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


  • 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


  • 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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Reader Interactions


  1. Bec says

    Hi I’m Australian so I’m just wondering what the jar of pasta sauce is to you? Is it a tomato based sauce it cheesy?? We have literally too many jarred options here. I’m trying to stay away from jar sauces so if I was to make my own replica, what would it be?

  2. Dottie Schaffer says

    Hey so i am making this tonight. Think it will turn out with sauteed mushrooms instead of ground beef, if I leave everything else the same?
    (I have a vegetarian at home)

  3. Tami says

    I have made this before in my smaller crock pot, we love it. I was wondering if I could double the recipe in a 6.5 Qt crockpot? I am taking for a “feed the team” and wanted to take a bigger portion.

    • Ashley Fehr says

      I haven’t ever tried doubling the recipe since it is pretty large to begin with. I’m not sure it would all fit! You may want to use two crock pots instead.

    • Kari says

      Hi Tammy, just curious if you ended up making this to Feed a team and if so how many people did you cook for and did you double or triple? I’m in charge of a team dinner for a high school soccer team and trying to figure out how much to cook and how many slow cookers I need! I need enough for about 17 boys..

  4. Matt says

    In 15 years of cooking with crock pots, this is hands down the most tasty thing that’s ever come out of ours! I’m not quite sure how, but the noodles ended up having this perfect, velvety texture and incredible taste. The entire family loved it and we will definitely be doing it again.

    I made more sauce than what the recipe calls for. After 5 hours on low, I took 2-3 cups of sauce and added it to a pan with some frozen Italian Meatballs that had just come out of the oven. Simmered on low for the last hour, they were the perfect topper for this recipe!


  5. Madi says

    Do you drain the liquid from the can of tomatoes or just toss it all in? And you fully cook the hamburger before putting it in the crockpot, right?

  6. JoAnne Mayo-Pierre says

    It says total time is 4:15 but then at end you say low 6 hours, high 3 hours. Maybe this should be specified a little better.

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Unfortunately the total time is generated by the recipe plugin, so it is sometimes a little off. Your best bet is to look at the high/low cook times and add whatever is listed as prep time.

  7. Courtney says

    I am making this tonight and we shall see how it goes. My husband and I love Baked Ziti and was interested when I stumbled onto this recipe as a slow cooked meal. I am going to add spinach tho…I love spinach in pasta.

  8. Claire says

    This was so easy, inexpensive and delicious! I used italian sausage, vodka sauce, chicken broth, whole wheat pasta and skipped the chunk tomatoes because I’m not a huge tomato fan. the cooking times were spot on. It will be a go-to meal for sure! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Angie says

    Made this tonight…. Wow! #fantastic

    I used chicken broth for more flavor, and left the pasta in for 45 min on high, as another person mentioned. Voila, new family favorite!! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  10. Maureen says

    Is the pasta cooked prior to putting it in the crock pot? I assume it is not, but I’ve learned never to assume.

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