Crockpot Baked Ziti made with melty-cheese, robust meat sauce, and creamy ricotta makes this comfort meal classic… all ‘baked’ in the crockpot!
Crockpot baked ziti is one of our family favorites; it’s comforting and not cozy and – the best part- made hands off in the slow cooker!
Actually, that’s not even the best part. You know what is? You don’t even cook the noodles first; they just go straight in! It makes this so much simpler.
For this recipe, I prefer using penne pasta over any other shape.
It’s a sturdy noodle, with ribbed edges that make it easy for sauce to cling to.
I always use my super-simple spaghetti sauce.
This is the sauce I’ll use in all my weeknight-ready meals that call for a basic marinara (like this weeknight spaghetti with turkey meatballs) But if you’ve got a favorite jarred marinara sauce you love, use that instead!
Bulk up this dish with other proteins
I like to bulk up this ziti with Italian sausage or ground meat. If you’re using Italian sausage links, just slice them into coins and then stir them in with the sauce at the start of cooking. If I’m using ground meat, brown it on the stove beforehand so it’s broken up and can be spread throughout the sauce.
A tip for not overcooking the noodles
Layer the ingredients of this ziti this way:
Bottom: sauce (including protein, if you’re including)
Middle: dry pasta, mix with ricotta
Doing it this way means the noodles don’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the steam from the cooking sauce will rise up and cook the pasta more evenly inside the crock. If you’ve got the noodles on the bottom, they might burn a little and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Here’s how you can prep the dish ahead of time
This is a GREAT make-ahead meal you can ready early in the week, then drop into the crockpot on the night you’re ready to eat.
First, make the sauce, and include the proteins you want (sliced sausage or browned ground meat)
Then, stir the pasta with the ricotta.
Store the sauce in one resealable bag or container, and the pasta mixed with the ricotta in the other. On the day of cooking, you can pour the sauce into the bottom and then top with the pasta and ricotta and the top layer of cheese.
Ridiculously Easy Crockpot ‘Baked’ Ziti
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
This recipe is made much simpler by not even cooking the noodles beforehand; they’re cooked by the moisture coming from the sauce and ricotta. I recommend using sturdy penne pasta here; the ribbed edges that make it easy for sauce to cling to. If you’d like to add ground beef or sausage here, brown it on the stove and then add it with the bottom layer of sauce.
- 12 ounces penne pasta
- 12 ounces marinara sauce
- 8 ounces whole milk ricotta
- 12 ounces shredded Italian blend cheese
- If you’re using ground beef or sausage, brown on the stovetop and then transfer to a resealable bag or container.
- If you’re making marinara from scratch, use this recipe. Transfer to a resealable bag or container to store.
Ground beef will store for up to 4 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer. The sauce will store for up to 2 week in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
Make From Fresh or from Prepped:
- Line the bottom of the crockpot with aluminum foil.
- Place 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the pot, then cover and spread with 1/3 of the dry noodles.
- Top the noodles again with 1/3 of the marinara and top that with the ricotta in evenly-spaced dollops.
- Sprinkle the ricotta with the shredded cheese.
- Add the remaining noodles, then top with the remaining marinara, then ricotta, then the last of the shredded cheese.
- Replace the lid and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the pasta has cooked all the way through and the cheese has melted.