This hearty and comforting Crock Pot baked ziti is the perfect simple family dinner and the edible equivalent of a warm, cheesy hug. It is pure comfort food because there’s something about that first forkful of gooey, cheesy pasta that makes all your troubles disappear.
With this simple recipe, you skip all the boiling water and oven baking and let the slow cooker do all the work. Combine all the layers in the crock pot, and a few hours later, you’ll be feasting on a ziti masterpiece, dripping with 3 types of cheese.
In my house, this is a magical, whine-stopping and tantrum-preventing meal. Whip this up, and not only do the kids actually eat, but they also eat without complaints.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the step-by-step process of making this crowd-pleaser of a dish in your slow cooker. I’ll also share some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to make this process even simpler.
For exact amounts needed see the recipe card below
- Ricotta cheese
- Marinara sauce: Use your favorite store-bought jarred pasta sauce or make homemade marinara.
- Penne pasta
- Italian sausage: Brown the sausage before starting.
- Italian Seasoning
🥣How to Make Crock Pot Baked Ziti
- Spray your slow cooker with some non-stick cooking spray or use a slow cooker liner. It makes the cleanup a breeze, and who doesn’t love easy cleanup?
- Combine the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.
- Next comes the fun part – layering! Start by spreading half of one jar of marinara sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker. Then, sprinkle some of your pre-browned sausage on top. Add a layer of uncooked pasta and about 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Top this with more marinara and a healthy sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Repeat this process 2-3 times, and make sure to end with a layer of tomato sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese.
- Set your slow cooker on high and let it cook for 2 and a half hours.
- Once your ziti is ready, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese and serve it up!
Nothing makes family dinners better than a steaming hot dish of Crock Pot baked ziti, especially when the weather outside is less inviting. A sprinkle of parsley or fresh basil on top adds a nice pop of green color.
Add a crusty piece of bread to mop up that delicious sauce. I typically go for a crusty Italian loaf, but French bread is good, too. Or maybe even some homemade garlic bread.
A light, fresh green salad can be the perfect counterbalance to the rich, hearty flavors of the baked ziti. I like to keep it simple with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and a light vinaigrette.
💭How to Store
Store any leftover baked ziti in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for about 3-4 days. When you’re ready to eat, just heat it in the microwave or oven. Cover the dish with foil if using the range to keep it from drying out.
If you have more leftovers than you can handle, you can also freeze your baked ziti. Make sure it’s completely cooled before you put it in the freezer.
I like to portion it out into individual servings before freezing. That way, I can grab a portion for lunch or dinner without thawing the whole dish. When you’re ready to eat, thaw it in the fridge overnight and reheat as above. It will keep in the freezer for up to 2-3 months
Be sure to check out the step by step instructions
- To avoid crunchy, undercooked noodles, push any pasta sticking up back into the sauce. They need to be fully submerged to cook properly.
- If you prefer a longer cooking time, you can also cook this slow cooker recipe on low for 4-5 hours.
- Make sure to use a high-quality marinara sauce. The flavor payoff is worth it. You don’t have to use a homemade sauce but don’t buy the 99-cent cheap stuff either.
- You can use ground beef or spicy Italian sausage instead of mild Italian sausage. Or leave the meat out altogether.
Absolutely! This is one of my go-to dishes when I know I have a busy week ahead. Just cook it and then store it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook, microwave it to warm it up.
Sure thing. While penne or ziti is traditional, you can swap it for other tubular pasta like rigatoni. I once used elbow macaroni instead. No one cared!
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Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 48 ounces marinara sauce 2 jars of pasta sauce
- 12 ounces penne pasta or ziti uncooked
- 1 pound of mild Italian ground sausage browned
- Spray the crock pot with cooking spray or use a Crock Pot liner. Mix ricotta, 2 eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.15 ounces ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Add half of one jar of marinara sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker, then sprinkle some sausage on top of that. Add some pasta and 5 bobs of the cheese mixture on top. Add more marinara, then top with mozzarella cheese. Repeat those steps 2-3 more times.16 ounces mozzarella cheese, 48 ounces marinara sauce, 12 ounces penne pasta or ziti, 1 pound of mild Italian ground sausage
- Make sure to end with a layer of sauce and some mozzarella cheese. Cook on high for 2 and a half hours.
- Add some grated Parmesan cheese on top and serve.
- Make sure to push down any noodles that stick up back into the sauce, or they won’t cook.
- You can also cook on low for 4-5 hours.
- Substitute ground beef or spicy Italian sausage instead of mild Italian sausage. Or leave the meat out entirely if you don’t like a meat sauce.
- Although tube-shaped pasta is traditional, other shapes like elbows or shells will work fine in this recipe.
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Nutrition facts are estimates.