Now it’s easier than ever to make baked ziti – right in the slow cooker! Layered with tasty marinara sauce, uncooked pasta noodles, and a seasoned cheese mixture, this crockpot comfort food is a dump-and-set recipe that the whole family will love!
Crock Pot “Baked” Ziti
Pasta recipes are filling, comforting, and popular with kids. What more can you ask for in a recipe? Easy. I can also ask for easy.
When you let the Crock Pot do all the work, it frees up your time for other things, but it also means it frees up the oven for other things. That’s why my slow cooker recipes are some of my favorite ones.
Let me tell you, baked ziti is such a crowd-pleaser. It’s bursting with incredible Italian flavors and so much cheese. If you like slow cooker lasagna, then you’ll love this layered noodle dish just as much. It’s even easier to make than stovetop spaghetti!
Why you’ll love Slow Cooker Ziti
Budget-friendly – All ingredients in this easy slow cooker recipe are easy to find and cost-effective. You can often find store-brand options that save you money or use a homemade slow cooker spaghetti sauce like I do sometimes.
Customizable – Customize the ingredients to suit your preferences. Use a different pasta shape or tomato sauce. Different kinds of cheese are also a possibility. Whatever you want to do to make your family dinner a success, go for it.
Easy – Add everything to the slow cooker, stir it, and let it cook! The only thing you’ll need to do is add cheese 30 minutes before it’s done. Then, add the ziti to your plate. It’s that easy!
Equipment you’ll need
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Cottage Cheese – This adds creaminess to the pasta and a wonderfully tangy taste.
- Parmesan Cheese – Freshly grated Parmesan cheese has a nutty flavor and is much fresher-tasting when grated from a block. I highly recommend doing it if it’s in your budget.
- Egg – This binds the ingredients as it cooks, holding the layers together so that it is less runny.
- Parsley – This is a sweet aromatic herb that I love to use in Italian pasta dishes.
- Garlic – Freshly mince the garlic for a more pronounced flavor.
- Marinara Sauce – Use two jars of pasta sauce. I use marinara sauce, but you can use whatever you prefer.
- Ziti – You’ll find ziti pasta amongst all other dried pasta in the grocery store. They’re long smooth tubes, similar to penna or rigatoni.
- Mozzarella Cheese – This mild cheese melts beautifully on top of the baked ziti slow cooker recipe.
How to make Baked Ziti in the Slow Cooker
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: Combine the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic in a large bowl and mix.
- Step Two: Add about 2 cups of marinara sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker. Top that with approximately 1/3 of the uncooked ziti noodles, followed by approximately 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture.
- Step Three: Repeat two more layers, ending with approximately 1 cup of sauce over the top. Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours.
- Step Four: Then, thirty minutes before the cooking time is up, open the lid, sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top, and cook an additional 30 minutes without the lid until the mozzarella has melted.
- Step Five: Turn the slow cooker to WARM and let the pasta stand for 15-30 minutes to set up.
Every slow cooker runs differently. Times given are a general recommendation and should be tested in your own slow cooker and adjusted as needed.
What to serve with this easy Baked Ziti Slow Cooker meal
Start your meal with a light bowl of broccoli cheddar soup or a green salad and have a fruit pizza for dessert. This delicious meal will fill you up anytime from Sunday dinner to weeknight dinners for those crazy busy weeknights!
Tips & Suggestions
- For a meaty version, add browned ground beef, turkey, chicken, or Italian sausage to the sauce mixture. Using a meat sauce is a great way to bulk it up.
- Use your favorite jarred marinara sauce. I like Rao’s or Trader Joe’s brand. If you like it extra saucy, you can use up to 60 ounces of sauce.
- You can also add some vegetables to the pasta. Try it with chopped zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, or spinach.
- Penne is the perfect replacement for Ziti. However, you can also use rigatoni, whole wheat pasta, or gluten-free pasta of your choice. As long as it starts as dry pasta and you add it uncooked, you should be good! There’s no need to worry about cooking anything to al dente ahead of time. The pasta cooks in the sauce.
- Make it a ricotta cheese mixture instead of using cottage cheese, if you aren’t a fan of the curds. You can also use a triple cheese blend instead of just mozzarella for an extra cheesy baked ziti recipe!
How to reheat and store Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
How to store leftovers
Store the leftover baked ziti in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How long will baked ziti last in the fridge?
This easy pasta recipe will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about four days. Which means, tons of leftovers for lunches.
Can I freeze crock pot ziti?
Yes, this is the perfect slow cooker pasta recipe for freezing. Transfer it to a freezer-safe bag or freezer container and keep it in the freezer for up to six months.
How to reheat it
It’s best to reheat the baked ziti in your slow cooker over low heat. Heat it just until it is warmed completely through. You can also use the microwave.
They are both very similar. They are both deliciously cheesy and saucy and made with layers of noodles. They can both be made with or without meat and added vegetables. The main difference is the kinds of pasta used in either. Lasagna is made with large, flat sheets of pasta whereas ziti is made with ziti noodles or some other type of medium tube-shaped pasta.
Traditionally baked ziti doesn’t need to be layered in the same way you would a lasagna. We do that in the crock pot so that the pasta is covered and everything cooks evenly.
You always want to cover up the pasta in the slow cooker with sauce and cheese. Any pasta that is exposed will potentially dry out.
There are two ways to make it spicier. First, use spicy sausage (brown it before adding it to the slow cooker). The other way is to sprinkle red pepper flakes in the marinara sauce.
Need more easy slow cooker recipes? Try these:
Click here for my entire collection of slow cooker recipes.