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!

A bite of Baked Ziti with the remaining ziti in the background on a plate

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.

Baked Ziti in a slow cooker

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.

For more slow cooker pasta recipes, try this spaghetti recipe and this cheesy pasta recipe

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti on a plate.

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 DEFINITELY 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!

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Baked ziti in the crockpot

Disclosure: This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti recipe includes affiliate links. 

Cook’s Note – Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:

  • Ground beef can be used in place of Italian sausage. ***PLEASE don’t omit the meat altogether, 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 slow cooker baked ziti 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.
Process shots of making Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
Pictures of the foil collar and the beautiful, finished dish!

Cook’s Tools:

  • slow cooker
  • heavy-duty foil 
  • large heavy-bottomed pot
  • tongs
Slow cooker baked ziti on a plate

ONE YEAR AGO: Philly Cheesesteak Dip

TWO YEARS AGO: Sausage and Butter Bean Soup

THRE YEARS AGO: 7 Layer Greek Dip

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Baked Ziti in a slow cooker
5 from 6 votes

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti – perfectly cooked pasta with gooey melted cheese!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 45 minutes
6 servings
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!



  • Make foil collar for slow cooker by folding 2 pieces of foil to make 2 strips measuring approximately 18×14-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 the bottom of the 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 the slow cooker. Spoon ricotta over ziti and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Turn off slow cooker, cover, and let the cheese melt for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and serve.


Calories: 643kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 1447mg | Potassium: 997mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 935IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 273mg | Iron: 4.3mg

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Round out the meal with these other recipes:

Garden Bean Salad

Crescent Rolls

 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti with text overlay for Pinterest
5 from 6 votes

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Recipe Rating


  1. Can one use parchment paper instead of foil? I’ve stopped keeping foil in my house as parchment paper typically works better for what I need.

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it. I could see parchment paper scorching in the slow cooker.

  2. Not sure what is meant by foil collar?

    1. Looks at the middle picture just above the subtitle “Cook’s Tools”. That picture shows a foil collar. Basically, you’re just lining the sides of the slow cooker insert.

  3. Could this be doubled and prepared in an 8qt slow cooker? If so, how would the setting and time vary?


    1. A doubles recipe will definitely fit in an 8-quart slow cooker. I would say increase the slow cooking time by 30 minutes.

  4. Erica Schwarz says:

    This was fantastically delicious! So easy to make – I’ve never cooked pasta in the slow cooker from raw before and it was perfect.

  5. Yum! My family loves this recipe! I can’t wait to make this again soon!

  6. Tasty recipe! My family really enjoyed it.

  7. Emily Liao says:

    Love how easy this was to make right in my slow cooker! So flavorful and delicious!

  8. I’ve been there with the commissary! This looks just as delicious with the penne! Such a delicious and comforting meal. Love all that cheese.

    1. I definitly do not miss shopping at the commissary, especially the ones OCONUS!

  9. Can I use a liner instead of foil?