‘Tis the Season to Use Your Slow Cooker

Every year, it seems like as soon as cool weather sets in, so do our cravings for warm, filling homestyle Italian dinners. If you’re like anything like us, however, you know that busy schedules don’t always leave a lot of time for cooking.

This fall, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite slow-cooker dinners. Simply do a little light prep in the morning or the night before, and by the time you get home you’ll be greeted with the aromas of traditional Italian cooking.

Chicken Parmesan

A classic for a reason. This delicious Italian dish never fails to hit the spot. This slow cooker recipe only takes about 20 minutes to prep, and it easily feeds a family of four (with leftovers for lunch!)

Ingredients:

● 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
● ¾ cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
● 1/3 cup Il Villaggio Parmesan Reggiano, grated
● Freshly ground black pepper
● Kosher salt
● Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
● 1 tsp oregano
● 1 TB olive oil
● 1 egg
● 2 cups of Il Villaggio Mozzarella, grated
● A jar of your favorite red sauce

Instructions
1. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl and set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to the bottom of your crockpot and spread evenly.
3. Mix the breadcrumbs and IV Parmesan Reggiano cheese in another shallow bowl.
4. Pat the chicken breast halves dry and season with salt and fresh black pepper.
5. Individually dip each chicken breast into the egg, then into the bread crumb mixture, coating both sides evenly with crumbs, cheese and seasonings.
6. Place each half of chicken breast into the crockpot once coated with breadcrumbs.
7. Sprinkle the grated IV Mozzarella on top of the chicken breasts
8. Cover chicken and cheese with entire jar of sauce.
9. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.
10. Serve with your favorite pasta, or on a toasty, halved Italian loaf.


Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs!

A big batch of meatballs is the perfect end to any day. They’re a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, appealing to even the most picky of eaters, and can be served over pasta, in a sandwich, or on their own with slices of Italian loaf and our Ricotta Salata.

Ingredients:

● 1 pound 80% ground beef
● 1 cup bread crumbs with Italian seasoning
● 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
● 1 teaspoon minced garlic
● 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
● 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
● Salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
● 8 oz. Il Villaggio Mozzarella Ciliegine bocconcini
● 1 tablespoon olive oil
● Fresh basil, roughly chopped

Instructions:

1. Chop each of the IV Mozzarella balls in half. Place in the freezer until ready ready to use.
2. Combine the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg and egg yolk, garlic, onion, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to a bowl. Mush the ingredients together with your hands until everything comes together.
3. Use the olive oil to grease the slow cooker.
4. Remove cheese from freezer. Roll about 4 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball. Gently push one of the mozzarella halves into the meatball. Roll the ball in your hands to cover the hole where the mozzarella was pushed in. Place inside the slow cooker and repeat with remaining meat and cheese.
5. Once you’ve made all of your meatballs, cover with your favorite storebought or homemade red sauce. Add fresh basil to taste.
6. Cover and cook on high for 1-2 hours or on low for 3-4 hours until the meat is cooked through (no longer pink).

The cheese may melt out of the meatballs, but that only adds to the flavor.

Homemade Lasagna

If there’s one Italian dish that screams “comfort food,” it’s a homemade lasagna. Full of rich flavors and melty cheese, lasagna is the perfect dish to make on a fall day. This recipe makes enough for about twelve servings, which leaves plenty to enjoy throughout the week or freeze for another meal.

Ingredients:

● 1 pound of 90% ground beef
● 1 yellow onion, chopped
● 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped.
● 1 jar of your preferred homemade or storebought sauce
● 1 6-ounce can of tomato pas
● Kosher salt, to taste
● 1 teaspoon oregano
● 2 7-ounce packages of Il Villaggio Ricotta Salata
● 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
● 1 16-ounce package of lasagna noodles, uncooked
● 16 ounces of Il Villaggio Mozzarella, grated
● Handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Directions:
1. Over medium-high heat, cook ground beef and onion in a pan until meat starts to brown and onions start to soften. Add in the garlic, and continue cooking until meat is no longer pink.
2. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and oregano to the pan and cook until warm.
3. Spoon a layer of meat sauce onto the bottom of the slow cooker.
4. Add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, top with a layer of the Ricotta, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheeses.
5. Repeat with sauce, noodles and cheeses until all are used up.
6. Cover with lid and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

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