Crockpot Pasta is one of those recipes that makes me feel like I’ve got it all together. The slow cooker makes the recipe prep easy-breezy, and its traditional Italian flavors rival pasta dishes I’ve ordered at restaurants.

A slow cooker filled with healthy vegetarian crock pot pasta topped with cheese

This recipe was inspired by classic Italian baked pasta dishes such as baked penne and baked ziti.

They’re generally served casserole-style and best known for their copious quantities of Bolognese sauce, cheese, more sauce, and more cheese.

This Crockpot Pasta Recipe is Healthy and Easy

I love to take these classic Italian dishes and give them a wholesome makeover, as I did with this Crock Pot Chicken Marsala and Turkey Bolognese.

  • This crock pot pasta recipe is lightened-up and better for you, but it keeps all the cheesy satisfaction. (If you love classic recipes with healthy swaps, you’ll love this Eggplant Lasagna and Zucchini Lasagna too.)
  • Instead of the red meat usually chosen for baked pastas, I used a vegetarian base of sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, and spinach. They sneak in servings of veggies, provide layers of flavor and texture, and make this pasta plenty satisfying, sans meat.
  • Best of all, this slow cooker pasta recipe is simple to make, and it yields a large enough batch to feed a whole family Italian food–loving wolves. Kids love it too, so if you want crock pot pasta for a crowd, this is the recipe for you (as is Crockpot Lasagna).
Healthy vegetarian crock pot pasta in a slow cooker with cheese, penne pasta, and marinara sauce

How to Make Slow Cooker Pasta

This vegetarian Italian slow cooker pasta is a cinch!

Only a few minutes of chopping, sautéing, and layering, then you can set the timer on the slow cooker and go about your day.

The Ingredients

  • Whole Wheat Pasta. One of the easiest ways to instantly make a pasta recipe healthier is to use a whole grain option instead of white. Whole grains are higher in fiber, protein, and nutrients. You won’t notice the difference. I used penne for this recipe, but you could use any kind you like. I just wouldn’t recommend a long noodle like spaghetti.

Dietary Note

  • If you need to make this slow cooker pasta gluten free, you could experiment with gluten free noodles in place of the whole wheat option.
  • Please note that gluten free noodles usually cook much faster than regular noodles, so be sure to check early.
  • Cheese. This recipe uses the trifecta of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese (I used part-skim ricotta and mozzarella to keep it light). While the pasta cooks, the cheeses turn into a tantalizing triumph of melty, gooey, and creamy.
  • Veggies. The key to a nutrient-dense and flavorful pasta. This recipe uses a delightful combination of mushrooms, red onion, red pepper, and spinach. While I love this crock pot pasta with spinach, I know spinach can be a controversial subject in some households, so it can be omitted if needed.
  • Pasta Sauce. I used store-bought tomato pasta sauce for an easy shortcut. Pick one with minimal added sugars and a stand-out flavor. Roasted garlic is one of my go-tos.

Dietary Note

  • You may have noticed that this recipe does not include any meat. For those of you who can’t imagine your crock pot pasta without meat, you can certainly still add it (crock pot pasta with ground beef, Italian sausage, or ground turkey would be delicious).
  • I recommend browning the meat with the veggies before adding to the slow cooker.
Healthy vegetarian crock pot pasta in a slow cooker topped with cheese

The Directions

  1. Sauté vegetables. Add spinach and garlic.
  2. Combine ricotta, egg, salt, and pepper. Stir in mozzarella and Parmesan.
  3. Grease slow cooker. Spread a thin layer of sauce, then top with half of your uncooked pasta. Pour in more sauce, top with half of the ricotta mixture, then add half the vegetables.
vegetables for healthy crock pot pasta in a slow cooker
  1. Repeat these layers. Pour over sauce. Cover and cook.
Crock Pot Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms, Ricotta, and mozzarella in a slow cooker
  1. Melt mozzarella cheese on top. Serve warm with fresh herbs. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store cooked leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • To Freeze. Place cooked crockpot pasta in an airtight freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To Reheat. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat servings gently in the microwave, splashed with a bit of chicken or vegetable broth, water, or extra sauce to keep it from drying out. You could also try reheating it in a casserole dish, covered, in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through.

Meal Prep Tip

I love making this recipe in advance, freezing it, and enjoying the leftovers as I need a quick, tasty lunch or dinner. It reheats like a dream!

easy vegetarian Crock Pot Pasta in a slow cooker

What to Serve With Crockpot Pasta

While this crock pot pasta makes a wonderful meal all on its own, here are a few ideas of what to serve with it.

Recommended Tools to Make Slow Cooker Pasta

Programmable Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is a healthy way to cook and the perfect appliance for hands-free cooking. This model automatically switches to a warm setting when the cook time has ended.

I know you’re going to love the ease and cheesy flavors of this delicious crock pot pasta!

Crock Pot Pasta

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Put Dry Pasta in the Slow Cooker?

Yes! One of the beauties of this recipe is that even the pasta noodles cook in the slow cooker. They are added to the slow cooker dry along with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the tomato sauce liquid.

How Can I Keep Pasta from Going Mushy in the Slow Cooker?

To keep pasta from becoming mushy in the crock pot, be sure to check for doneness periodically and serve once they are tender. It takes slow cooker pasta 3 to 4 hours on low or 1 to 2 hours on high. Check pasta doneness sooner than later, especially as some slow cookers are more powerful than others.

Can Veggies Be Added Raw to the Slow Cooker Raw for Slow Cooker Pasta?

I would not recommend putting the veggies in raw, because when they’re sautéed first rather than added raw they release some liquid, which helps keep the pasta from getting too soggy in the slow cooker. Also, raw veggies may still be crunchy when the pasta is finished cooking.

Slow Cooker Pasta

4.80 from 10 votes
This easy, healthy slow cooker pasta bake is cheesy, saucy, and packed with vegetables. Everything cooks in the crockpot, even the raw penne!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 10 mins

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces sliced cremini baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 small red onion or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper cored and diced
  • 5 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach about 4 ounces
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (1 container)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese about 1 1/4 ounces
  • 2 jars good-quality red pasta sauce (24-ounce jars) divided
  • 16 ounces uncooked whole wheat ziti or penne noodles, or swap a similar short, hollow noodle—see notes if not using whole wheat
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley, optional for serving

Instructions
 

  • Heat the olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and onions, and sauté until they're beginning to brown and soften, about 6 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for 3 minutes, then add the garlic. Add the spinach a few handfuls at a time, stirring and cooking until spinach wilts and the garlic smells fragrant, 1 to 2 additional minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, and pepper, until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan.
  • Generously coat the inside of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, then top with half of the pasta noodles. Pour 2 cups sauce over the top and spread it into an even layer with the back of a spoon or spatula. Dollop half of the ricotta mixture on top, then sprinkle with half of the sautéed vegetables.
  • Repeat the layers: remaining noodles, 2 cups of sauce, remaining ricotta, and remaining vegetables. Pour the remaining sauce on top and spread evenly. Cover and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or on high for 1 to 2 hours. Check at the 3 (on low) or 1 (on high) hour mark to ensure the pasta does not over cook. To check for doneness, use a fork to pull a “test” noodle from the center of the slow cooker. Once it is tender, the pasta is done.
  • Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover, turn the heat to high, and cook until the cheese is melted, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm, topped with chopped fresh basil or parsley.

Notes

  • I have only tested this recipe with whole wheat pasta noodles. If you use white, please note that the cooking time may vary. I would suggest checking the pasta early, as white noodles can cook more quickly than whole wheat ones.
  • TO STORE: Store cooked leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • TO FREEZE: Place cooked crockpot pasta in an airtight, freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to 3 months. 
  • TO REHEAT: Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat servings gently in the microwave, splashed with a bit of chicken or vegetable broth, water, or extra sauce to keep it from drying out. You could also try reheating it in a casserole dish, covered, in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 546kcalCarbohydrates: 69gProtein: 32gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 75mgPotassium: 848mgFiber: 4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 3485IUVitamin C: 34mgCalcium: 570mgIron: 3mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Can I substitute a white sauce for the red? Like an alfrdeo sauce? Would it need extra water/cream/evaporated milk to help the noodles cook Or to keep it from sticking or clumping together? Wanting to make a16 oz of noodles, like linguine or fettuccine, in my 6 qt slow cooker. Maybe add some butter too to keep it creamy? Cream cheese might be too heavy or not blend well?
    My kids prefer a white sauce, so I would like to make ahead & keep it warm for them after weeknight practices.
    Thanks for your help! :)

    1. Hi Fran! Any kind of pasta sauce should work, whether it’s red or white. I would not recommend a long noodle. Other than that, you would be experimenting with substitutions because I’ve only tested this recipe as written. Hope this helps.

  2. I liked the flavors, I made it as written with the addition of some mild Italian sausage mixed with the veggies as instructed as optional.

    The problem I experienced was that the noodles didn’t cook evenly in the crockpot. The noodles along the outside and bottom were overcooked and the middle they were still stiff.

    I think next time I make this, I will boil the noodles, use half the sauce, and bake it in the oven, that way I can still get the flavor but the noodles will be properly cooked.4 stars

    1. Hi Abbi, I am glad you enjoyed the flavors. It’s hard to know what went wrong without being in the kitchen with you. The amount of sauce in this should help get those noodles in the middle cook. I wished this would of been a success for you.

  3. This recipe was excellent!! I’m not a big fan of mushrooms so I replaced those with zucchini (still 16 ounces) cut into 1/4 inch rounds. Absolutely delicious!!!5 stars

    1. Hi Teresa, I’ve only tested the recipe as written so I can say for sure how you would make it if trying to make it in the oven. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  4. My husband is vegetarian (and picky one at that) and doesn’t like mushrooms. Do you have a substitute that may work well?

    1. Hi Taylor! I’ve only tested it with mushrooms but maybe you could either leave them out or try something like carrots or zucchini. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

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