Slow Cooker Baked Ziti Recipe

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
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.

overhead image of slow cooker baked ziti in white crockpot.

Love your slow cooker as much as we do? Check out my 15 Best Crockpot Recipes, these Easy Crockpot Meals or these quick-to-prep Dump ‘n’ Go Slow Cooker Meals!

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?

spoon scooping crockpot baked ziit out of slow cooker.

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.
plate of slow cooker baked ziti with parmesan and parsley on top.
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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!
close up image of crockpot baked ziti on plate.

More Crock Pot Pasta recipes:

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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

4.87 from 266 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 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
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. Bridget says

    I made this for dinner last night, but my 17 son had another event so didn’t eat with us. I received a text from my son at work today that said, “MOM, LAST NIGHT’S DINNER WAS FIRE!” meaning it was absolutely awesome!! So, Thanks so much for the amazing recipe!!!

  2. Jessica Gilbert says

    Made this tonight and it was super delightful! I did add some heavy cream and did ground sausage and ground beef together and added some oregano and Italian seasoning. Very creamy and very full of flavor! Definitely bookmarked this one!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi AER, this is uncooked pasta that is going in. If my recipes calls for cooked, it would specifically say, just so you know for next time. Hope this helps!

  3. Erin says

    May I add Ricotta cheese to this? If so, at what point do I add it? I made this today, and about to enjoy it in the next 30 minutes. My condo smells amazing, so if that’s any indication of how it will taste, I’m super excited!

  4. Debbie Habari says

    Hi, I was wondering if I could do this without browning the meat.
    I am in the middle of remodeling my kitchen and have no fire

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Debbie! I’ve only tested the recipe as written so it would be hard to advise how it would work, but after doing a quick Google search, it should work. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes.

  5. Adel says

    My husband LOVED this recipe. It was good, verified only 15 minutes to put together. Made enough for 4 (or more) servings. Will put on the regular list of repeat recipes.

  6. Lindsay Askew says

    This looks amazing. If you substitute 1/2 cup of broth for cream do you add the cream at the beginning and cook it the entire time, or do you add the cream closer to the end of the cooking process?

    • David A says

      First meal I ever made in a slow cooker as a college student years ago, and I still come back to it. I’ve gotten more comfortable experimenting with flavors and ingredients since then, but this recipe is still a great baseline.

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Jake! It’s listed as a box of pasta. They will not be cooked because they cook in the crockpot on Step 4. Hope this helps!

  7. ERIKA says

    I’M NOT MUCH OF A COOK AT ALL. MY SISTER BOUGHT ME A CROCKPOT CHRISTMAS AND I’M OBSESSED! IT’S SO EASY TO USE. I MADE THIS RECIPE TO TEST OUT MY CROCKPOT AND IT WAS AMAZING. I MADE THIS MEAL FOR MY CO WORKERS AND EVERYONE LOVED IT. THANKS! I WILL DEFF BE MAKING IT AGAIN. EVERYONE KEPT ASKING ME FOR THE RECIPE.

  8. Ashcash says

    I’m not going to dog this recipe since the creator and others are savages in the comments(lol). But I will say that in my case, the pasta didn’t cook evenly in the 15-30 min time frame. Now; my slow cooker cooks at a higher temp than normal, and this causes times to usually be lessened, and I followed the recipe to a T, but the pasta took like 40 mins to cook, so I’ll be coming back to this recipe and just excluding the 2 cups water, as well as cooking the pasta separately. Other than that, it was a hit!

  9. Amanda says

    I really would like to try this recipe, but I only have a 7-quart crockpot. I am new to cooking in a crockpot as I just got one for Christmas. What would I have to do differently to make sure this cooks the same in a crockpot larger than a recipe calls for?

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Amanda! I’ve only tested this recipe out as written, so you would be experimenting. If you decide to try it out, let me know how it goes!

      • Dennisha Toliver says

        Hey I tried this recipe before and it was awesome..im making it again tonight but I have 2 lbs of meat..should I double the sauce and broth to 5 cups each?

      • Dennisha Toliver says

        Hey I tried this recipe before and it was awesome..im making it again tonight but I have 2 lbs of meat..should I double the sauce and broth to 5 cups each and 2lbs of noodles?

      • The Recipe Rebel says

        Hi Dennisha! You would need to make sure your slow cooker is big enough to fit the doubled ingredients. So if doubling the meat, you should double all of the other ingredients. Hope this helps!

  10. Sydnee says

    I love this recipe! It is always a hit in my house. I made it again tonight with pork sausage from a friends pig. Browned pork with the onion and garlic . Added an extra can of diced tomatoes to pot.Then added a cup of Ricotta cheese, when adding the noodles. Then 1 cup of shredded mozzarella after noodles were cooked, mixed in. 2 cups of shredded mozzarella in top, then put in the oven for 6 min under high broil. AMAZING!

    • Byrdie says

      Okay I have not tried this yet but need something like this for my guests coming over this weekend but i work from 8-1230 … so to be sure i put DRY UNCOOKED pasta in at 30 mins til the end and it will be done ??

      • The Recipe Rebel says

        Hi Byrdie! Yes, you: 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. Hope this helps!

  11. DawnW says

    I put the leftovers in small glass casserole dishes and placed in the freezer, any thoughts on how long to reheat in the oven? Will the pasta be mushy after freezing?

    • Ashley Fehr says

      I would let thaw before reheating to keep it from getting too mushy. It will be a little softer after freezing. How long it will take will depend on the size of the dish — maybe 20-30 minutes? Reheating on the stovetop is also a good option — just add a splash of water or broth to keep it saucy.

4.87 from 266 votes (191 ratings without comment)

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