Survey Says:

How could this be bad?  I love lasagna but have always lacked the patience to deal with those infernal noodles and cheese always ends up overflowing and then making my oven smell like I never clean it (which I don’t, but no one needs to know that).  The slow cooker remedies both of these problems.  Like I said before, this is a good meal for guests because it is hearty and looks pretty impressive.  We were so hungry by the time it was ready that I forgot to take a photo of it intact, but I think that you get the idea!


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