Today brought with it a new challenge. I was utilizing the slow cooker again. I think I saw Josh wipe away a tear of frustration this morning as he realized that yet another slow cooker meal was coming his way. He didn’t realize that I was going to take it one step further: a meatless slow cooker meal.
This is literally the easiest recipe I’ve ever made as far as a main dish is concerned. You literally mix up all of the sauce ingredients in the slow cooker. Then, you add the ziti and mix up the ziti in it. You set the slow cooker on low and let it go for 4-5 hours. Then you top it with cheese and brown the cheese. This is literally a one-dish meal.
I’m so proud of myself! I pretty much followed the recipe to a T…except I again used a torch rather than the broiler. This was for two reasons. 1) I’m not sure what would happen to the crock of the crock pot if I put it under an oven broiler. 2) The broiler is the highest setting on the oven. While using the broiler, you have to leave the oven cracked open. Therefore, it wouldn’t really meet the recipe challenge requirements. The torch, oddly enough, did.
After seeing that the pasta did hydrate and swell in the slow cooker (SCORE!), the hardest part of the process was waiting (impatiently) for Josh to return home. So that we could inhale it. And so that I could witness his reaction.
I scooped up a big plate of it for him to try. Muffin had already started eating his with his fingers, too impatient to wait for a fork or a spoon. He had proclaimed it “good.”
I waited impatiently for Josh to say something about it being meatless. I even prodded him when he said it was good and he would like to have it again. “Is it enough for dinner?”
By this time, he was looking at me suspiciously (I don’t know why). So, I asked him if he missed the meat. (I had almost added meat to the meal with the sauce, but I’m glad now that I didn’t) And he said that he was okay with meatless meals, that he figured it was going to be vegetarian (although most definitely not vegan) since ziti dishes were usually vegetarian in restaurants.
He also said that we needed to have a slow cooker with us in Canada so that I could cook the recipe for his mom and Mark.
From a self-proclaimed person who is very doubtful of slow cooker dishes (and does more than lift an eyebrow…usually…if I attempt to serve a meal without meat)…this was high praise. Then, he said I needed to serve it weekly.
Here’s what I did…
Crockpot Baked Ziti Recipe
Followed Almost Exactly from Thrifty Jinxy
2 jars of pasta sauce (I used one 24-ounce jar of Ragu Traditional and one 24-ounce jar of Classico Traditional)
1 jar of water
15 ounce container of ricotta cheese (I used part-skim)
1 egg, beaten (I didn’t beat it…it made for a more interesting picture below)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
16 ounce box of ziti
Optional: Italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes (I used Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and something called Tuscan seasoning)
In the slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, one jar of water (fill one of the empty sauce jars with water, shake it well to get the extra tomatoey-ness, pour the water into the second jar, shake well, and add the water to the slow cooker), ricotta, any of the extra optional seasonings, egg, parmesan, and 2 cups of the mozzarella. Then stir in the uncooked ziti. Cover and cook on low 4 1/2 hours. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Use a kitchen torch to brown and melt the cheese.
As a result of the success with this dish, expect to see a no-boil slow cooker macaroni and cheese soon! Like…on the next meal plan.
At some point, I will be using some of these awesome fonts on my photos.