A few years back, my friend Liz compiled a crockpot cookbook - an informal collection of slow cooker recipes that are tried and true. Today's recipe for Baked Ziti is one of my favorites! It comes from Liz's friend Amber (whom I don't know, but to whom I'm grateful for this recipe!).
I lightened up the recipe a bit - used a lighter ricotta, ground turkey (rather than beef - although the beef version is great, too) and added some veggies into the cheese mixture. It does make a large amount - but it freezes really well.
Slow Cooker Baked Ziti
1 container (15 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 pound ground turkey
2 cups (8 oz.) mozzarella cheese, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash, all chopped
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 box (16 oz.) ziti noodles
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 jars (approx. 25 oz. each) of tomato sauce (Newman's Own Sockarooni works well)
1. Cook ground turkey and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until meat is no longer pink. Stir in seasonings to evenly coat meat; stir in pasta sauce. Set aside.
2. Mix chopped bell pepper, zucchini and squash with 1 cup mozzarella, the ricotta and parmesan in a medium bowl.
3. Spoon 2 cups of meat sauce into the lined cooker; top with 2 cups ziti. Drop half of the cheese/vegetable mixture, by rounded tablespoons, over ziti; carefully spread over ziti using back of spoon. Layer with 2 cups meat sauce, the remaining ziti and remaining cheese. Add remaining meat sauce, completely covering all the ziti and cheese.
4. Place lid on slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours or until noodles are tender.
5. Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape. Sprinkle food with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella; let stand 10 minutes until melted.
Enjoy! Then, enjoy again...and again.