Let’s address the elephant in the room right up front. The title says “baked.” But, there is no baking involved in this recipe. Crock pot baked ziti is cooked 100% in a slow cooker. That’s right, you don’t even have to boil the noodles on a stove top first.
I had no intention of deceiving anyone. There just isn’t a better way to describe this recipe…it tastes just like the baked version and it looks like it came out of the oven too. It’s just a whole lot easier to make this three cheese pasta favorite in a slower cooker. I still love baked pasta dishes, such as Roasted Vegetable Lasagna. But, it’s hard to resist the appeal of a meal that requires so little work.
Here’s an old family recipe:
Crock Pot Baked Ziti Step-by-Step
1. Coat the inside of the crock with cooking spray. (There is very little mess if you do this…really!)
2 Rinse the noodles in a colander and set them aside. (This step seems to get the process of softening the noodles started.)
3. The cheese mixture is made with ricotta cheese, egg whites, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper. (A little minced garlic would be nice too.)
4. Layer the ingredients in the crock pot as follows:
- Place half the noodles (about 2-1/2 cups) in the bottom of the crock.
- Pour 2 cups of pasta sauce over the noodles. (FYI – A 24 ounce jar has 2 1/2 cups of sauce.) I stirred the pasta and sauce together to coat the noodles and then used a spoon to make sure the noodles were in an even layer.
- If you want some meat or vegetables in your baked ziti, add them here. Sprinkle cooked ground beef or sliced vegetables, like mushroom and spinach, to make the next layer. (Or, as we do at our house, make the layer half meat and half veges.)
- Divide the cheese mixture in half. (I just take a spoon, eyeball it and draw a line down the middle of the bowl.) Drop small spoonfuls of the cheese mixture all over the top of the previous layer and then use the back of a spoon (or your fingers) to gently press the mixture into an even layer.
- Repeat the layers.
- Pour the remaining cup of pasta sauce over the top and use a spoon to evenly spread it.
5. Cook the ziti on low for 4-5 hours. (To test if it is done, use a fork to dig out a few noodles to taste.)
6. Remove the lid and sprinkle additional mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the top and garnish with basil. Turn off the slow cooker. Put the lid back on and allow cheeses to melt. It takes about 10 minutes.
7. Serve crock pot baked ziti right out of the crockery.
This recipe was a bit of a reminder for me that the slow cooker can be used for many, many things…things you may have read about, but not tried before. If your slow cooker is collecting dust from limited use (as mine was,) I suggest you drag it out and try this crock pot baked ziti recipe right away. As for my crew, they can look forward to a a lot more “baked” pasta in our dinner rotation.
- 1 lb. box of ziti noodles, uncooked
- 15 ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese
- 2 egg whites or 1 egg
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese + ¼ cup divided
- ½ cup + 1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 24-ounce jars pasta sauce
- 7-8 fresh basil leaves, sliced thin or ½ teaspoon dried basil
- Coat the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray.
- Rinse noodles in a colander and set aside.
- Combine ricotta, egg whites, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
- Place half of the noodles (about 2½ cups) in the crock pot.
- Pour 2 cups of pasta sauce over the noodles and use a spoon to make sure the noodles and pasta sauce are evenly layered in the bottom of the crock pot.
- Layer half of the ricotta mixture in the crock pot by dropping small spoonfuls and then using the back of a spoon or fingers to create an even layer of cheese.
- Repeat the noodle, pasta sauce and cheese layers.
- Evenly pour the remaining pasta sauce (about 1 cup) over the top.
- Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.
- Remove lid and sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese over the top. Replace lid and allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.
- Garnish with basil.
- Serve from crock pot.
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