Crock-Pot Baked Ziti

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Discover a whole new way for you to spoil your pasta-loving family with this Crock-Pot Baked Ziti—ground beef, vegetables, and two types of cheese that meld together for this slow-cooked Italian comfort food.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe featured image below

When I think of comfort food, two things come to mind (actually, a lot of things come to mind but these two are near the top of the list): pasta and my Crock Pot. Usually when I use the latter, it involves meats and broths. Pasta is a stovetop menu item. Recently though, I’ve been experimenting with baked pasta, using different noodles like my Baked Spaghetti to create something akin to casseroles.

So it was just a matter of time before I glanced over at my Crock Pot, sitting innocently on my counter, and wondered whether I could relocate my baked Italian dishes to its warm embrace. Turns out, I could! The result is this recipe, in which I’ve taken ziti—a noodle long associated with baked pastas – and mixed it together with meat, veggies, and cheese to produce something spectacular.

Is a Crock Pot the Same As A Slow Cooker? //

A Crock Pot is a slow cooker but a slow cooker isn’t always a Crock Pot. You follow? It works the same way that Kleenex is a facial tissue but a facial tissue isn’t necessarily a Kleenex. This is all to say that Crock Pot (and Kleenex, while we’re at it) is a brand whereas a slow cooker is the kitchen appliance. They were developed in the 1940s as a solution to mothers’ increased appearances in the workplace. They could set it up in the morning and have a meal ready for the family in the evening when they come home from work.

The company with the patent was then bought by another company in 1970, at which point they redeveloped that earlier invention and re-introduced it to the American public under the name Crock Pot. Such was their popularity that consumers simply referred to any slow cooker by the brand name. Crock Pots in general tend to keep their interfaces simple, while others seem to require a computer science degree in order to operate them. For me, as long as it has the LOW and HIGH temperature settings, I’m happy.

Ingredients //

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large celery stick
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 lb. dried ziti
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • salt and pepper
Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe ingredients

How To Make Crock-Pot Baked Ziti // The Steps

Step 1: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and beef. Sauté for 5–8 minutes until it’s browned.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe step 1

Step 2: Add the cooked meat into the Crock Pot along with the oregano, thyme, ziti, crushed tomato, beef stock, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe step 2

Step 3: In a bowl, mix the egg with the shredded mozzarella, ricotta, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe step 3

Step 4: Spread the ricotta mix over the meat and ziti mix. Set the Crock Pot on HIGH for 1.5–2 hours or until the pasta is cooked and the cheese oozes.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe step 4

Top Tips For a Perfect Crock-Pot Baked Ziti

  • Layer the dish for appearance’s sake, with the crushed tomato on the bottom, then the meat mix, then the ziti, then the ricotta mix.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray all around the interior of the Crock Pot to ensure your ingredients don’t stick to the surface.
  • The pasta should be al dente, so slightly firm to the bite. Sample one or two to be certain it’s ready and prevent it from turning mushy.
  • Before cooking, flatten the meat with a spatula to ensure even cooking and pack in the pasta. It will be easier to serve.
  • Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes after cooking to let it cool and make it easier to serve.
  • Use ground beef with a higher fat content (i.e., not lean or extra-lean). Higher fat brings the flavor you’re after.
Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe featured image below

FAQs //

Can I cook this on LOW?

Sure, it should take 4–6 hours, the exact time coming down the size and wattage of your Crock Pot.

How do I “burn” the cheese on top?

For that effect, you’ll need to put the Crock-Pot insert in the oven under BROIL and keep watch until you adequately singe the cheese.

Can I switch up the order of the layers?

You could move the pasta to the bottom then pour the stock or crushed tomato over top so that the noodles have a liquid to cook evenly in. The cheese should remain on top.

Can I switch up the pasta?

Sure. I use ziti because it is the noodle most associated with baked-pasta dishes. I also prefer short tube noodles, as they retain the sauce in their hollow and are easier to scoop and serve. But if you wanted to try other noodles both short and long, be my guest.

Which other ingredients can I add?

For veggies, I would consider thawed spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms. For seasoning, you could sprinkle some red pepper flakes in with the meat, as well as fresh basil or parsley. Ground sausage could be incorporated into the ground beef. And when in doubt, add wine!

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe featured image below

Serving Suggestions //

This dish, with its mix of meat, pasta, and veggies, can be served on its own as a complete meal, though if you have many mouths to feed, serve alongside it some Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic and Parmesan or Roasted Vegetable and Farro Salad with Pomegranates. For more greens, how about some Broccoli Rabe? Add to everything a side of crusty bread and a glass of wine then finish it off with an Italian-inspired dessert: Tiramisu Cupcakes!

How to Store Crock-Pot Baked Ziti //

Let the baked ziti cool completely then store in the fridge for no longer than 4 days. You can either keep it covered in the Crock-Pot insert or relocate the dish to a separate airtight container (provided I have room in my fridge, I usually just take out the insert and use that for storage). What’s more, you can then put the entire dish in the oven to reheat. If you’re in a hurry, you can take the ziti out of the Crock-Pot insert and microwave it. To freeze, move the ziti to a freezer-safe container and keep it in there no longer than 2 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe featured image above
Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe featured image below

Crock Pot Baked Ziti Recipe

Discover a whole new way for you to spoil your pasta-loving family with this Crock-Pot Baked Ziti—ground beef, vegetables, and two types of cheese meld together for this slow-cooked Italian comfort food.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 large stick of celery
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 lb. dried ziti
  • 2 cans tomatoes crushed
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups mozzarella shredded
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and beef. Sauté for 5–8 minutes until it is browned.
  • Add the cooked meat into the crockpot along with the oregano, thyme, ziti, crushed tomato, beef stock, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, mix the egg with the shredded mozzarella, ricotta, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Spread the ricotta mix over the meat and ziti mix. Set the Crock Pot on HIGH for 1.5–2 hours or until the pasta is cooked and the cheese oozes.

Notes

  • The pasta should be al dente, so slightly firm to the bite. Sample one or two to be certain it’s ready and prevent it from turning mushy.
  • Before cooking, flatten the meal with a spatula to ensure even cooking and pack in the pasta. It will be easier to serve.
  • Let the pasta sit for 10 minutes after cooking to let it cool and make it easier to serve.
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