Made with pasta, sauce, Italian sausage, and creamy cheese, you'll love the flavor and texture of this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti. This crock pot family dinner is the perfect way to enjoy a weeknight meal or a Sunday dinner!
Baked Ziti is a classic Italian dish that everyone should try. It is a baked pasta dish typically made with ziti noodles, tomato sauce, and cheese. The ziti pasta is shaped like a tube and is about the size of a penne noodle.
This makes it easy to hold onto all of the sauce and flavors when you take a bite. Baked ziti is usually baked in a casserole dish, but this recipe shows you how to make it in your slow cooker easily!
Crock pot ziti is made by browning up flavorful Italian sausage and aromatic vegetables. Add it to the slow cooker with pasta sauce and let it simmer. Then, let the ziti pasta cook right in the sauce, top with melty mozzarella cheese, and you've got a full and satisfying meal that could feed a crowd!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- This easy pasta dinner is made with simple ingredients you can find anywhere.
- It easily feeds 6 people making delicious leftovers for lunch or meal prep.
- No need to watch it bake in a casserole dish, let the slow cooker do the work while you get back to your busy life.
- Both kids and adults enjoy this comforting Italian meal.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Italian Sausage - Classic in pasta dishes, Italian sausage adds flavor, texture and protein to this easy dinner.
- Onion and Garlic - Adds a bold garlic and onion flavor that enhances the flavor of the spaghetti sauce.
- Salt & Pepper - Used to balance the flavor of the sauce and the overall dish.
- Italian Seasoning - Gives this pasta meal a dose of Italian herb flavor.
- Red Pepper Flakes - Adds a complimentary light kick of heat to the dish that can easily be omitted if you don't enjoy spicy food.
- Tomato Sauce - A mix of canned diced tomatoes and a jar of spaghetti sauce is used to create the red marinara the sausage and pasta gets cooked in.
- Chicken Broth - Gives the sauce a thinner consistency, allowing the pasta to cook right in the crockpot.
- Ziti Pasta - This round pasta is perfect for soaking up all of the flavors in the sauce.
- Shredded Mozzarella - Gets added on top of the dish giving it a creamy and melty finish that pairs well with the rest of the flavors.
How To Make Baked Ziti In The Slow Cooker
Cook sausage and onion: Add the Italian sausage and onion to a large skillet and turn to medium heat. Break up the sausage with a spatula and saute until the meat is browned and the onion is cooked through. This will take 5-7 minutes. Drain off excess fat and add it to the bottom of the slow cooker.
Slow cook the sauce: Add the garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, pasta sauce, and chicken broth on top of the cooked sausage and mix until fully combined. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2½-3 hours or on LOW for 5½-6 hours
Cook the pasta: In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the ziti pasta. If you were cooking the meal on LOW, turn it to high after adding the pasta. Mix in and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through.
Add the cheese: Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella cheese on top and cover until the cheese is melted. Serve hot and enjoy!
- Browning the sausage before adding it to the crock pot is important because it adds flavor and texture to the dish without any excess oil.
- The sauce may look thin after mixing the ingredients. The pasta will absorb the excess liquid while cooking.
- After adding the pasta, set a timer to check on it after 20 minutes as it can overcook if the heat is not turned off in time.
- This easy slow cooker dinner can be doubled or tripled to feed a larger crowd. Simply use a larger crock pot or cook in batches.
- If you want to prep this baked ziti ahead of time, brown the sausage and mix all of the ingredients together except for the pasta and cheese. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to cook, follow the directions above.
- Instead of using Italian sausage, you can use plain ground meat including ground beef, turkey, or chicken.
- For a vegetarian baked ziti, leave out the sausage and double the amount of diced onion. You can also add in some chopped vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, or zucchini.
- Add a layer of ricotta cheese on top of the sauce before sprinkling on the mozzarella for an even more cheesy baked ziti.
- If you want a creamier sauce, you can stir in some heavy cream or half and half before adding the pasta.
- Change up the flavor by adding freshly chopped herbs such as basil or parsley. You can also stir in some sun-dried tomatoes or olives.
- Make it a complete meal by serving baked ziti with a side salad and garlic bread.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: Cooled leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
Freezing: You can freeze baked ziti before or after cooking. To freeze baked ziti, mix all of the ingredients together except for the pasta, cheese, and ½ cup of chicken broth. Store it in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat, thaw it overnight in the fridge and follow the directions above. baked ziti that has already been cooked can be frozen in an airtight container for up to two months.
Reheating: Leftovers can be reheated on the stove over low heat or in the microwave. If the pasta is dry, add a splash of chicken broth or water to moisten it.
Yes, you can put uncooked pasta in your crock pot during the last 30 minutes of cooking. The pasta will cook in the sauce as the crock pot finishes its cycle.
This depends on if you enjoy the flavor and texture. You can add a layer of ricotta cheese on top of the sauce before sprinkling on the mozzarella for an even more cheesy baked ziti.
The most common type of pasta used in baked ziti is ziti or penne pasta. You can also use rigatoni, shells, or any other type of short pasta.
More Slow Cooker Pasta Meals
- Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli
- Creamy Slow Cooker Olive Garden Dressing Chicken Pasta
- The Best Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
- Crock Pot Goulash
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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
- 1 lb Italian sausage (you can substitute turkey or ground beef)
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 2 tsp garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ⅛ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (26 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
- 2½ cups chicken broth
- 1 lb dry ziti pasta
- 1½ cups mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook Italian sausage and onion until browned. about 5-7 minutes. Drain and add to the Crock-Pot.
- Add, garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, pasta sauce, and chicken broth. Mix until well combined.
- Cover and cook on high for 2½-3 hours or on low for 5½-6 hours.
- If cooking on low turn Crock-pot to high and add pasta. Mix until well combined. Cook pasta for 20-30 minutes or until pasta has reached your desired texture.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover. Cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese has completely melted.