Slow Cooker Baked Ziti Recipe

Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 15 mins
Servings 8 servings

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This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is made completely in the crockpot — even the pasta! It is so much easier than the traditional version but packs all of the same flavor! Includes step by step recipe video.

slow cooker baked ziti in crock pot with metal spoon stuck into pasta
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I know.

I’m not even 50 words in and I’ve cheated already.

This Crock Pot Baked Ziti is obviously NOT baked. Though I suppose if you were really set on it you could stir in an egg and some ricotta (although Serious Eats isn’t upset my recipe’s lack of it), spread it into a baking dish and bake it.

I, however, am not.

Because this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is all about finding easy, crockpot meals that my family loves, don’t use a whole pile of dishes and are relatively healthy and hearty.

And the best part about slow cooker dinners?

That moment, often around 5:00, when you would normally be all like, “Riiiiiiiight…… dinner…..”, but instead you’ve got things totally under control.

How much do you feel like a rockstar in that moment?

crock pot baked ziti in white slow cooker on white background with spoon scooping some

Tips for cooking Crock Pot Pasta:

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that figuring out how to cook pasta in the slow cooker was pretty life changing for me.

Take this Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Chili Mac for instance, or this Slow Cooker Healthier Hamburger Helper. We can’t get enough!

But there are a few tricks to getting it just right!

  1. Small pasta is best, but long is doable. Short pasta like macaroni, penne, rotini, and others work best in this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti because they’re less likely to clump and stick together. Long pasta cuts like spaghetti and fettucini are doable, but you may have to stir a couple more times in between.
  2. Turn your slow cooker to high when you add your pasta. It’s going to take longer to cook than if you were boiling it, but we don’t want it to take forever, so crank it up and let it go for 15 minutes or so, until it reaches your desired tenderness.
  3. Spread your pasta down into the sauce — try to make sure you don’t have too many sticking out or they may be dry.
  4. Don’t overcook — cooking pasta in the slow cooker takes longer than in boiling water, but it’s not going to take more than 20-25 minutes, so check at the 15 minute mark, and then try to gauge how much longer it needs at that point.
slow cooker baked ziti on plate overhead on white marble background

Variations on this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:

I have one other confession: my Ziti is not Ziti. It’s Penne.

But you know what?

Ziti is not that easy to find around here, and since my “Baked” Ziti isn’t all that traditional in the first place, why cause a big fuss about it? (If you’re looking for another untraditional “Baked Ziti” recipe that doesn’t cook all day, try this One Pot Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage!)

If you insist, you can easily swap the penne for ziti noodles, and nothing will change.

Here are a few more ways to mix things up if you want:

  • Try swapping ground beef for loose Italian sausage for a slightly spicy, extra flavorful kick.
  • Try swapping ½ cup of the broth for ½ cup of cream for a creamy, tomato-based pasta
  • You can easily swap the penne or ziti noodles for spaghetti and end up with spaghetti and meat sauce — just cut down the cook time on the noodles and stir every 5 minutes until cooked.
  • You can easily bump up the veggie content by adding shredded carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, finely chopped kale or spinach — and no one will know!
crock pot baked ziti on grey plate with fork stuck into pasta on white marble background

More Crock Pot Pasta recipes:

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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

4.85 from 110 votes
This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is actually made completely in the crockpot — even the pasta! It is so much easier than the traditional version but packs all of the same flavor!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 15 mins
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 8 servings
Calories 385cal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey or Italian sausage)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 650 ml jar pasta sauce about 2 ½ cups
  • 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 375 gram box Penne or Ziti or other short pasta (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, cook ground beef and onion until browned. Stir in garlic and salt and cook 1 minute. (OPTIONAL: you can also add the raw onion and spices right into the slow cooker to save on time)
  • Add beef mixture, basil, parsley, tomatoes, pasta sauce and water to a 4qt (or larger) slow cooker. Stir.
  • Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.
  • Turn slow cooker to high. Add pasta and stir until combined. Cover and continue cooking for 15-30 minutes (depending on how hot your slow cooker is) — check and stir at the 15 minute mark.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and cover for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 385cal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 988mg | Potassium: 639mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 565IU | Vitamin C: 16.1mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 3.1mg

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Comments

  1. Marsha Gainey says

    This was hearty and tasty. It made a lot; the leftovers completely filled a 13-cup plastic-storage container. I added at least a tablespoon each of the dried herbs. As other reviewers did, I mixed in a mixture of an egg and a cup of ricotta before I added the shredded mozzarella, then put the lid on for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese. I also used ground turkey and actual ziti.

  2. Re says

    Great Recipe! I cooked for a crowd and doubled the recipe. Making this for a larger crowd soon and was wondering if this can be made ahead and frozen til ready to bake? I’m thinking the pasta may be an issue? Thoughts? 😁

  3. Pamela Clark says

    I have a Question. Are they anyway to Add Cottage Cheese to make it more like a Crock pot Lasagne? I love Lasagne but it’s time consuming and little Expensive if doing the right way of doing one. How would you do it or do you have a quick recipe for anything like this

  4. Jen says

    I can’t wait to make it!!!! I’m beyond happy that more and more food bloggers are catching on and including the nutritional information with their recipes!!! There are so many delicious looking recipes that people don’t make simply because the recipe doesn’t include it, and are on specific diets..I’m so happy this one has it!!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Barbara! I haven’t tried it myself and honestly I don’t think so, your slow cooker would need to be big enough to fit all of the ingredients. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  5. Yvonne says

    I made this recipe and used Italian turkey, a green bell pepper, spinach, chicken broth, and cream. Other than these alterations, I made as instructed and cooked on low for 3 hrs, then turned to high for additional hour. I added the pasta and spinach halfway through the last hour. So delicious, definitely will make again!

  6. Nick says

    I just made this on the weekend and I will definitely be making it again. My first serving was a little soupy, but all the liquid was nicely absorbed by the time the leftovers were cool enough to put away. I also added a mix of ricotta and egg (like for lasagne) at the end before topping with the mozza and it was *chef’s kiss.

  7. Stormie says

    When I make this, I’ll be in a situation where I must cook it entirely all the way through the pasta being added and cooked. But then, rather than serving immediately, I’ll need to take my crockpot in my car (no longer plugged in of course) to another location that’s about 1/2 hr’s drive away. So when I get there, do you think it will be ok to just plug it in and put it on warm? Do you think it will become mushy while it’s “traveling?”

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Stormie, it would be hard for me to say, since I haven’t done this myself. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  8. Katie Modell says

    This was so good! I didn’t have any mozzarella, so I went rogue and used pepper jack. The flavors were incredible. I used the sauté function on my pressure cooker for the beef and aromatics, and then slow cooked the rest.

  9. Elizabeth says

    My toddlers LOVED this meal! They *rarely* like what I make, and there were no complaints with this dinner. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Jaclyn says

    Hello im going to cook this next week but can I leave out the diced tomatoes as my family doesn’t really like them

  11. ABC says

    Wow! Whatta hit! My family loved it and my three year old was saying “yummy” with every bite. Adding this to the rotation, for sure!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi James, it has been measured out in cups and grams, not ounces. I don’t believe it’s equivalent to an 8 ounces. I would just measure the 4 cups.

    • James Wild says

      I see now. You call for 375 grams of Ziti. A 16 oz box is 454 grams. So most, if not all of that. As suggested below, I am adding a tsp of Oregano, 8 oz of sliced Baby Bellas and since I have a Basil plant, I’ll thinly cut a few leaves of it for a topping.
      I also like your cheesy Chicken spaghetti recipe.

  12. The Risotto Broad says

    I’ve made this a few times, using sausage. It came out great. Each time I added ricotta (with egg) to the mix at the end with the other cheese.
    It’s the perfect recipe for lazy people like me.
    Glad I found this.

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