Slow Cooker Penne Pasta is a delicious one pot meal. It is easy to make! The perfect meal for busy weeknights, neighbors, potlucks, or family gatherings.
This Slow Cooker Penne Pasta is a one pot meal that is simple. Let me start by saying this is not a fancy looking meal, but it is kid friendly and yummy!
It is easy to make, and is full of flavor. Everyone in my family loves it, and there is always enough for leftovers (or it can be frozen for a meal later on!).
This one pot pasta is perfect if you need to take a meal into a neighbor or friend. It is a perfect kid friendly meal that can be a nice addition to a family party if you have picky eaters (this is always a hit with kids), and is a great meal for busy weeknights!
THE SAUCE & MEAT
If you have made my Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce (click HERE for the recipe), than you know just how yummy this one pot pasta dish is going to be! My homemade spaghetti sauce is simple but full of flavor.
I use this sauce for this one pot meal and it makes it delicious. I double my sauce for this recipe. It fills a 6 quart crockpot once you add the meat and pasta, but you can easily half the recipe for less!
In addition to my Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, I always add some type of meat. We love some browned, ground beef, but an Italian Sausage is tasty too. Chicken or ground turkey is another option if you want a lean meat!
The meat is not necessary, the sauce on it’s own is delicious, but I like to add some meat for additional flavor!
Along with the spaghetti sauce, I mix up a cheesy, creamy filling that will melt into the sauce, making it tasty. I use a mixture of sour cream, ricotta cheese, and cream cheese.
Mix it up until smooth, then it is layered in the slow cooker with the meaty spaghetti sauce and some mozzarella cheese! The end result is heavenly!
I always use Penne Pasta (like the title states) but bowtie, rotini, or rigatoni are other great options. Spaghetti or fettucine pasta is not my pasta of choice.
I love the wide surface of the other pastas and love that they are more of a bite and easier to eat (especially for little kids). The Penne and other pastas also hold up better while cooking in the sauce in the slow cooker.
MAKING THIS ONE POT DISH
This is literally a one pot dish. Dump it all in your slow cooker and walk away. It is done in a few hours and you are left with a delicious hearty meal!
First, I brown my ground beef, or cook whatever meat you are adding (if you are adding meat). While the meat is browning, I mix up my spaghetti sauce in a separate bowl.
I then mix up my cheesy creamy ingredients (sour cream, cream cheese, and ricotta cheese) in another bowl. Mix the creamy ingredients until smooth and mixed well.
After the meat is browned, and drained, I add it to the spaghetti sauce and mix it up.
Into the slow cooker it goes, in 2 layers. First you will pour half of the meaty sauce in the bottom, then add half the box/package of dry pasta. The pasta does not need to be cooked ahead of time…yay! Give it a stir so the pasta is mixed in and not clumped together.
Then, take half of your creamy mixture and drop spoonfuls on top of the sauce/meat/pasta. Sprinkle a cup of the mozzarella cheese (or more to your liking-you can never have enough cheese), and your first “layer” is done. Repeat it for the second “layer” and top with mozzarella cheese at the end.
SIDE NOTE: the layering as you will notice won’t really stay in layers. Don’t panic if they aren’t even layers or the amounts are exactly split in half for each layer. It all melts together and ends up being served together!
COOKING THE DISH
I love that everything cooks in the slow cooker (except for the meat.. you need to pre-cook that). This pasta dish will cook in a few hours. You just really need it to heat through and cook the pasta.
Every slow cooker can cook a bit different. My slow cooker cooks this on high in 2 hours, some slow cookers may need an extra 30 minutes. I would recommend you check it at the 2 hour mark if cooking it on high.
If cooking on low, it will need 3-4 hours, check it at the 3 hour mark.
It is the perfect meal to make and walk away from and is done when you are ready to eat!
SOME EXTRA INFO
After my pasta has cooked, I like to remove the lid, sprinkle on some extra mozzarella cheese and place it in my oven (the crock only) and let it broil and get a bit crispy on top.
I set it to 475 degrees on broil and let it broil for a few minutes. This is absolutely not necessary and doesn’t change the taste of the dish!
I use my 6 quart slow cooker and it fills it up. You will have a lot of pasta! This easily feeds my family of 5, giving those that want it, seconds. I would guess that this will easily feed 12 people if not more! It really is perfect for large groups and potlucks! You could also easily half this recipe and cook it in a smaller slow cooker!
There are always leftovers at my house (which I love for busy weeks). The pasta will get a bit more soft when reheating the next day. I don’t reheat it in the slow cooker- I just pop it in the microwave- fancy, I know!
You can also freeze this in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Just take it out to thaw before heating it. When ready to eat, reheat it in a slow cooker, stove top or oven at 375 degrees.
I think the perfect addition to this pasta dish are my Garlic Knots or my Easy Breadsticks!
Click HERE for my Garlic Knots.
Click HERE for my Easy Breadsticks.
Slow Cooker Penne Pasta is a delicious one pot meal! It is easy to make and is the perfect meal for busy weeknights, potlucks, or family gatherings.
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Slow Cooker Penne Pasta
- 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef, cooked/browned and drained (you can also use sausage or chicken)
- 1 lb. (16. oz.) Penne Pasta, uncooked (rigatoni, bow-tie, or rotini also work great)
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided (or more if you like more)
Easy Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 (29 oz.) cans tomato sauce
- 2 (14.5 oz.) cans, beef broth
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried basil leaves
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
Creamy Cheesy Mixture
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/2 block of cream cheese)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Mix all of the spaghetti sauce ingredients together in a large bowl. Add your browned/cooked ground beef or other meat to the sauce and mix well. Set aside.
- In another medium sized bowl, mix all of the Creamy Cheesy Mixture ingredients together-don't forget the salt and garlic powder! Set aside.
- In the bottom of your slow cooker, pour half of the spaghetti sauce with meat. Then take half of the box of pasta and add it to the spaghetti sauce in the slow cooker. Stir the uncooked pasta into the meaty sauce to make sure the noodles aren't clumped together in one spot.
- Take half of your creamy cheesy mixture and drop small amounts of the mixture all over the pasta and spaghetti sauce. Top with half of your shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat again using the rest of the spaghetti sauce with meat, the uncooked pasta and the creamy cheesy mixture, ending with the last of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Cook on high for 2-2 1/2 hours (check at the 2 hour mark) and on low for 3-4 hours (check at the 3 hour mark). Let it cook until the pasta is done to your liking (I like mine a little undercooked).
- OPTIONAL: I like to take my crock (remove it from the slow cooker) and place it in my oven on broil (at 475°) for a few minutes to get the cheese a little crispy on top. I usually will add a little bit of extra mozzarella cheese on top before broiling.