Lazy Quinoa Lasagna


11 Dec Lazy Quinoa Lasagna

Mairlyn Smith owes me a new crockpot.

Sort of.

She didn’t actually come to my house and break mine, but because of her I learned just how bad my old one was. At her recommendation I made the slow-cooker lasagna from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook (Whitecap, 2012), and a potential new entry to my Kitchen Disaster & Fixes app was born. Turns out my slow cooker was okay as long as the meal inside was liquid. Soup? Bring it on! Sloppy curry? No problem. Hot apple cider? You bet. But once that layer of protective moisture was gone, my now ex-slow cooker turned into a lean, mean charring machine. In less than the recommended cooking time, set on Low, it burned a well-defined ring around the bottom of  my lasagna.

When I made the dish in my sister’s fancy new, 6-litre, programmable KitchenAid slow cooker it worked perfectly. So, Mairlyn, I’ll place my order for one of those. Okay?

When she’s not exposing the shortcomings of my small appliances, Mairlyn Smith is an award-winning cookbook author, editor and Professional Home Economist (PHEc). What exactly is a Professional Home Economist? According to Mairlyn, Home Economists work in a diverse spectrum of careers — from teachers to child psychologists,  financial advisors to government policy makers, food writers to interior designers. Regardless of where they ply their trade, all PHEcs can be described in two words. They are Solution Makers.

The Book

This book sets out to solve the problem of working meatless quinoa dishes into the week without relying heavily on salads. Through the contribution of more than 50 Home Economists from across Ontario, the book delivers 30 main dishes; one for every day of the month, as well as breakfast, soup, salads, desserts and side dishes. The recipes are designed so anyone can do them. To ensure success, every recipe was tested by volunteers from Ryerson. But they didn’t test in the privacy of their own kitchens. They tested the recipes in Mairlyn’s small galley kitchen, so she could see the mistakes they made first hand.

“They ruined things right in front of me!” That exclamation mark shows excitement and enthusiasm, not distain. How else would Mairlyn learn that readers might put a little bit of quinoa in a big pot and burn the entire batch in minutes (turn to page 4 for a mini-lesson on pot size).  When I say every recipe in this book is bullet-proof I mean it (with the following caveat: Your slow cooker isn’t possessed.)

The Test

I chose to test the Quinoa Slow Cooker Lasagna since it uses a) uncooked lasagna noodles or b) uncooked quinoa. My manuscript deadline was looming and was trying (and failing) to avoid  pre-packaged junk. This recipe looked so doable and healthy and “real” that I got extra super lazy and threw myself into the entire easy-peasiness of it and used frozen spinach. I just let it defrost in the fridge overnight. It took more time to slice the mushrooms than it did to assemble the dish.

Once I made the lasagna in a crockpot that didn’t burn everything that touched its surface, the results were tasty. Comfort food without the time commitment or guilt.

Thanks, Mairlyn. Problem solved. Maybe we’re even after all.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Lasagna
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
This recipe is great for hectic days or when you attend a big potluck. Leftovers are fabulous the next day.
  • 1 can mixed beans, well rinsed and drained (19 ounce / 540 mL)
  • 2⅔ cups pasta sauce
  • ⅔ cups canned diced tomatoes
  • ¾ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 8 uncooked lasagna noodles, preferably 100% whole grain
  • 1 cup sliced white or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cups cooked chopped spinach leaves, well drained (or 10 oz/300g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained)
  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese (I used regular ricotta)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  1. Grease a 6-quart (6 L) slow cooker with canola oil.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the mixed beans, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, quinoa (yes, it's uncooked!), Italian seasoning and oregano. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Place one layer of noodles on the bottom of the slow cooker, breaking to fit.
  4. Top with half the bean-pasta sauce-quinoa mixture.
  5. Top with half of the mushrooms, and half of the spinach.
  6. Top with half of the cottage cheese.
  7. Repeat the layers: noodles, bean-pasta sauce-quinoa mixture, mushrooms, and spinach, and cottage cheese.
  8. Top with all of the mozzarella cheese.
  9. Cover and cook on Low for 5 hours, then scoop out servings. Serve with a mixed green salad.
This recipe is excerpted with permission from The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook, by the Ontario Home Economics Association. Edited by Mairlyn Smith. Published by Whitecap ©2012.


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  • Maya, Project Pack a Lunch
    Posted at 00:21h, 12 December Reply

    That lasagna looks so delicious, I’m going to have to get myself a copy of that book. (and your app!)

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:46h, 12 December Reply

      The lasagna is very flexible. I used black beans instead of mixed, and extra spicy sauce the second time I made it (unburned!). Next time I’m swapping jalapeño jack cheese for the mozzarella – just for fun. It can be as mild or spicy as you like.

      If you do get my app, I’d love to hear what you think of it. I’ve had users suggest great ideas for additional entries, which I added in the most recent version.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Jodi (bloomingwriter)
    Posted at 11:52h, 12 December Reply

    Was it one of the Rival crockpots, the ones with the ceramic/clay dish, that burned your first attempt, Charmian? Because I have one of those, and if that’s a baddy, then I’ll give it to someone else and treat myself to a new one. Having knee surgery on 3 January so the crock pot is going to be my BFF, methinks, post surgery.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:18h, 12 December Reply

      Yes, Jodi. I bought it especially since you could put the liner on the stove top to brown meat/onions first. Great concept. Lousy execution. I can’t speak for all Rival products, but this model wasn’t very good.

      My sister has a programmable KitchenAid. She loves it. Costs a pretty penny, but if it’s going to be your go-to appliance, it’s worth every cent. I can get the model number for you and email you privately.

      Hope your knee surgery goes well. I know you’ll use the slow cooker a lot!!

    • Vincci
      Posted at 22:51h, 19 December Reply

      I used an ancient Rival (it’s from my boyfriend’s grandparents, and it only has a dial that says “Off-Low-High”) and it worked fine for me. Give it a chance!

      • Charmian Christie
        Posted at 10:27h, 20 December Reply

        I think the model I got had a design flaw or an issue with the heating element. It wasn’t ancient (we have a 20+ year old round Rival that works just fine but is too small for the lasagna). The crockpot in question was about 2 years old. Even on low, it burned the food in less than the minimum cooking time. It has been given the boot in hopes that Santa reads my blog or at least has the sense to talk to my sister about her slow cooker.

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  • Jessica
    Posted at 06:07h, 12 May Reply

    I don’t have a crockpot, how can I adapt this for the oven? Sounds delicious. Thanks!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:49h, 12 May Reply

      I haven’t tried this, but you could make it in the oven as you would any lasagna, just make sure you cooked the noodles first or used the type of dried noodle that doesn’t require pre-cooking. My main concern is that the quinoa wouldn’t cook but if you cooked it at 350F for 45 to 65 minutes it should be okay. Hope this helps.

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  • Katie
    Posted at 21:20h, 14 May Reply

    Delicious! I used the whole can of diced tomatoes (about 14.5 oz) and it worked out great. I also used a quart sized jar of pasta sauce which is about equal to what the recipe calls for (to help save time measuring). I love crockpot meals!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:26h, 14 May Reply

      Thanks for sharing your tweaks. It proves how versatile the crockpot (and the recipe) can be. Great tip on saving time by not having to measure!

  • Anna
    Posted at 15:37h, 22 October Reply

    I am currently devouring a bowl of this!! I can’t believe how easy and delicious this recipe is. Personally, the next time I make it (because my boyfriend has already requested it be made again!) I will add more sauce to it. Thank you for the fantastic dish!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:37h, 22 October Reply

      I’m so glad you like the lasagna. Thanks go to the Ontario Home Economists Association for generously sharing their recipe. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know how it turned out.

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  • Mariana
    Posted at 22:49h, 19 February Reply

    This was delicious!!! I wanted to let you know that the second time I made it, I made it vegan by using silken tofu in place of the cottage cheese, and “cashew mozzarella” in place of the mozzarella cheese. I got the cashew mozzarella recipe from this website:

    Obviously making the cashew mozzarella sort of defeated the purpose of the “lazy” lasagna, but I made it ahead of time and it was all good.

    Everyone loved it :)

    Thanks for this recipe! It’s quickly becoming a staple in our household.



    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:03h, 25 February Reply

      I’m so glad you were able to make this recipe your own, Mariana! I’m always impressed with anyone who can adapt a recipe to special diets. I’m doubly impressed that you made your own cashew mozzarella. Kudos!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and prove how flexible recipes can be. So glad everyone loved your vegan variation. Keep cooking!

      • Mariana
        Posted at 19:07h, 25 February Reply


        It’s like I always say; recipes are a starting point :)

        Thanks for the great starting point :)

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