Slow-Cooker Pasta Bake


I don’t mean to turn this into a confessional, but this dish came together because I saw a jar of marinara sauce sitting on the kitchen counter. Hey, inspiration comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. But this is a traditional baked ziti with creamy ricotta and mozzarella, salty parm, and tender pasta, all just so yummy together, plus the carrots and zucchini. On occasion when I’m really busy, I’ll go to the grocery store and get vegetables already chopped, and throw everything into the slow cooker for a nice dinner later on. It’s a shortcut on top of a shortcut. I’m gentle when folding in the spinach, as the pasta could start to fall apart if you do this with hurried, crushing blows. Tom and I both like this with a fresh Caesar salad, but any crisp, cold, and simple green salad will go well with this dish.Excerpted from Valerie’s Home Cooking by Valerie Bertinelli. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved. Slideshow: More Baked Pasta Recipes 

Slow Cooker Pasta Bake
Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 45 mins


  • 4 cups jarred marinara sauce

  • 12 ounces uncooked ziti pasta

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese (about 12 ounces)

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

  • 1 (2-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 3 cups roughly chopped baby spinach

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves


  1. Lightly coat a 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add the marinara sauce, pasta, zucchini, carrots, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, olives, and water; stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW until the pasta is tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours.

  2. Gently fold in the spinach until wilted. Spoon into serving bowls, and top evenly with the basil.

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