I shared a lot of photos on Instagram since Christmas, but the one that received the most love featured potatoes.
Party potatoes, Funeral potatoes, Football potatoes, Pittsburgh potatoes, Crunchy potatoes, Corn Flake potatoes, and, my personal favorite, Cheesy Potatoes. This casserole goes by many names which really suggests that there is no bad time to make these potatoes.
This casserole makes an appearance at every one of our family’s Easter meals. My mom used to be the bearer of the party potatoes. I remember popping bags of frozen has browns and dumping them into our big, plastic popcorn bowl. The potatoes, sour cream, cheese, and cream of chicken soup created such a thick mass, that I always handed the spoon over to mom to finish mixing. My Godmother’s taken over the honors.
Spending time browsing Pinterest makes me want to do strange things.
After avoiding Pinterest for quite some time, I logged back into my account and gazed in wonder and bewilderment at all of those frosted watermelon “cakes,” two or three ingredient [insert the name of any food imaginable] and recipe round-ups ad nasuem. Of course, nearly every image on Pinterest is vertical because someone’s research found people are more likely to pin them. Now, we have no other choice but to.
Last week my friend posted a nifty recipe for crock pot meatloaf. Between reading her post and seeing crock pot lasagna recipes, pizza hot dish got stuck in my head. I chose to try the Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole recipe from the blog Six Sisters Stuff because it seemed to make slightly less food and contained less cheese and sausage than the other recipes (though I loathe the word skinny).
I did swap ground beef for ground turkey. My new favorite butcher grinds fresh beef and I drained the fat off anyway. Plus, the recipe calls for a cup of pepperoni, so why count calories? A friend commented that this type of pasta dish in the slow cooker can become dry and so I took her advice by adding more pasta sauce and water than the recipe called for. In the end, the pasta had still soaked up most of the sauce.
So, what does happen when you cook marinara sauce, rinsed (but not cooked) spiral noodles, chopped bell pepper and onion, black olives, ground beef, pepperoni, and mozzarella in a slow cooker on low for four-five hours?
The recipe called for fresh garlic. My pasta sauce smelled garlicky, so I omitted it.
The instructions specifically say no peeking while the dish cooks. Five hours later. . .
Honestly, the pizza hot dish in a crock post tasted pretty dang good. Since slow cooking is essentially steaming food, the cheese will melt instead of become golden brown. Also, the noodles at the bottom will feel mushier while the ones near the top will be chewier. Depending on how long you keep the meal on warm, some noodles may even become crunchy, but I didn’t even mind the varying noodle textures because they added textural contrast.
This isn’t the prettiest dish and it’s far from gourmet, but pizza hot dish in the crock pot is comfort food like our mom or school cafeteria might have made. We’re enjoying it enough to keep chipping away at the leftovers. Jake’s only complaint is that he did not like the addition of the green pepper. He likes raw green pepper but thought it got overcooked in the hot dish.
My best advice for anyone who wants to make this dish is to add lots of black pepper and change up the ratio of noodles and pasta sauce. Using about 2/3 box of pasta and 16 oz. of sauce + 1 cup of water might create more sauciness. Who knows, though. Cooking pasta in the slow cooker is wild, you guys.