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.
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?
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.
But there are a few tricks to getting it just right!
- 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.
- 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.
- Spread your pasta down into the sauce — try to make sure you don’t have too many sticking out or they may be dry.
- 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.
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 1/2 cup of the broth for 1/2 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!
More Crock Pot Pasta recipes:
- Crockpot Chicken and Noodles recipe
- Crock Pot Mac and Cheese recipe
- Healthier Slow Cooker Hamburger Helper Recipe
- Cheesy Crockpot Chicken Spaghetti Recipe + VIDEO
Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
- 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 1/2 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
- 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.
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