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.
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.
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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