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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. Jamie says

    My kids ask for this almost every week since I cooked it a month ago! It’s so delish and easy. It competes with one of your beef and noodles recipes on here. Your meals have saved me and I’m sure my kids are happy we’ve gotten out of our same old boring dinner rotation.

  2. bethycunningham@gmail.com says

    Looking forward to trying this recipe – can I just ask is chicken broth the same as chicken stock – I.e a stock cube or stock pot ?

  3. Anna says

    I’m trying this tonight! Do you think I could add the pasta on low for an hour at the end rather than high for a shorter time? My daughter has a late sports game, and I’m hoping I can add the pasta before we leave so we can come home and just have this ready rather than waiting for the pasta to cook.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      Hi Anna! I haven’t tried leaving the pasta unattended, as the exact cook time can depend on how hot your slow cooker cooks. If you are particular about having al dente pasta, then I would not leave it that long. But if you’re okay with softer pasta, then it may be fine.

  4. Sarah S says

    Delicious! I used chicken broth and mild Italian sausage. The Ziti noodles took maybe 25 minutes in my crockpot with no precooking and were even softer when I ate it 45 minutes later. Flavor amd aroma was great!

  5. Jennifer says

    My crockpot down have 3 hr high or 6 hr low, what do you suggest I use??? It has 4 and 6 for high and 8 and 10 for low. Thank you

  6. Angela says

    Tasty, but pasta never cooked, even after an hour, I had to finish it on the stove. I even tried adding more water. I see the recipe has not been corrected since I saved it.

  7. mike11873@gmail.com says

    Hello Ashley,
    I work at a roller skating rink and usually put something in the crock for the employee’s when we are working all day. Customers were making comments about the smell from my crock. Shared your site with them. Employee’s LOVED this recipe. Next time I’m gonna make it with the substitutions Julie used. Thank You from all of the employee’s of Roller Fox Skating Center.

    Should I add the cream when I add the noodles or in the beginning with the chicken broth ?

    Thanks

  8. Julie says

    Soooo yummy! I substituted 1/2 cup of cream and added 2 cups chicken broth, no basil but added Italian seasoning. I did half pound of beef and half pound of Italian sausage. Thank you!

  9. Rebecca says

    I’m so upset. I was looking for a CROCK POT recipe. Imagine my disappointment when the first steps are to “brown hamburger meat in a skillet” and to make matters worse this recipe is referred to as a “CROCK POT ONLY” meal. I might not be a member of Mensa (not yet anyways) but I’m pretty sure that a skillet is not a part of a crock pot.

    • Debbie says

      This is what upsets you?? In 2020the year where EVERYTHING has gone to hell… THIS is what upsets you? Okay Karen 🤦🏻‍♀️😂😂😂😂 oh my. If you don’t have time or desire to brown ground beef, find another recipe. Many crock pot recipes require browning or cooking something separate then adding it. If you are industrious ( sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not) you can brown a large amount of ground beef and freeze in one pound freezer bags, so when you find a recipe and are horrified you can go ‘oh, that’s right, I have some already in the freezer I can use’

    • Ashley Fehr says

      I mean… you are welcome to try just throwing everything in and see how it comes out? You’re obviously having a rough day. Remember that the people who publish free recipe web sites are still people.

      • Mary M. says

        I actually don’t brown my ground beef a lot of the time when using a slow cooker. If you have a lower grade of beef, it’s better to brown and drain but with ground chuck or higher it’s really not necessary. Just crumble the beef and continue on with your recipe. This is especially good with soups and chili’s as the beef soaks up the liquids. I hope this helps the issues. Enjoy.

    • Sarah says

      I would highly recommend finding a crockpot that has a “sauté” option, or one that has stove safe bottom. Most crockpot recipes that include meat are better with an initial browning. I just put this together in one crockpot, since mine had a sauté option on my Instapot branded one, and it was super easy.

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