We had that warm spell, but I’m still all about the comfort food and convenience of the slow cooker these days. I’m not the best at planning ahead for my slow cooker, but there is such a reward in knowing that the night’s dinner is completely set by 8:30 a.m. and all you will have to do that evening is scoop it out.
The first recipe is one I haven’t tried yet, but I’ve been interested in trying more pasta dishes in my slow cooker. This recipe is called “million dollar pasta,” so I figure it’s got to be pretty good. And once I saw it had ricotta, sour cream and cream cheese in it, I realized it probably is truly rich. The author also recommends using cavatappi pasta, the ones that look like corkscrews, which my family loves. I have a feeling this dish is going to be a pretty easy sell.
Next, a recipe for slow cooker chicken Marsala, which is one of my favorite chicken dishes that I don’t cook nearly often enough. I love mushrooms, and my oldest says he hates mushrooms, yet when I serve him the “truffle” mac and cheese from Aldi he loves it because there are no visible mushrooms so he has no reason not to like it. I bet he will love some of this mushroom-flavored chicken, so long as he never sees a mushroom enter the house.
And finally, this recipe for braised Italian pork which I found in a cookbook at the library, and now it is my go-to recipe to make for families that can use some help with an extra meal. You probably know pork shoulder does great in a slow cooker from making a pulled pork, but cooking it in a homemade Italian red sauce just elevated this humble meat from backyard shindig to Sunday dinner best. The recipe called for serving it over polenta, but I’m not really a polenta fan, so I used egg noodles.
Brown and crumble ground beef, season with salt and pepper. Drain excess grease and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour cream, ricotta cheese, minced garlic and parsley.
In the bottom of a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker, add half a jar of spaghetti sauce.
Evenly layer half the box of the cavatappi pasta on top of sauce. Pour remaining jar of spaghetti sauce over noodles. Pour on half a jar of water, then layer half the cooked ground beef mixture over top.
Dollop the entire cream cheese mixture evenly as possible over the beef layer. Do not stir.
Evenly layer the rest of the cavatappi pasta on top of the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining jar spaghetti sauce. Pour another half jar of water on top of spaghetti sauce. Finally, layer the rest of the cooked ground beef on top.
Cover and cook on low for about three to four hours. Stir mixture, then layer with 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Place the chicken breasts, garlic, wine, chicken broth and mushrooms in the slow cooker. Cook on low for five hours.
Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Whisk together the cornstarch with ⅓ cup cold water. Pour the cornstarch into the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Add the chicken back to the slow cooker, turn the heat to high and cook for 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Stir in the heavy cream and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
In a large skillet, Heat oil over medium-high. Season pork with salt and pepper. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer pork to the slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium; add onion, garlic, celery, and fennel seeds to skillet; cook until onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Add wine. Cook scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add to slow cooker along with tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for eight hours or high for four hours.
Transfer fork to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Skim fat off sauce. Return shredded pork to slow cooker and stir to combine. Serve over polenta or egg noodles, sprinkled with cheese.