Monday, December 8, 2014

Crock Pot Potluck Time: Baked Ziti

Being a Nice Church Lady requires delegating and careful time management. This is especially true when there's a potluck lunch after Sunday service.

So I've taught my sons to cook, and I shamelessly call on the powers of my trusty Crock Pot. It can cook and it can hold things at a temperature for a good long time...but could it make a 'baked' ziti?

The answer is yes, more or less. You don't get a crusty cheese layer on top, but people are JUST FINE with a gooey layer, let me tell you.

Please note that I have a large slow cooker. If yours is not so big, you might want to halve the recipe.

2 lbs. ziti
2 24 oz. cans spaghetti sauce of your choice (Yes, you can use homemade or jarred sauce. But this is easy and economical.)
1 pint tub of ricotta cheese (lowfat is fine)
1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
Cooking spray

You can add more ricotta if you like, and any number of other things--garlic, mushrooms, etc. 

The night before, or before assembling, boil the ziti in salted water until it is a little harder than al dente. (It will soften more in the slow cooker.) Drain and toss with ONE can of the pasta sauce.

When ready to assemble, mix together the ricotta and the remaining can of sauce. You can either stir this in with the pasta, or just layer it in the slow cooker.

BEFORE LOADING YOUR SLOW COOKER, SPRAY THAT SUCKER WITH SOME COOKING SPRAY. Unless you like soaking and scrubbing the thing. Or use those plastic liners.

Put about a third of the pasta and sauce in the pot, then sprinkle a couple handfuls of cheese on top. Add another third of the pasta and sauce, and more cheese. Finish with the pasta and sauce, and a generous bunch of cheese on top. You might or might not use all of the cheese.

Cover the pot and set it on high until the cheese is looking melty and the top is steamy, then switch to low. (If you're going to have this sitting for six hours, I'd probably do it on low the whole time.)

When it's potluck time, just take off the lid and insert a serving spoon.

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