Slow Cooker Baked Ziti Recipe

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings

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This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is made completely in the crockpot — even the pasta! It is so much easier than the traditional version but packs all of the same flavor! Includes step by step recipe video.

overhead image of slow cooker baked ziti in white crockpot.

I know.

I’m not even 50 words in and I’ve cheated already.

This Crock Pot Baked Ziti is obviously NOT baked. Though I suppose if you were really set on it you could stir in an egg and some ricotta (although Serious Eats isn’t upset my recipe’s lack of it), spread it into a baking dish and bake it.

I, however, am not.

Because this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is all about finding easy, crockpot meals that my family loves, don’t use a whole pile of dishes and are relatively healthy and hearty.

And the best part about slow cooker dinners?

That moment, often around 5:00, when you would normally be all like, “Riiiiiiiight…… dinner…..”, but instead you’ve got things totally under control.

How much do you feel like a rockstar in that moment?

spoon scooping crockpot baked ziit out of slow cooker.

Tips for cooking Crock Pot Pasta:

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that figuring out how to cook pasta in the slow cooker was pretty life changing for me.

Take this Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Chili Mac for instance, or this Slow Cooker Healthier Hamburger Helper. We can’t get enough!

But there are a few tricks to getting it just right!

  1. Small pasta is best, but long is doable. Short pasta like macaroni, penne, rotini, and others work best in this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti because they’re less likely to clump and stick together. Long pasta cuts like spaghetti and fettucini are doable, but you may have to stir a couple more times in between.
  2. Turn your slow cooker to high when you add your pasta. It’s going to take longer to cook than if you were boiling it, but we don’t want it to take forever, so crank it up and let it go for 15 minutes or so, until it reaches your desired tenderness.
  3. Spread your pasta down into the sauce — try to make sure you don’t have too many sticking out or they may be dry.
  4. Don’t overcook — cooking pasta in the slow cooker takes longer than in boiling water, but it’s not going to take more than 20-25 minutes, so check at the 15 minute mark, and then try to gauge how much longer it needs at that point.
plate of slow cooker baked ziti with parmesan and parsley on top.
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Variations on this Slow Cooker Baked Ziti:

I have one other confession: my Ziti is not Ziti. It’s Penne.

But you know what?

Ziti is not that easy to find around here, and since my “Baked” Ziti isn’t all that traditional in the first place, why cause a big fuss about it? (If you’re looking for another untraditional “Baked Ziti” recipe that doesn’t cook all day, try this One Pot Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage!)

If you insist, you can easily swap the penne for ziti noodles, and nothing will change.

Here are a few more ways to mix things up if you want:

  • Try swapping ground beef for loose Italian sausage for a slightly spicy, extra flavorful kick.
  • Try swapping ½ cup of the broth for ½ cup of cream for a creamy, tomato-based pasta
  • You can easily swap the penne or ziti noodles for spaghetti and end up with spaghetti and meat sauce — just cut down the cook time on the noodles and stir every 5 minutes until cooked.
  • You can easily bump up the veggie content by adding shredded carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, bell peppers, finely chopped kale or spinach — and no one will know!
close up image of crockpot baked ziti on plate.

More Crock Pot Pasta recipes:

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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

4.87 from 257 votes
This Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is actually made completely in the crockpot — even the pasta! It is so much easier than the traditional version but packs all of the same flavor!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Main Course
Servings 8 servings
Calories 385cal


  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey or Italian sausage)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 650 ml jar pasta sauce about 2 ½ cups
  • 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 375 gram box Penne or Ziti or other short pasta (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  • In a large skillet, cook ground beef and onion until browned. Stir in garlic and salt and cook 1 minute. (OPTIONAL: you can also add the raw onion and spices right into the slow cooker to save on time)
  • Add beef mixture, basil, parsley, tomatoes, pasta sauce and water to a 4qt (or larger) slow cooker. Stir.
  • Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours.
  • Turn slow cooker to high. Add pasta and stir until combined. Cover and continue cooking for 15-30 minutes (depending on how hot your slow cooker is) — check and stir at the 15 minute mark.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and cover for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 385cal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 988mg | Potassium: 639mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 565IU | Vitamin C: 16.1mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 3.1mg

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Rebecca says

    AMAZING! I’m making this dish again, for a meal train. How should I tell the couple to reheat the dish? I’ve got it in a metal pan.

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Dee! I know other readers have with great success. Add it with the pasta. You can use either but if it id frozen, I’d let it thaw first. Enjoy!

  2. Robin says

    Unfortunately, mine turned out more like soup than the picture above. Next time I might try leaving out the chicken broth and adding extra pasta and hope it thickens more like a baked pasta casserole. As it stands, dinner tonight is kind of a disaster and no amount of mozzarella on top is going to help, unfortunately.

  3. Austen says

    Hello everyone, dinners have always been especially hard for me. So im getting into the world of slow cooking on a crock pot and this will be my first recipe that I will be attempting. I have followed the instructions to the T. One question tho, should I let my crock pot heat up before adding the ingredients? If so for how long? I hope it turns out good, but also its a very cheap ingredient list I believe for everything it was around 35 dollars for all of the ingredients. If youre more thrift could get probably get everything for about 25$

  4. catie says

    hi! This turned out delicious; but I don’t think the advertising “cooks in one pot!” is correct since you have to brown on the oven before putting it in. I look for one pot meals that I don’t have to do any prior prepping (besides cutting and chopping) for. Willl make again. Thank you.

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Catie! Glad it turned out for you! You don’t have to brown the meat before adding it but there are advantages to doing it. While it is an extra step, I see it being beneficial.

  5. leigh pariseau says

    100 degrees in Massachusetts today and I’m craving pasta. Just put this all in the slow cooker but am wondering if it should be covered prior to adding the pasta? Thank you.

  6. Venda says

    I will dig out my crock pot to try this, but I’m a pressure cooker girl and make this with chicken. Straight from frozen meat. Always delicious.

  7. Trey says

    This is monthly go-to. It’s so easy and delicious! I usually double the meat using 1 lb of ground sirloin and 1 lb of ground Italian sausage. I also use a bit more broth and noodles to account for it. Can’t miss with this recipe!

  8. Angela says

    We love this recipe! It is now a weekly dinner must have. I made it for the church youth group and the kids all came back for 2nds and some 3rds! I season the meat with Italian seasonings and use rigatoni but other than that I follow the recipe.

  9. Mary says

    I haven’t tried this yet, but I have loved every recipe of yours that I’ve tried. I’m trying to cut back on carbs and wondered if you thought veggie based pasta would work? I can’t wait to try it out!

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Mary, I can’t say for sure since I haven’t tested it out, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

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