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.
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sauté vegetables. Add spinach and garlic.
- Combine ricotta, egg, salt, and pepper. Stir in mozzarella and Parmesan.
- 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.
- Repeat these layers. Pour over sauce. Cover and cook.
- Melt mozzarella cheese on top. Serve warm with fresh herbs. ENJOY!
- 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!
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.
- Salad. Add some more fresh, leafy greens to your table by serving this recipe with Arugula Salad or Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad.
- Bread. This deliciously cheesy recipe begs to be sopped up with some Rosemary Olive Oil Bread or Crock Pot Bread.
- Chicken. If you’d like protein on the side, try serving the pasta with simply Grilled Chicken Breast, Grilled Chicken Tenders, or Baked Chicken Breast.
- Roasted Vegetables. Toss a pan in the oven towards the end of the pasta’s cooking time. Classic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Roasted Zucchini, and Roasted Potatoes and Carrots are all lovely choices.
- Meatballs. Compliment the pasta with Italians’ favorite protein! Try beef Crockpot Meatballs or Baked Turkey Meatballs.
Recommended Tools to Make Slow Cooker Pasta
- Programmable Slow Cooker. This slow cooker switches to “keep warm” once the cooking time ends, so food is less likely to overcook.
- Sturdy non-slip cutting board. The best cutting board I’ve ever owned.
- Cheese grater. I like either a box grater like this or a microplane grater.
I know you’re going to love the ease and cheesy flavors of this delicious crock pot pasta!
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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Thanks so much for this recipe! It’s just my husband and I so I will print out for when we have guests! A crockpot of this and a crockpot of my meatballs will make everyone happy.
I think that sounds like a delicious combination, Christine! I hope you enjoy the recipe!
hey girl- this looks amazing! Yummy!
Thanks Shawnna! :)
Do you need 1 24oz jar of pasta or two?
Hi Alina! You need 2 jars.
Made this for a work party. Huge hit. Perfect dish to bring in that is ready by mid-day for the office. Vegetarian dish that even the meat-lovers enjoyed! Only complaint……no leftovers to bring home tonight for the hubby!!
Woohoo! Thanks so much for trying out the recipe, Peg! You’ll have to make another batch for leftovers… ;)
Took a chance on this tonight and it got two thumbs up from our entire family, including my picky husband! We’ve been trying to eat more meatless meals, and this one is going to be a regular. I love how easy it is to throw everything in the crock pot. Next time, I’m even giong to prep the veggies the night before so it’s even faster. Thank you for a great recipe!
Donna, I’m so happy to hear this recipe was a winner for your family! Prepping the veggies ahead is an excellent idea. Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback on the recipe!
I made this the other night with the whole wheat penne as suggested and it turned out great. It did take around 2 hours on high for my crock pot but understand that can vary between models. This recipe was easy and I would make it again. Thank you.
Renee, thanks so much for giving the recipe a try and taking the time to leave your feedback and this great review! I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe!
This recipe was absolutely amazing! All the flavors came together so perfectly. I watched the crockpot during the last hour, and stopped the process as soon as the pasta reached and almost Al dente state. I cannot praise recipe enough. Healthy ! And it feeds an army. I am going to freeze half of it next time as you suggested. Will make great quick lunches for work. Thank you, Erin.
YAY Toni! I’m excited to hear that the recipe was a hit! Thank you so much for trying it out and sharing your feedback!
Hi there! I’d like to try this, though I’m curious to know if you’ve experimented with not sauteeing the veggies first and just throwing in the slow cooker raw, tossed with EVOO? Thanks!
Hi Janine, I wouldn’t recommend putting the veggies in raw, because when they’re sautéed they release some liquid, which helps keep the pasta from getting too soggy in the slow cooker. I know that’s probably not the answer you were hoping for, but I want the recipe to turn out for you! I hope you enjoy it!
Ahh, good point! I didn’t think of that. Glad I asked. Thanks for your quick reply!
What about using gluten free penne noodles?
Hi K.D., I have only tested this recipe with whole wheat pasta noodles, so if you want to experiment with using GF noodles, know that the time and texture could be different. I would suggest checking the pasta early, as GF noodles may cook more quickly than whole wheat ones. I’d love to know how it comes out if you decide to experiment!
The gluten free noodles turned out excellent! I cooked them on high as the recipe says. At 1.5 hours the bottom was very crispy, almost burnt. The dish was super delicious!
Thanks so much for reporting back, K.D.! I’m so glad to hear it turned out and that you enjoyed the recipe!
Would it be possible to cook the veggies the night before?
Hi Tori, I haven’t tried that myself but I think it should work!
Amazing. Will definitely be making again.
YAY Kathy! I’m so glad to hear it was a hit—thanks for leaving this awesome review!
Hey Erin! Would it be possible to make this with ground beef? Just using it in place of the mushrooms? I’d sauté it with the onions and peppers and spinach!
Hi Rachelle, yes, I think that should work! Enjoy!
Tasty dish! Thanks for sharing!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Ana! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this review!
What red pasta sauce do you use for this? For pasta dishes, I usually use Newman’s marinara sauce because it has no added sugar. Thanks!
Hi Hollilyn! I love DeLallo, and Newman’s Own is also quite good! As far as flavors go, roasted garlic anything always catches my eye.
Would love to try this recipe but could I leave out the spinach or is there something else I could use? My husband and I can’t have Spinach , kidney stones.
Let me say everyone of your recipes I have tried have been fantastic and so easy to prepare
Hi Jan, you can substitute another leafy green if you can eat it, or you can simply leave the spinach out.
I made this for Valentine’s Day, I ran into many problems but my husband hadn’t a clue with how I plated it. He thought it looked fancy. Gluten free pasta (I used Barilla) didn’t cook as fast as a previous review, I had to take half out of cooker and put in Dutch oven with couple spoonfuls of water to cook pasta. I tried to preserve the layering but that didn’t match the instructions either. I used low-fat cottage cheese in place of ricotta (stores near me only had whole fat), I added some (cooked & seasoned) ground turkey to one layer with sauce for extra protein. I chgd red pepper to grn pepper & mushrooms to zucchini chunks per my husband’s preferences. And to save time I just added mozzarella and basil on top after plated and it melted fine, covering my top layer which was vegs instead of sauce I ran out of. I will try low n slow instead of high temp next time knowing in advance I will be cooking it all day. I served with baked onion rings per recipe on Allrecipes Chef John except I add a lot of kick w more cayenne and crushed red pepper than his instructions.
Thank you for sharing this kind review, Andrea! I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe!
you fail to include the amount of sodium for each serving for those of us who need to be careful due to heart problems. is there any way I could get this information?
I would love to try this ; looks delicious!
Hi Carrie! Since sodium content can vary so much based on the brands of ingredients used, I recommend using an online calculator like MyFitnessPal, which you can customize based on the ingredients you have to get a more accurate number. I hope this helps!
Hello Erin, i just stumbled into your site while looking for a pumpkin banana bread recipe. I’m doing it now and still preheating the oven. So i’m browsing for more recipes while waiting. Can i do this recipe in an instant pot using the slow cook program?
Hi Julai, thank you for trying my pumpkin banana bread recipe! I haven’t tried this pasta dish in the Instant Pot, but as long as it’s on the slow cook function, I think it should work fine. I hope you love the recipes!
Excellent recipe, Erin! The flavors are delicious and will keep us stocked with dinners for a while! Thank you for sharing!
Can you double this in an 8 qt crock?
Hi Deb! I haven’t tried doubling this myself, but I think it should work fine. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!
This looks amazing! Can’t wait to try it out :)
Hope you enjoy it!
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! :)
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
Hi Izzy! So glad the zucchini worked for you and you enjoyed the pasta!
Is it possible to bake this in the oven instead of using the crockpot?
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!
My husband is vegetarian (and picky one at that) and doesn’t like mushrooms. Do you have a substitute that may work well?
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!