This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti recipe is the perfect dinner recipe for year-round cooking. It’s great for weeknight dinners and for company! Plus, it tastes pretty amazing–I mean just look at all of that melty cheese!
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Ok, let’s begin by stating the obvious…for the pictures in this post I didn’t use Ziti as the recipe name indicates. Instead I used penne.
Well, as I’ve mentioned before I currently live on a military base in Japan and the commissary it’s exactly fully stocked like grocery stores in the states. I have made this recipe for months now, waiting on Ziti to be stocked at the Commissary. After 4 months of waiting I threw in the towel and photographed this recipe with penne instead.
With that said, you can replace the ziti in this recipe with any tubular pasta. So in actuality I should call this a slow cooker pasta bake recipe.
Lasagna is often the first thought when it comes to baked pasta dishes. Then there’s baked ziti, stuffed shells, manicotti, lasagna roll ups, and so on. This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti DEFINITLEY deserves a mention as well. And, yes, slow cooker… which means make-ahead, and minimal moving parts in the kitchen just before dinnertime. This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti recipe combines classic Italian flavors with Western cooking convenience. This in itself is a win for my cooking repertoire!
Cook’s Note – Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:
- Ground beef can be used in place of Italian sausage. ***PLEASE don’t omit the meat all together, because the fat from the meat helps to protect the starches from the pasta which in turn keeps the pasta from swelling and over-cooking—so don’t skip this step!
- The purpose of sautéing the pasta before it goes into the slow cooker is to ensure that the pasta doesn’t become overcooked, bloated, and slimy—so again, don’t skip this step!
- You can double this recipe with the following changes to the directions:
- ***When doubling this recipe, make sure you use a BIG slow cooker that holds at least 6 quarts!
- After removing the foil collar in step 4, remove half of the pasta and spread 1 cup of ricotta and 1 cup of mozzarella over the top. Place the removed pasta on top of the cheese layer, and top with the remaining 1 cup of ricotta and mozzarella. Proceed with the remainder of the recipe.
- The foil collar in the recipe instructions is put into place to prevent the edges from burning as it cooks in the slow cooker.
Cook’s Tools – Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:
ONE YEAR AGO: Philly Cheesesteak Dip
TWO YEARS AGO: Sausage and Butter Bean Soup
THRE YEARS AGO: 7 Layer Greek Dip
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 8 ounces ziti
- 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 Tablespoons freshly chopped basil
- Make foil collar for slow cooker by folding 2 pieces of foil to make 2 strips measuring approximately 18x14-inches each. Line inside of slow cooker insert with foil strips and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In large heavy bottomed pot, heat oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook sausage, stirring occasionally to break up large chunks, until cooked through and browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add onion and cook until onions are translucent and starting to brown around edges, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, fennel, salt, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.
- Reduce heat to Medium-low, and add raw ziti and cook, stirring constantly, until edges of pasta are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce, scraping up any bits from bottom of pan. Scrape mixture into prepared slow cooker insert. Cover and cook on low until pasta is tender, about 3 hours.
- Use tongs to remove foil collar from slow cooker. Spoon ricotta over ziti and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Turn off slow cooker, cover, and let cheese melt for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.