Try this Crock-Pot Baked Ziti if you can't eat it because you’re gluten free or find it too time-consuming to make.
This gluten free baked ziti is super easy to make and it cooks the ziti pasta for you.
Plus, it’s so delicious that people won't believe that this ziti recipe is gluten free.
Ziti is the ultimate comfort food and makes a terrific family meal.
Why should you make crock-pot baked ziti?
When I think of baked ziti, I always think of my husband’s best friend who’s from Long Island. Like many New Yorkers, he loves Italian food.
When we’re over his house for dinner, his wife, makes ziti. I just have a taste since it's not gluten free.
So I thought, why not come up with a crock-pot baked ziti recipe? One that would be so delicious that no one would notice that it’s gluten free?
This will soon become one of your favorite go to Italian recipes.
What equipment do you need to make slow cooker baked ziti?
I always hated that most people make baked ziti in large disposable aluminum pans. It seems so wasteful.
That’s why I came up with this crock-pot baked ziti recipe. Here’s what you need to make it:
Crock-pot: You’ll need a six-quart crockpot for crock-pot baked ziti. I especially like Crock-Pot’s 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry.
Cook and carries make bringing a slowed cooked dish to a potluck party so much more convenient.
Liners: For easy cleanup, I recommend slow cooker liners.
In this recipe, the pasta tends to stick to the pot. Using liners save you from having to soak the crockpot overnight and scrub it using Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser and a scouring pad.
Case: If you’re thinking of bringing this ziti dish to a party, make sure to get a Crock-Pot carrying case.
I have one and use it all the time since they keep your food insulated and easy to carry.
How to make crock-pot baked ziti
1. Coat a six-quart slow cooker with cooking spray or line with a slow cooker liner. Set aside.
2. Remove the sausage from its casings.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage, chopped onions, and garlic for 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Break up sausage with the back of your spoon as it cooks. Drain and set aside.
(If sausage seems very greasy, blot with a clean, dry paper towel.)
3. In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg whites, basil, oregano, and 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined.
4. In the crock-pot, layer:
- 1 jar of the pasta sauce
- half of the meat mixture
- 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese
- one package of uncooked penne pasta
- half of the ricotta mixture
Evenly distribute each layer.
6. Then top with the remaining jar of sauce and evenly sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheese over top.
7. Cover and cook the uncooked ziti on low for 5 hours or until the penne pasta is tender.
8. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Don’t overcook or the edges of the ziti pasta will get scorched and dried out.
What type of sausage?
You can make this with two kinds of Italian sausage – spicy and mild. I use both in this recipe.
However, if you like spicy, go ahead and use only spicy Italian sausage. If you don’t like spicy, just use mild Italian sausage.
You can also make your own homemade Italian sausage. This allows you to control the spiciness or the type of meat (ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey).
One of my readers asked if you can use chorizo. If you like super spicy Mexican sausage, go for it!
You can also make homemade chorizo sausage, which will help cut back on the greasiness and control the spiciness, too.
However, sausage can be very greasy, so make sure to blot it well with a paper towel after cooking it.
What type of sauce?
To make this crock-pot baked ziti recipe even easier, I used a three jars of pasta sauce from the store.
I usually make my own spaghetti sauce from canned tomato sauce, garlic, and Italian seasoning.
However, since this is an easy crockpot baked ziti recipe, why not use a jarred sauce?
But you can use your own homemade sauce or a meat sauce, you can use that if you prefer.
What kind of gluten free pasta?
Then I went over to the pasta section and got the store brand gluten free penne pasta, which is just like ziti.
I love my grocery store’s gluten free pasta since it tastes just as good as regular pasta.
This way I don’t have to prepare a gluten free ziti for me and one for the rest of my family.
While I chose gluten free store brand penne, Barilla Gluten Free Penne works just as well. I usually choose which ever is cheaper the week when I’m making this gluten free ziti recipe.
What kind of cheese?
Ricotta cheese is a must-have to get the feel of traditional ziti. I used low fat ricotta.
Shredded cheese: to save time, buy a bag of finely shredded Italian cheese blend.
Italian cheese blends use a combination of Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese.
If you have a preference, you can buy bags of each separately and make your own blend.
Is shredded cheese gluten free? People who are gluten free may have concerns about store bought shredded cheese.
According to this article at Very Well Fit, both Kraft and Sargento consider their shredded cheeses to be gluten-free.
Sargento notes that the powdered cellulose it uses in its shredded cheese is not derived from a gluten grain.
Also, if anti-clumping agents used by manufacturers include powdered cellulose, the manufacturer should list it on the product's label.
So, if you have concerns or if you react to very low levels of gluten, you may want to shred your own cheese.
Gluten free? Double check your labels!
Cooking crock-pot baked ziti for someone who has celiacs or a gluten sensitivity? Make sure to read the labels of all the ingredients for any hidden sources of flour or gluten.
Don’t assume that because there wasn’t any last time you bought Italian sausage, there won’t this time. Always check the labels!
Tips on making slow cooker baked ziti
Here’s a picture of the step by step to make the layers in this recipe.
Goofed up? If you mixed up the layers, don’t worry. You can stir up the whole thing and top it off with 1/2 to 1 cup of the shredded cheese.
I’ve done this and it turned out fantastic! It’s more like a casserole than ziti, but it still tastes great.
What can you add to the ziti?
Add more flavor: Dress up the jars of plain pasta sauce with pepper flakes, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, or fresh herbs like fresh basil.
I do this when I'm cooking up "homemade" pasta sauce but don't want to start from scratch.
Vegetables: Sneak some veggies like diced zucchini or summer squash into one of the layers.
Different pasta: Ziti works just as well with regular or whole wheat pasta if you don't eat a gluten free diet.
The verdict on slow cooker ziti
My family were crazy for this baked ziti crock pot recipe!
My husband went back for thirds. My son ate leftovers for breakfast and took some to school for lunch the next day. My kids fought over the last plate.
Even the dog gave ziti two paws up when we accidentally dropped a few pieces on the floor!
More pasta recipes
If you love gluten free pasta recipes, check these pasta dishes out:
- Gluten Free Mac & Cheese Casserole
- Crab Pasta Recipe with Pesto, Mushrooms & Tomatoes
- Easy Pasta Recipe with Cannellini Beans & Italian Veggies
- Instant Pot Lasagna
- Leftover Turkey Soup Recipe (with noodles)
- Cooking spray
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage
- 1 pound spicy Italian sausage
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) container low fat ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
- 3 cups finely shredded Italian blend cheese, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 (26-ounce) jars tomato and basil pasta sauce
- 2 (12-ounce) packages uncooked gluten free penne rigate pasta
- Coat a six-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Remove sausage from its casings. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage, onion, and garlic 6 to 8 minutes, or until browned. Break up sausage with the back of your spoon as it cooks. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg whites, basil, oregano, and 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- In the slow cooker, layer 1 jar of pasta sauce. Then add half the sausage mixture, 1/2 cup Italian blend cheese, one package of the gluten free penne rigate pasta, and half the ricotta mixture. Evenly distribute each layer.
- Repeat. Then top with the remaining jar of sauce. Then evenly sprinkle 1 cup of Italian blend cheese over top.
- Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until pasta is tender.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 437mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 16g
Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.
Originally published on October 8, 2015 and November 3, 2016. Updated with new pictures and information.