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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

4.92 from 25 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. Christina P. says

    Made this delicious recipe in my slow cooker and it turned out amazing !! … I was lucky to get my hands on Parmesan Imported right from Italy. I added about a cup of parmesan to my sauce after combining all ingredients to the crock pot( I always do this when I make pasta , with the fresh parmesan in the sauce as it simmers gives it a beautiful flavor. I added a red bell pepper & Italian seasonings and garden fresh basil, I was able to find Ziti luckily and added the shredded mozzarella the last five min. This was absolutely fantastic other than those additions I followed your recipe down to the last detail. I served this with garlic bread. I can’t thank you enough for this delicious recipe 🙂

  2. Anita says

    I make this all the time. I cube my mozzarella and mix it in the last 5 minutes. I end up with pockets of cheese.

  3. Aimee says

    Just made this! It turned out great! My almost 3 year old enjoyed it so it will definitely be added to our dinner line up! I added softened frozen spinach for added veggie boost.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Skye says

    I’m excited to try this, haven’t ever done uncooked noodles in the crock pot before!! Wondering, I’m going to be making this when I won’t be home to put the noodles in, but Hubby will… Not sure if he’ll remember to turn the crock pot up to high, so how long do you think the noodles will take to cook on low? (He is NOT comfortable in the kitchen LOL So I try to give him as few steps as possible!)

    • Ashley Fehr says

      hi Skye! Sorry it took me so long to respond. Low generally takes twice as long as high, but it probably won’t take that much longer considering the crockpot won’t be fully at high temperature. Maybe an extra 5 or 10 minutes

  5. KT says

    This was revolutionary for me! Thank you so much for demystifying cooking pasta in the slow cooker! I followed the recipe using chicken broth and rotini. The rotini was ready in 20 minutes and had a perfect texture! It was a hit with the whole family! This will definitely be in our regular meal rotation. Thank you, thank you!!!

  6. Heaven Finch says

    Hey so we loved your recipe!!! My boyfriend used to be the cook in the house but I’m starting to make some dishes I did mess up the noodles they tasted gummy but he said this was the best I’ve made so far I will probably continue using your recipes 🙂

  7. Rose says

    If I use sausages instead, can I put them into the slow cooker directly, or do I have to pre-cook them.

    • Ashley Fehr says

      If they are cooked, you don’t have to cook them before adding to the slow cooker. If it is uncooked sausage I would crumble and cook, or slice and cook before adding

      • Julie says

        I’m making this soon! When would you add veggies such as diced carrot, peppers, etc. so they don’t turn to mush?

          • Ashley Fehr says

            It really depends on the vegetable. Carrots take a long time to cook, so I would add them at the beginning. Peppers I would personally add at the beginning, but I don’t like crisp chunks of pepper in my sauce. If you want them firm and still slightly crisp, you would add them for the last couple of hours.

  8. Heather says

    I am using a crock pot. I do not have a oven at the moment. But I am wondering about using cottage cheese. Can I just make it like a baked spaghetti?

  9. Toni R says

    this was very good, my husband loved and sent some with him to give to my mother and father in law, they loved it too, best of all everything goes in the crock pot and it is great left over, thanks for the great recipe

  10. Mita says

    This is the fourth time I’m making this dish today. It has become quite a favorite in our family. I love your blog and the YouTube channel as well.

  11. Sydney says

    Loved this recipe! I didn’t put in the tomatoes and used the noodles I had, turned out FANTASTIC! Definitely recommend.

  12. Coco says

    I put the pasta in too early!! It’s now in the sauce and will cook on low.. set an alarm to wake up and see… I foresee takeout tomorrow for dinner… anyone make this mistake?

  13. Jody says

    I want to make this to serve for a group so I made it as an experiment for my office. It was awesome!!!! I am going to make it this weekend for our Agility Trial (dog sport) lunch. I am going to try doubling the recipe hoping that it works as well as the posted recipe. Has anyone tried doubling the recipe?

    The pasta was perfect!

  14. Esther Lord says

    I love using my crockpot for dinner recipes because it allows me more time to spend on dessert 🙂 I saw this recipe fly by on Instagram and thought, oh snap hold up, now this looks deeeelicious !! So, I made it last night for dinner. It turned out perfect and it is most definitely deeeeelicious !! My husband enjoyed it also, he even asked me to pack him some so that he could have it for lunch today at work. Boy oh boy when he heats this up in the microwave, there are going to be some stomach grumbling around him, lol. This here recipe is definitely a keeper, thank you for sharing 😉

  15. Steeleye says

    Outstanding!!!!

    I did transfer this baby to a 9×13 pan to broil the cheese on top – it fit absolutely perfectly from crock pot to pan.

  16. Mary says

    Thinking about making this tonight… was wondering… I do not have a can of diced tomatoes however, i do have a few tomatoes hanging out dying to used lol.. do you think that would work out as well?

  17. Rita says

    It was over 90 degrees today and extremely humid. I tried this recipe in my crock pot. I used rotini and Italian seasoning instead of basil. It was delicious. I will definitely make again.

  18. Cristy says

    turned out awesome… wasn’t sure at first because it was watery but thickened up and was a winner! thanks!!!

  19. Erin says

    Hi- I am trying to recipe as we speak. When it comes time to put the pasta in, do I cook for 25 min on Low or High?

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