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

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

4.84 from 165 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. Marisa Schmidt says

    Delicious and easy!

    I drained the diced tomato’s and I believe if you add a chunkier pasta sauce as well you don’t have the liquidity sauce I’ve heard some complain off. Thank you!

  2. Jeff says

    Made it, not impressed. Just as easy to make regular spaghetti, too with cheese and bake for 5 minutes. The flavor was enjoyable

  3. Jeanette says

    We loved this! Used rotini. Subbed canned fire roasted tomatoes. Did Italian seasoning, added a bit more garlic and salt. Used shredded provolone and mozzarella on top. The recipe is easy to throw together. My 6 year old really enjoyed helping. Next time we’re adding mushrooms and sausage. Yummmm.

  4. Cole says

    It was okay. Followed all the instructions in the recipe and it turned out a bit dry. I even used a bit more sauce then was recommended. Also, the flavor was pretty bland. That could’ve been from the particular sauce that I chose? Maybe the chicken broth and tomatoes water it down? I’ll make it again, but will tweak a few things to get a punch of more flavor.

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      I’m sorry to hear this wasn’t to your taste, Cole. Myself (and others) have enjoyed it, so I wished it would of been a hit for you too! Glad you will try it again!

  5. Heather Rios says

    This recipe is so so easy, followed the instructions exactly and it turned out wonderful. I made it once earlier in the week with lean ground beef, and it was so good I made again for the company I had on NYE. I made it the second time with mostly lean ground beef again and ground sausage and it was a huge hit. Thank you so much for the easy but delicious recipe!!

  6. Angy says

    I accidentally put the pasta in with all the other ingredients not realizing it was supposed to be added the last 30 mins of cooking 😩. I hope it ends up okay

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi David, if you are wanting this to have 16 servings, yes you would need to double the recipe. Although I don’t think it would fit in a 4 or 6qt slow cooker.

  7. Sophia says

    I followed the recipe exactly and mine turned out great. This has become a craving of mine and a staple. Absolutely love this recipe!

  8. Liz says

    This was amazing! Not sure why some people’s was more liquidy… it was perfect.

    After I finished, I saw how you could spice things up and add mushrooms or spinach or both. I totally would have!

    At what point in the cooking process would I add those items in?

    Thanks for this amazing recipe!!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Liz! I’m not sure why people are having that problem either. I’d probably just add those when all of the other ingredients get add.

  9. Ellie says

    This recipe was so delicious it was asked to be put into the dinner rotations! Super easy to make. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jada Miller says

      My first time asking it, that’s how it was too. I just added an extra cup of pasta the next time I made it and it soaked up the extra liquid. I also drained the tomatoes before I added them since they put off liquid when you cook them. Worked great that way!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Sorry to hear you had trouble with the recipe, C. It’s worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would of been a hit for you too.

  10. Kait says

    This is awesome! I followed the recipe as is and done a variety of modifications including throwing in tons of different veggies, turkey instead of beef and using different pastas. Love it and it freezes well too. Have shared with friends and family. Thanks for the great idea!

      • Peggy Dalrymple says

        This recipe is so good and easy and fairly inexpensive to make. This is such a good site and Ashley is such a great cook!

        Thanks,
        Peggy D

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Sorry to hear you this recipe wasn’t to your taste, Mel. It has worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would of been a hit for you too.

  11. Kayleigh says

    Tastes in incredible! My husband and I have a hard time with crockpot meals because they can get greasy quick, but that is not a problem with this one! Super easy to put together and is a crowd pleaser.

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