Fire up the crock pot for the best baked ziti you will ever have. You may confuse it with great lasagna. With no precooking of the pasta, you will love this recipe.
This one takes just a bit more work than my normal slow cooker recipe, but it is so worth it. You can have great Italian at home.
Recipe note: this is a re-edit and re-publish of an under-appreciated recipe from December 5, 2013. I have re-edited the photos, buffed up the writing. This recipe was in my top 10 recipes of 2013. I have repeated it many times when I need a special casual family meal. You can not go wrong with this recipe. I guarantee it.
I rarely use the term “best” or anything similar. You will see me use easy, simple and other pronouns but I will it here. I can not imagine any crock pot ziti being better than this.
As I read the crock pot recipes, I realized they were not that different than the oven recipes except may use uncooked pasta (probably a good idea or you might have mush) and usually had a bit more liquid to help cook the pasta. So I thought I would model what I felt was the best, and that was a Pioneer Woman recipe for Bake Ziti . It was a bit more lasagna like with ricotta and parmesan cheese in addition to my normal mozzarella. I will never go back.
Notes about Crock Pot Baked Ziti
Baked Ziti is basically some kind of tomato sauce usually with meat in my house, but you could skip the meat if you must. Add in some kind of cheese and pasta and you have a classic Italian dish. There are variations, but that is basically it.
This is a cut-down recipe. I used my 3.5 qt crock pot, and this is “Cooking For Two” after all. This filled the pot about 75%, and that is really the most you should go so do not do in a smaller pot. This would be great to double and would fit in a 6.5 qt but would be marginal in a six qt.
Also, I used Penne noodles which are “almost” ziti noodles. Close enough.
Use the pasta you want. I happened to use Penne this time.
Start by place 1 pound of ground beef over medium high heat to brown. Then chop one small onion and crush two cloves of garlic and add while the meat is browning. Cook until no longer pink. About 9-10 minutes.
Combine 1 cup (8oz) ricotta cheese with one egg white, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 t dry parsley, 1/2 t salt. Do not over mix.
Mix 1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, 1 1/2 t basil, one t salt, 1/2 t pepper. Mix. Now drain the meat of extra fat and combine to make the meat sauce. You can add 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper if you wish. It will not add much heat.
Give a 3.5 qt. slow cooker a good spray of PAM. See Notes about crock pot sizes. Now you get to layer the dish. Put about 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in first and spread to cover the bottom. Add 1 cup of uncooked ziti noodles or other pasta.
Now add half the ricotta mixture by placing spoonfuls on the pasta. Add 1/2 cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese on top of that.
Now time to repeat. Add 1 1/2 cup meat sauce. Add 1 cup ziti noodles. Add the rest of the ricotta and 1/2 cup mozzarella. Top with the rest of the sauce and 1 cup of mozzarella.
Cook on low for 4-5 hours.
March 26, 2017