This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti recipe is made entirely in the crock pot -no need to cook the pasta separately! This quick and easy dinner is perfect for busy weeknights.
I love slow cooker recipes! I’ve made countless slow cooker dinners and breakfasts and even “baked” rolls in it. Seriously, there isn’t much that a slow cooker can’t do!
This crock pot baked ziti takes a few minutes to put together, but I’ve included tips below to help you prep ahead if needed. It’s also kid-friendly, and it reheats well.
- Italian sausage: You can use ground beef, ground turkey, or even ground chicken in place of the Italian sausage. If you use a different type of ground meat, you may need to increase the amount of the seasonings.
- Bell peppers: Feel free to use different colors of peppers if you prefer.
- Diced tomatoes: You can also use diced Italian tomatoes if you would like.
- Tomato sauce: I often get questions asking what tomato sauce is. It’s just pureed tomatoes in a can.
How to make slow cooker baked ziti
Some slow cookers have a stovetop setting. If your slow cooker has that setting, you brown the sausage and sauté the vegetables in your crock pot.
Step 1: Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Step 2: Add oil to skillet.
Step 3: Add Italian sausage, and cook until browned. Drain grease if desired.
Step 4: Stir in onion and peppers, and cook until vegetables are softened.
Step 5: Add garlic, Italian seasoning, and basil. Stir in to combine.
Step 6: Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce into the slow cooker insert.
Step 7: Add ziti to insert, and nestle into the sauce.
Step 8: Pour tomato sauce over pasta, and make sure that noodles are covered in sauce.
Step 9: Turn slow cooker setting to high. Cover, and cook for 3 hours.
Step 10: Gently stir pasta.
Step 11: Sprinkle mozzarella over pasta. Cover, and let melt.
- Prep ahead: You can make the recipe through step 7 (making the meat sauce portion) up to 24 hours ahead of time. Cover and chill until ready to continue. Then, just continue with the recipe as-written.
- Variations: This is an easy recipe to change to suit your tastes.
- Spicy: You can make it spicier by added red pepper flakes along with the other spices.
- Vegetarian: You can use a meat replacement instead of the Italian sausage.
- Cheesy: You can mix in additional mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese to the pasta before topping it with mozzarella.
- Filling: You can stir in ricotta cheese for a creamier pasta.
Yes, you can use a similar shape of pasta, like penne pasta or mostaccioli, instead of the ziti noodles.
You can freeze the cooked pasta. If you want to use it as a freezer meal, cook the pasta until it’s just barely al dente. Otherwise, you’ll end up with mushy pasta after you thaw/reheat it.
You can sprinkle fresh basil over the pasta just before serving. Baked ziti goes well with a green salad and garlic bread, garlic breadsticks, or homemade garlic knots.
Store any leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The pasta will keep for up to 4 days when properly stored.
More slow cooker dinner recipes!
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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage mild or hot
- 1 cup diced yellow or white onion
- 1 cup diced green pepper
- 1 cup diced red pepper
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon dried sweet basil
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes drained
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- 8 ounces dry ziti or similar pasta
- 15 ounce tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add oil.
- Add Italian sausage, and cook until browned. Drain grease if desired.
- Stir in onion and peppers, and cook until vegetables are softened.
- Add garlic, Italian seasoning, and basil. Stir in to combine.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and heavy cream.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce into the slow cooker insert.
- Add ziti to insert, and nestle into the sauce.
- Pour tomato sauce over pasta, and make sure that noodles are covered in sauce.
- Turn slow cooker setting to high. Cover, and cook for 3 hours.
- Gently stir pasta.
- Sprinkle mozzarella over pasta. Cover, and let melt.
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Comments & Reviews
Clare Albarado says
Looking forward to try this with a vegetarian option
Using the Beyond meat sausage links. By themself
They are so good..
Sounds good! I’ve tried the Beyond Meat burgers but haven’t tried the sausages.
Hi! I will be gone at work all day. Can I cook it on low for more hours? How long?
Hi! I haven’t tried cooking it on LOW for 6 hours to say for certain whether or not that will work.
Ashley Woodward says
Can I double this recipe? If I do, how long should I cook it?
Hi! I haven’t tried to double this recipe so I’m afraid that I don’t know the answer on that one.
How long would you cook it on high if you are in a hurry?
Sorry, but I’m not sure that cooking it on high would work with pasta. I’ve never tried it to say for sure.
This might be a dumb question, but this will be my first time using my ninja! Do I cook the ziti first, or put them in hard for 3 hours? I feel like it would get soggy if I put cooked noodles in for 3 hours?
It’s not a dumb question! Yes, you will put the ziti in uncooked. You are absolutely right that they would end up mushy if they were cooked first. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask! =)
Made it and everyone enjoyed. Adding the pasta for 30 mins.
I’m glad that you liked it! Thank you for taking the time to comment! =)
What if I don’t have heavy cream? Can I just leave it out?
The heavy cream helps to add richness and tone down some of the acidity in the sauce. Do you have half-and-half or something similar?
Can this be prepared in just a regular crockpot without all the inserts?
Sure! Steps 2-6 would just need to be completed in a skillet on the stovetop. Also, I would suggest using a crock pot liner or spraying the crock with nonstick cooking spray. Please let me know if you have any other questions!
I found this recipe on pinterest. I’ve made crockpot pasta recipes from there that were so bad. I was scared that this one would be too, but it was really good! Thank you!
I’m glad you liked it! Thanks for coming back to comment!=)