Make dinner with barely any effort with this easy crockpot spaghetti casserole. With plenty of bold Italian flavors, the pasta cooks in the slow cooker with the meat sauce, making it tender and incredibly tasty!
This Italian comfort food dinner comes together with minimal effort on your part, and is perfect for a hungry family! Try this Crockpot spaghetti casserole tonight!
Ever since I shared my Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce, you’ve been asking me for ways to cook spaghetti in the slow cooker. And here it is!! The only prep/pre-cooking you have to do here is brown the meat and stir together the sauce ingredients. Easy peasy!
This recipe actually surprised me. I saw it in an edition of Southern Living, and was intrigued by the fact that the pasta cooks with the sauce the whole time. Other recipes usually call for the pasta to be added towards the end of the cooking time.
So I made the recipe exactly as they had written and it was good, but I felt it could use some tweaks here and there, plus some additional flavors (the original recipe had NO garlic in it… I can’t cook spaghetti without garlic!). This is the result! Pure comfort food, with a fraction of the work and hands on cooking time.
One thing to note is that the pasta in this spaghetti casserole is a little softer than a traditional boiled to al-dente pasta. However, it’s not mushy and is incredibly flavorful from cooking in a meat sauce!
IS THIS LIKE THE MILLION DOLLAR SPAGHETTI?
Not quite. Million dollar spaghetti has a meat sauce, and spaghetti of course, but it also has a layer of ricotta/cream cheese that’s baked along with it. In a way it’s sort of like spaghetti and lasagna had a baby 🙂
DOES THE PASTA GET MUSHY?
Not necessarily “mushy”, but is does have a softer texture, very similar to any baked casserole that has pasta in it. The “bite” of freshly boiled pasta isn’t there.
HOW TO MAKE CROCKPOT SPAGHETTI CASSEROLE:
- Make your sauce first. I like to use ground beef because we usually have it in our freezer… but all Italian sausage or a mix of both beef an sausage would be a great flavor addition.
- Make sure to break your spaghetti into thirds. This helps the pasta cook evenly, as well as making it easier to scoop and eat.
- Stir stir stir! Once you add the uncooked spaghetti, make sure you stir it into the meat sauce. The sauce is what will cook the pasta, so it should be well mixed!
- Play around with the cheeses if you want! I like to use mozzarella as it’s a traditional flavor, but I know a lot of people who like to use cheddar on theirs, so feel free to play around with it.
- To prevent all that condensation on the lid from splashing back into your dish as you take the slow cooker lid off, cover the slow cooker with a dry dishtowel or several paper towels, THEN top with the lid. Make sure the towel is long enough that you can grab both it and the lid when you take it off, otherwise it could fall into your food.
One thing to note about this recipe is that all slow cookers are different. It’s inevitable, and frustrating! That’s why the cooking time is a range for most slow cooker recipes. My advice would be to check it at 3 hours in and see how the pasta is tasting. If it’s soft and tender, then you’re good to go ahead and eat!
- 6 quart slow cooker (in photos) – I purchased this since it is so much easier to photograph foods in a white slow cooker, but it’s actually a great slow cooker! It’s not programmable, so if that’s your thing…..
- Programmable 6 quart slow cooker – I’ve had this exact slow cooker for going on 5 years now, and it’s still going strong! Great features and a great price too!
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- 2 lbs ground chuck (80/20 is what I use)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 5-7 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (26 oz) jar of marinara sauce, your favorite brand
- 1 (15 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 - 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 - 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- pinch of sugar, to counteract the acidity of the canned tomatoes
- 8 oz dried spaghetti pasta, broken into thirds
- 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh parsley or basil, minced, for garnish
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Heat a large skillet over MED to MED-HIGH heat with a small drizzle of oil. Add ground beef and onion and cook 5-6 minutes, until beef is cooked through, crumbling as you cook. Drain meat/onion mixture and return to skillet.
- Reduce heat to MED-LOW, add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, water, Italian seasoning, balsamic vinegar, thyme, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir to combine well.
- Spoon meat mixture into lightly greased 6 quart slow cooker. Top with broken spaghetti and stir together. Top with shredded cheese, cover and cook on LOW 4 hours.
- Serve garnished with fresh parsley or basil and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
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- Make meat sauce as directed and add to slow cooker. DON'T add pasta. Cook on LOW for anywhere from 4-8 hours.
- Open lid and stir in broken, uncooked spaghetti. Mix together well, top with cheese, then cover and cook on HIGH for 30-40 minutes. Check spaghetti for doneness, and cook a bit longer if needed.