CrockPot Baked Spinach and Cheese Noodles

April 26, 2017

Baked casseroles in the crockpot is a way to use your slow cooker as a mini-oven. In this recipe the noodles cook in the yummy cheese sauce -- there is no need to pre boil the noodles beforehand. 
I've found that "heartier" noodles hold up the best in the crockpot -- stay away from angel hair or spaghetti pasta and instead go for a penne or rigatoni.

Since we are gluten free, this is made with a brown rice penne.

[originally made in 2008, during my Year of Slow Cooking]


Day 117.

slow cooker baked spinach and noddles ziti recipe


I took like twelve pictures of this and none of them look very appetizing---I don't see myself with a career as a food stylist any time soon.


But!

It tasted good!

:-)

Michelle's Slow Cooking Thursday post (4/16 link removed, site no longer available) a month ago or so popped into my head while I was at the store last week. 

I couldn't remember everything that went in it at the time, but remembered enough to sort of recreate it for an easy weeknight dinner. 

This is a wonderful, creamy dish, and if you use low or fat free ingredients, the creaminess stays without unnecessary calories.

The Ingredients.
serves 6 or so




2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour (I personally use a gluten free all-purpose blend)
2 1/2 cups milk (any variety, I used fatfree this time)
15 ounces of ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons prepared dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon  kosher salt
1 seeded and chopped red pepper
10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained 
OR 16 ounces fresh, stems trimmed
16 ounce package of un-cooked noodles



The Directions.

Use a 4-quart slow cooker, or this would be a FANTASTIC candidate for the new casserole type crockpots!! 



The first step is to make a roux on the stovetop with all of the ingredients.

Make the Roux like this:

In a large stock pot (large enough to house all the noodles, etc), melt the butter on medium heat.

Whisk the flour into the butter until it is incorporated and then slowly pour in the milk until you have a smooth milky sauce. 

Add in the ricotta cheese, dijon mustard, and parmesan cheese. Continue to stir until everything is incorporated.

Turn the stove down -- and add in the salt, pepper, and chopped red pepper. Stir in the spinach.

Once the spinach is wilty, stir in the package of uncooked noodles.

Remove from the heat.

Spray the inside of your slowcooker with cooking spray and scoop out the cheesy and spinachy noodles.



Cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, or until the noodles are tender. You can also cook on low for about 4 hours if you'd like.

If your slow cooker doesn't seal well (you should have beaded up condensation on the lid when it is in use) then it might take up to 6 hours on low, or 4 hours on high.


Using your crockpot to make casseroles is wonderful! This baked spinach and noodle ziti recipe tastes like spinach alfredo but it made in one pot easily at home. Delicious and easy and now I want one of these new casserole crockpots!




The Verdict.

Using your slow cooker to cook casseroles doesn't make sense to a lot of people.

I get questions like: "HEY STEPH,

can't I just cook this in the oven on 350° for like 45 minutes or something?"

--->  Yes! absolutely! :-)

BUT. In many households, the dinner time hours are filled with homework, afterschool sports and various errands and pick-ups from all ends of town.

This way I can safely leave the house while dinner cooks itself and it can safely stay on the "warm" setting indefinitely.

Dinner time should be relaxed and not rushed and frantic. Slow cooking helps me with this illusion....

lol.

;-)

Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at April 26, 2017
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Comments

  1. Steph: What kind of noodles did you use?

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  2. I think you forgot the red pepper in your ingredient list.

    Looks yummy! And thanks for fixing the roux. It was bugging me, but I was trying to be polite and not say anything. ;)

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  3. You can really use uncooked noodles? Cool!

    Anything with spinach tastes good with nutmeg.

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  4. Hi Ginger! Did you get your work done? I used Trader Joe's brown rice penne.

    La Reveuse, thanks for the red pepper note. I forgot to write it down in my notes---I'll fix it right now!

    Lizzy, yup, I used uncooked!

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  5. oh yum, this is definitely going on my meal list.

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. It looks yummy. One Question - you said "Turn on your crockpot so you won't "shock it" when you stir your cheese and spinach mixture into the noodles. Crockpot stoneware shouldn't change temperatures rapidly." Did you heat this mixture in the pot after adding the ingredients to the roux? I love that you can use uncooked noodles.

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  8. Hi Billy and Ann, I didn't heat it up too awful much---I'm sure the spinach was still cold in spots, but it was over the heat the whole time on the stove. I didn't actually test the temperature.

    But flipping on your crock for a minute or two before adding anything that has been cooked on the stove is a good idea. Especially if you keep your crockpot in a cold garage or closet.

    xox
    steph

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  9. YUM! We are making this tonight--thanks!

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  10. going to a cookout tonight and needed something to bring. This is perfect! Cooking it now. Let you know how it works out.
    Lisa

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  11. I am planning on making this and serving it when we have oven baked chicken cordon bleu.. I may substitute sundried tomatoes for the red pepper.. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I can't wait to make this.

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  12. I'm going to make this with nutmeg and add some browned chicken to the mix. Looks delicious!

    Congrats on 100K! That's awesome!

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  13. I've just finished eating this -yum yum!
    I used fresh spinach (just put it on raw) and also added mushrooms and green beans. I like how the mushrooms went -really tender. It was a bit over done on the sides, but it was only my second crockpot dish ever so I'm pretty pleased. Thanks for the great blog! :-)

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  14. HI Steph.. I'm so pleased that you and your family liked this dish.I am making it this week for dinner one night so that will be delicious in our house.have a great week...

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  15. loloandpooh, jernigans, and, zakary--I hope it comes out well for you; I love the additions you are planning on using, they sound wonderful.

    Andrea, I'm so happy that you were happy and it came out well. This is an adventurous dish for a 2nd crockpot meal, congratulations! The mushrooms and fresh spinach sound great.

    Michelle, thank *you* for such a great idea!

    --steph

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  16. This was really good. Made it for a vegitarian friend, but everyone loved it! Have I told you how much you totally rock?

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  17. I cooked this on high for 4 hours and it was dried up and burned to the sides and bottom. I guess if I try this again it will need to be on low.

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  18. hey steph :) i'm still getting views on this post thanks!!!

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  19. Thank you so much for this web site (I just found it!) New to GF diet, and I've got a kid playing soccer just before mealtime and needed to try crockpot cooking. I've been a failure til now.

    This was DELISH for my first crockpot dinner. Only problem - it was done on high in less than 3 hours. What might that mean for future meals?

    Thanks again!
    Laura

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  20. yum, excited to see how it turns out for Girls Night. I'm keeping my eye on it since my CP tends to run hot in spots.

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  21. Is the time/temp for this correct? High for 5-7 hours? I plan to make this on Saturday when we go to pick up my mother in law and would be really embarassed if we got back from the airport and this was burned and dry.

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  22. Hi Anon,

    It took 6 hours on high for me, and it was cooked with some crunchiness on the side. Someone else had theirs over cook at 4 hours. I wouldn't attempt a new recipe if you're trying to impress your MIL. Stick with something you're comfortable with. Pasta in the crockpot is tricky.

    xxo
    steph

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  23. Hi Stephanie! I just wanted to let you know that despite your advice I went ahead with it the day the mother in law arrived. I cooked it on high for 1 1/2 hours and low for about 4 hours while we picked her up at the airport and when we got home it was perfect! In fact I made so much stuff with the crockpot that she was wishing that she had one by the time she left!

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  24. Super yummy! I didn't bother making mine gluten free since I knew there was no way my daughter would touch it. It cooked really fast and was a little dry. I think next time I'm going to cut back on the noodles.

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  25. I wasn't as pleased with this dish as I have been with your others. After only 1.5 hours it started to burn so I had to turn it down to low (luckily I was home!!!) The texture was okay in the end but it was kind of bland. Maybe less spinach less time and more spices.

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  26. Tried this tonight and loved it. It did cook in 2 hours on high for me though, and even burned a little on the bottom.

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  27. Cooking this now! Smells so nummy!

    Thanks for the cooking time and temps tips everyone!

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  28. I have had this in my crock for a little less than 3 hours now. The noodles are a gummy lump in the bottom and have not absorbed any sauce. I have turned it to low until my hubby gets home. I'm guessing it will be pizza night.

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  29. I'm making this tomorrow for the second time. It's one of the few vegetarian dishes I can coax my strictly carnivorous parents to try and enjoy. I added a couple garlic cloves and it turned into an almost alfredo-y sauce.

    Thank you so much for this blog! It has helped my budget, my waistline, and my stress limit!

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  30. i'm glad i read the comments and went down to turn the pot off. it cooked in two hours on high. it smells delicious! i used chard instead of spinach because i have a bumper crop of it! i can't wait to dig in.

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  31. It's important to note that brown rice pasta does have a longer cook time then regular pasta. I'm not under dietary restrictions but I buy brown rice pasta for the slow cooker because it can hold up to quite a bit of over cokking without becoming gummy.

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  32. Did not work for me. The recipe was dry and burnt at 5 hours in the crock on high. Will not be repeating that method but am considering baking this recipe in the oven with pre-cooked noodles added to the other ingredients and putting it in a casserole, heating it just enough that it won't dry out. I know it won't be considered a crock pot recipe but since that did not work well for me personally, why not try it where it won't be dried out or burnt by baking the already hot ingredients short term to assure they are edible. Appreciate the recipe but will try doing it a little different if I do it again. Thanks!

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