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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti recipe

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Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is a comforting and hearty dish that brings together tender pasta, savory meat sauce, and creamy cheeses, all cooked to perfection in a convenient slow cooker. This recipe is perfect for busy days when you want a satisfying meal without spending too much time in the kitchen. Let’s dive into how to make this delicious dish step-by-step.

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef, cooked thoroughly
  • 2 jars (24 ounces each) of Italian pasta sauce
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) box of penne pasta
  • 15 ounces Ricotta cheese
  • 15 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh basil (optional, for garnish)
  • 2 cups freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese

Equipment Needed

  • 6-quart slow cooker
  • Skillet or frying pan
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cooking utensils (spoon, spatula)
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Instructions

Step 1: Cook the Ground Beef

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the ground beef.
  2. Cook the beef, breaking it apart with a spoon or spatula, until it is browned and cooked through.
  3. Drain any excess grease from the beef and set it aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Slow Cooker

  1. Lightly grease the insert of your slow cooker to prevent sticking.
  2. Alternatively, you can use a slow cooker liner for easier cleanup.

Step 3: Layering the Ingredients

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  1. Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  2. Add half of the cooked penne pasta to the slow cooker, spreading it out evenly.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the cooked ground beef with one jar of pasta sauce and the tomato paste. Mix well.
  4. Spoon half of the meat sauce mixture over the pasta in the slow cooker, spreading it evenly.
  5. In another mixing bowl, combine the Ricotta cheese, eggs, and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix until well combined.
  6. Spoon half of the Ricotta mixture over the meat sauce layer in the slow cooker, spreading it evenly.
  7. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over the Ricotta mixture.

Step 4: Repeat the Layers

  1. Add the remaining penne pasta to the slow cooker, spreading it out evenly.
  2. Spoon the remaining meat sauce mixture over the pasta, spreading it evenly.
  3. Spoon the remaining Ricotta mixture over the meat sauce, spreading it evenly.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the Ricotta mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the top.

Step 5: Cook the Ziti

  1. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, until the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  2. Avoid stirring during cooking to maintain the layers, but you can gently press down any pasta that might be poking out of the sauce to ensure even cooking.

Step 6: Serve and Garnish

  1. Once cooked, turn off the slow cooker and let the Baked Ziti sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving.
  2. Garnish with chopped fresh basil if desired before serving.

Tips for Success

  • Pasta Texture: Ensure the pasta is fully submerged in sauce to cook evenly. Avoid overcooking to prevent mushy pasta.
  • Cheese Mixture: Mixing eggs with Ricotta helps bind the layers together and adds creaminess to the dish.
  • Slow Cooker Settings: Adjust cooking times based on your slow cooker’s settings. Check pasta tenderness towards the end of cooking.
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or oven.

Slow Cooker Baked Ziti is a crowd-pleasing meal that combines classic Italian flavors with the convenience of a slow cooker. It’s perfect for family dinners, potlucks, or anytime you crave a comforting pasta dish without the hassle of extensive cooking. Follow these steps, and you’ll have a delicious, cheesy Baked Ziti ready to enjoy with minimal effort.

Enjoy your Slow Cooker Baked Ziti, and savor the hearty flavors that make it a favorite comfort food dish!