Ridiculously Easy Crockpot ‘Baked’ Ziti

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

Top: Cheese

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. 



Crockpot 'Baked' Ziti

Ingredients

Dry Goods

penne pasta12 ounces
marinara sauce12 ounces

Dairy

whole milk ricotta8 ounces
shredded Italian blend cheese12 ounces

Instructions

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. 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 
  • Top: Cheese 

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. 

Instructions

  1. Line the bottom of the crockpot with aluminum foil.
  2. Place 1/3 of the dry noodles on the bottom of the pot, then cover and spread with 1/3 of the marinara.
  3. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta cheese on top of the marinara, then sprinkle with 1/3 of the shredded cheese.
  4. Add the next layer using 1/3 of the ingredients, then top with the final 1/3, ending with the shredded cheese on top.
  5. Secure the lid and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the pasta has cooked all the way through and the cheese has melted.

 

Prep Plan

Crockpot Ziti Prep Plan

  1. If needed, make the spaghetti sauce and transfer to a resealable container
  2. If needed, shred the cheese

You will need: 

1 container of spaghetti sauce

1 container of shredded cheese

Sauce and cheese will hold in the fridge for 2-3 days or the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Prepare from prepped:

  1. Thaw sauce as needed, then proceed with making the recipe according to the original recipe.

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