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I can’t remember if I’ve said this before or not, but the Crockpot is a relatively new kitchen gadget for me. I purchased my first slow cooker about 2 years ago when I needed to spend some KOHLS cash. Like most of us I started out with simple stews and shredded meats. Since these first experiences of crockpot cooking, I’ve been having fun reinventing some old fashioned classics that are not always associated with slow cookers.
Over the last year I have successfully made lentil soup, minestrone, risotto, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and spaghetti squash. But the dish that I have had the most fun trying out is this crockpot “baked” ziti. This “baked”(or not so baked) ziti was one of those dishes that I just knew I needed to try. I was a true skeptic when I heard you could make ziti or even lasagna in the crockpot. Imagine my surprise when I tried this for the first time and it was not just easy but GOOD – like really, really,really good!!
Of course right now you’re asking yourself (like I did) “why should I try this when I can just make it in the oven?”, or maybe you’re thinking “baked ziti in the crockpot – really?! How’s that gonna taste?”
The answer is: have some fun and give it a try because it tastes as good as your favorite baked ziti recipe. I trust this dish enough to say you’ll be glad you did.
Since I initially tried this dish for the first time out of sheer curiosity, I decided to use my basic ziti recipe and pre cook the pasta – just under al dente. I know cooking the pasta takes away from the convenience of one pot cooking, but I just can’t wrap my head around not cooking it. Sorry, that’s the old fashioned Italian upbringing in me. I hope you’ll cut me a break – I’ve already raised a few Italian ‘brows by putting my name on this dish to begin with!
And I give you my “Not so baked – Baked Ziti”
Keep the ingredients simple the first time and then get fancy: ziti pasta;basic tomato sauce; shredded mozzarella cheese; ricotta cheese; grated parmesan cheese;olive oil spray.
- To begin, I cook the pasta slightly for about 5 minutes in salted boiling water (just enough to take some of the hardness out). While the pasta cooks I combine the cheeses in a bowl and set aside. When the pasta is cooked just enough, I drain it and then add it back to the pot.
TIP: I like to leave a little water behind in the pot when draining. Then I add some of the sauce, the cheese mixture, and mix it all together
2. The next step is the most important – in order to prevent sticking I spray the crockpot with olive oil spray. Then take a few tablespoons of sauce and spoon it into the bottom of the crock pot. You can also add a few tablespoons of water to thin it out a bit.
TIP: You could also coat it with olive oil using a paper towel. Just make sure the bottom and the sides are coated well.
3. Then, I add all the pasta to the pot and evenly spread it around. When done spreading, I pour the remaining sauce over the top, set the crockpot to low and cover. At about 1 hour and 45 minutes check the pasta for doneness. When the pasta is cooked to my liking I sprinkle some more grated cheese and the remaining shredded mozzarella over the top and cover. Turn off the crockpot and let the cheese melt. It should take about 15 minutes.
TIP: you don’t want to lift the lid too much as it reduces the internal temperature, but the first time you prepare this you should check once in the middle of the cooking time to make sure nothing is burning.
I let the pasta set a bit before cutting into it. It is delicious and the cheese melts just perfectly (at least for us)! Give this a try you won’t miss the oven on this one!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This recipe was originally posted in February 2014 and the contents have been modified and updated.
Crockpot "baked" Ziti
- 1 box of ziti - partially cooked approximately 7 minutes
- 32 oz of tomato sauce more if needed/desired
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese + 1divided = 1 1/2 cups
- 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese + 1/4divided = 3/4 cup
- cooking spray
- Optional: Salt and pepper
- Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray (coat well). Put pasta in salted boiling water until less than half cooked (aprox. 7 minutes). Drain the pasta and then add back to the pot. In a bowl Combine ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.Mix about 3 cups of sauce and ricotta mixture together with pasta
- Take about 1/4 cup of sauce (a few tablespoons of water if necessary to spread it out over the bottom of the pan). Pour the pasta into the crockpot ; flatten the pasta down with the back of a spoon. Pour remaining sauce over the top. Gently run a spatula/spoon along the edges of the crockpot. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for about 2 hours.
- After 2 hours lift the lid and sprinkle the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on the top. Cover and turn the crockpot setting to "warm" or turn off. After about 10-15 minutes the cheese will melt. Enjoy warm.
NOTE: I don’t use jarred sauces so I can not recommend a brand but I can tell you my favorite and most used cheese is the grated parmesan cheese made by Cello and Polly-o ricotta cheese – both of which I get at my local Costco.