So this meaty little number is hands down the easiest thing to make. I was extremely apprehensive about trying this one in the slow cooker, but to be honest I literally had zero time to actually worry about it. If it turned out like crap, oh well, we would eat it anyway. Ha! So the difference between putting this guy in the slow cooker versus the oven....it comes out super creamy, which is a really nice change. Sometimes baked pasta dishes in the oven can dry out, especially when reheating them. The leftovers were just as good. I just popped them into the microwave, and poured a little chicken brother over it. At around 2 minutes, I pulled it out, stirred and then put it back in for a additional 2 minutes. This meal is definitely a time saver and is really something you should consider for your next busy day.
Side note: I prepped everything the day before actually cooking this. Just compile everything in the slow cooker and pop in the fridge.
2 - 24 oz. jars of your favorite marinara sauce
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 c. chicken broth
16 oz. ziti (I used penne)
4 oz. light cream cheese
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 c. light ricotta cheese
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 c. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1 c. light shredded mozzarella cheese
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained to remove extra grease
Salt and pepper
Add cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta to a mixing bowl. Mix with a electric mixer until smooth. Stir in the garlic, basil, pepper and a bit of salt.
In a larger bowl, combine both jars of marinara sauce, tomato sauce, ground beef and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Add 2 c. of sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with 1/3 of the uncooked penne. Dot on half of the ricotta mixture and use a spoon to gently spread the mixture around as evenly as possible. Top with 3/4 c. grated pecorino romano cheese.
Add 2 more cups of sauce mixture on top and smooth around to ensure the entire mixture is covered. Top with 1/3 uncooked penne. Add the last of the ricotta mixture and spread around evenly. Sprinkle on the remaining 3/4 c. pecorino romano cheese.
Pour the last of the uncooked penne in the slow cooker and spread around evenly. Top it off with the last of the sauce mixture. Make sure all the pasta is covered by sauce. You can take the back of the spoon and gently push them down if needed.
Cover and place in the fridge if you are cooking the next day. Or cover and cook on High for 2 hours or on low for 3 hours. If you do plan on storing in the fridge overnight, be sure to remove it from the fridge and hour before cooking.
During the last 20 minutes of cooking, sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Replace the lid and cook for the remaining time. When ready to serve top with some freshly chopped basil and a dash of red pepper flakes. Hope you enjoy!