There's something incredibly comforting about diving into a dish of gooey, cheesy baked ziti. But the process of boiling, sautéing, baking... it can be a bit much for a busy weeknight. That's where Crock Pot Baked Ziti comes to the rescue! With a little prep and your trusty slow cooker, you can enjoy a bubbling, meaty pot of pasta even on the busiest of nights.
When it comes to comfort food, nothing hits the spot quite like a hearty dish of baked ziti.
But what if I told you that you could have this classic Italian-American dish with less fuss and more flavor? Enter baked ziti in the crock pot - a satisfyingly cheesy, meaty, and oh-so-easy dish that will soon become a staple in your dinner rotation.
But don't think for a second that this ease of preparation means you're compromising on taste. Quite the contrary! The slow cooking process allows the flavors to deepen and intensify, resulting in a Baked Ziti that's bursting with flavor in every bite.
So whether you're a busy parent looking for a no-fuss dinner solution, a novice cook wanting to impress, or simply a lover of good food, baked ziti in the crockpot is for you.
- Olive Oil: You could also use canola or vegetable oil if that's what you have on hand.
- Yellow Onion: This adds a nice sweetness and depth of flavor to the dish. If yellow onions aren't available, white or red onions will work just fine.
- Garlic: Minced garlic provides a robust flavor to the ziti. Garlic powder could be used in a pinch, but fresh garlic is best.
- Ground Beef: You could substitute with ground turkey or chicken for a leaner option. Italian sausage is also a nice option.
- Italian Seasoning: This blend of herbs gives the dish its Italian flair. If you don't have it, a mix of dried basil, oregano, and rosemary can be used.
- Sea Salt: Table salt or kosher salt can be used as a substitute.
- Black Pepper: Adds a hint of spice. Feel free to adjust the quantity based on your taste.
- Beef Broth: Adds a rich, meaty flavor to the ziti. Vegetable broth or chicken broth could be used as an alternative.
- Marinara Sauce: Pasta sauce gives the dish its classic tomato base. I recommend my slow cooker marinara - it has so much more flavor than what you buy in jars.
- Half and Half: Provides a creamy texture. You could substitute with whole milk or heavy cream depending on your preference.
- Ziti Noodles: Ziti pasta is the star of the show! Other tube-shaped pasta like penne pasta or rigatoni can also be used.
- Shredded Mozzarella: Melts beautifully to give you that gooey cheese pull. You could substitute with shredded Colby Jack or Monterey Jack.
- Grated Parmesan: Adds a salty, nutty finish. Romano or Asiago cheese could be used as an alternative.
Step by Step Instructions
Tips and Tricks
- Don't skip the pre-cooking: While it might be tempting to just toss uncooked ground beef into the crockpot and then slow cook the baked ziti, taking a few minutes to brown the beef and vegetables ensures optimal texture and flavor.
- Cheese matters: For the best results, use a combination of mozzarella and parmesan. The mozzarella gives that wonderful stretchy, gooey texture, while the parmesan cheese adds a rich, salty depth of flavor. You can use a blend of ricotta cheese and egg in addition to the other cheeses if you like. I recommend stirring it in before you add the pasta.
- Add Veggies: If you want to add some veggies to your baked ziti in the slow cooker, sauteed spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, and bell pepper all make great additions.
- Be patient: Resist the urge to keep lifting the lid to check on your ziti. Each time you do, heat escapes and slows down the cooking process. Trust the process, and you'll be rewarded with a delicious meal.
- Embrace the Leftovers: Crockpot Baked Ziti is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day, making it perfect for meal prep or leftovers. Simply store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and reheat when you're ready to enjoy it again.
Can you put uncooked pasta in the slow-cooker?
Yes, but don't plan on putting pasta in the slow cooker for the entire cooking time. Add pasta to the crockpot for the last 30 minutes of cooking. This will ensure that your pasta is not mushy or overcooked.
What other pasta shapes can you use in slow-cooker baked ziti?
Any type of short cut pasta works well in this recipe. Try using penne, rigatoni, macaroni, or even shells.
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- Slow Cooker
- Large Skillet
More Slow Cooker Recipes to Try
- For a twist on a classic comfort food, try my sweet and tangy Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes which are sure to be a hit with the whole family.
- If you're a pizza lover, you'll fall head over heels for this hearty Crockpot Pizza Casserole, a deliciously cheesy fusion of your favorite Italian flavors.
- For those seeking a dish that's both wholesome and flavorful, the Crockpot Ranch Chicken is an easy and versatile option that pairs beautifully with almost any side.
- Lastly, don't miss out on the Slow Cooker Tri-Tip, a succulent, slow-cooked beef recipe that's perfect for a satisfying Sunday dinner or special occasion.
Crock Pot Baked Ziti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ large yellow onion diced (or 1 small)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 ½ cups beef broth
- 2 cups marinara
- ½ cup half and half
- 16 ounces ziti
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella
- 2 ounces grated parmesan
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat, or using the saute function of your slow cooker.
- Add the onion, can cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the ground beef, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Cook, stirring often, until the meat is browned.
- Transfer the meat to your slow cooker or hit cancel if you were using the saute function.
- Add the broth, marinara, and half and half.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 6 hours, or high for 3.
- Stir and add the pasta to the the slow cooker.
- Cook over high heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella, and then top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
- Cover until the cheese melts.