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Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

Here’s a really simple meal to throw to together that’s pretty kid friendly too. It has ground beef, pasta, tons of flavor, cheese and spinach.

I felt like having some meaty pasta and decided to try it out in the slow cooker. Usually I’ll make the meat sauce and let the flavors marry once it sits in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better it gets so I figured this process could also be done in the slow cooker.

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

As for the pasta, I cooked it  al dente and tossed it in towards the end. Putting in cooked or uncooked pasta in the beginning will make for one soggy mess. I have not tried using uncooked pasta but it’s entirely possible, I just have not tested it yet. I read somewhere that you should add it in 30 minutes towards the end though with enough liquid to fully coat the pasta.

The marinara sauce is mildly sweetened to balance out the tartness from tomatoes. I’ve also added some beef bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce to enhance the beef flavor. It’s more than a bland marinara and pasta sauce with some beef dumped in. The seasonings bring it a depth of flavor.

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

The ground beef should be pre-cooked to get rid of any fat. While you can technically make this pasta in the oven as a pasta bake or on the stove top, a long cooking time that comes with slow cooking allows the flavors to marry. Richer, deeper flavors.

I used frozen spinach but if you want to use fresh spinach, toss in the cleaned leaves once it’s all done cooking and mix. The residual heat will be enough to cook them. It’s the same reason I tossed in the cooked frozen spinach last. Cooking spinach for too long will make it tough and leathery. There’s no such thing as undercooking spinach since you can eat it raw anyway but there is such a thing as overcooking it!

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

It’s pretty important to do the taste test before slow cooking the sauce so you have it just the way you like it. It’ll be a little tougher to do once you’ve mixed everything together.

And if you like mushrooms, you can toss it in with the onions and let them cook down awhile. Mushrooms always release a lot of liquid once they’re fully cooked so this has to be done in the skillet. Cook them until their liquid boils down so you don’t thin out the pasta sauce.

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

And that’s about it! Like I said, a really simple meal if you’re craving some meaty pasta and happen to like cheese!

PS: If you liked the flavor of this and wanna do a baked pasta version, try out my baked ziti. And if you’re wanting an appetizer, these Parmesan garlic knots pair really well!

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A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta


  • Author: The Cooking Jar
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 7 hours
  • Total Time: 7 hours 10 mins
  • Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 15 oz. marinara sauce
  • 15 oz. stewed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, cooked
  • 1 lb. penne/rigatoni/bow tie pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. Over medium high heat, brown the beef until cooked. Drain any fat
  2. Remove beef and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent
  3. Transfer onions and beef to a slow cooker and pour in marinara sauce, tomatoes, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire sauce, crumbled beef bouillon cubes and sugar
  4. Stir to mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste
  5. Cook for 6-8 hours on low
  6. Cook the pasta till al dente, according to package instructions. Drain well and add cooked pasta, Parmesan and Mozzarella to the meat sauce and stir to combine
  7. Cook on high for 30 minutes
  8. Mix in cooked or raw spinach leaves and stir well
  9. Dish and serve hot

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

A slow cooker beef and cheese pasta that is cooked long and slow to bring out the best cheesy meat sauce!

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135 Comments

  • Reply
    Claudia
    October 20, 2014 at 9:09 AM

    I absolutly love your site and your recipes! I just started cooking with my slow cooker a week ago, and I love it!
    I wonder, how does the pasta turn out in the slow cooker? Are the penne al dente? Are they salty enough cooked that way?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 20, 2014 at 9:27 PM

      I cooked the pasta al dente and put them in the slow cooker towards the end. If you cook them and put them in the beginning it’ll be super soggy. I honestly have no idea how the pasta would turn out if tossed in uncooked! But I do think there is not enough pasta to meat ratio in this particular dish to soak the pasta fully allowing it to cook properly. Theoretically you would probably have to add some liquid to coat it fully which may dilute the sauce. I have read somewhere that if you do try it, do it in the last 30 minutes or so. Don’t take my word for it though as I have personally not tested the uncooked pasta theory but if you ever do try it, let me know! I’m really curious.

      • Reply
        Joni
        January 5, 2016 at 12:45 PM

        It’s great just have to compensate enough liquid and stir every now and then for even cooking!

  • Reply
    Matt Robinson
    October 20, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    I wish you were my neighbor so I could smell all the yumminess coming out of your kitchen window! Love this!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 20, 2014 at 9:28 PM

      Thanks, Matt! Love this compliment! 🙂

  • Reply
    Thalia @ butter and brioche
    October 21, 2014 at 4:56 AM

    Oh my god this pasta looks delicious. I have never made pasta in a slow cooker before.. definitely need to make this as it is so perfect for days when I don’t feel like cooking!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 21, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      It’s an easy meal to throw together, yup yup! 🙂

  • Reply
    Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom
    October 21, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    oh my goodness!!! this pasta looks amazing!!! love the beef bouillon cubes and Worcestershire sauce to enhance the beef flavor. Brilliant and looks so good!!! Enthusiastically pinned! 🙂

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 22, 2014 at 1:25 AM

      Thanks, Alice 🙂 I love it beefy!

  • Reply
    kris rawson
    December 27, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    Cook pasta the day before, or a week before, alcdente, refrig, and add to crock right before , 30 mins to heat thru. Pasta can be refrig for weeks or from for months cooked.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 27, 2014 at 8:14 PM

      Shortcuts are always fun. Thanks, Kris! I suggest adding some olive oil before storing it in the fridge though so it doesn’t clump together 🙂 Here’s a quick guide on how to prep your pasta in advance.

  • Reply
    Ellie
    December 27, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    Hi, I made this for dinner and it was very tasty. I did not make it in the crockpot, however…just on the stovetop and it was quick and easy. Cooked pasta while the meat and sauce prepared in another pan. I used one pound of hamburger, which seemed the perfect amount to the pound of pasta. I used one bullion cube to keep the salt down, and left out the red pepper to keep my kids happy! Thank you!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 27, 2014 at 8:18 PM

      You’re welcome, Ellie! This can be done in the slow cooker or on the stove top, yup! It just depends on how much time you have in the kitchen and if you want the sauce to marry longer for that tastes-even-better-the-next-day flavor!

      • Reply
        Vicki
        November 2, 2015 at 6:41 PM

        Hello I’ve made this recipe a few
        Times it’s a Fam fav! Would you recommend if I could make the day before and freeze and make another day or next?

        • Reply
          The Cooking Jar
          November 4, 2015 at 4:45 PM

          I’m always a little nervous with freezing related questions because I don’t have much experience with it! That being said, use your discretion and what you’re comfortable with, Vicki!

  • Reply
    Carly
    January 2, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    I made this last night and it was amazing!!! I was pressed for time so it only cooked on low for 3 hours and I used whole wheat rotini pasta. Otherwise I followed the recipe completely. It will definitely be in my rotation. Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes.. Thanks, Farah! Happy New Year!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 2, 2015 at 11:20 PM

      Very very welcome Carly! 🙂 I like hearing how it works with variations, no matter how minor. I think of my recipes as a general road map, where you can take detours or short cuts along the way. And Happy 2015! Hope it’ll be a good year!

  • Reply
    Amy
    January 21, 2015 at 5:42 PM

    Hi! I am having a superbowl party and this pasta seem so perfect to serve for dinner a long with that I know my guests will bring, but I will be making it stove top. how long should I cut the 6hours down to? because I figure its faster correct? Also the marinara sauce? do you recommend to buy plain marinara sauce at the store or make it at home??? sorry for the questions. I am not a huge cooker!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 21, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      Sure you can do it over the stove top, I recommend at least 30 minutes simmering and let the cheeses melt before serving. You can use just plain marinara cause all the seasonings will take care of bringing it up a notch! Have fun at your Superbowl party!

  • Reply
    Katie
    February 12, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    this has quickly become one of our favourite dishes!
    My girls ask for it almost daily and take the leftovers for school lunches until it’s gone!
    Speaking of which I need to go make another big pot of it as it’s been a week and the poor little things are going through withdrawls!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 13, 2015 at 4:41 PM

      I loooove this comment! I thought it would be popular with the kids, especially with all that cheese and a hint of sweetness in the marinara sauce. Glad it’s keeping your girls happy!

  • Reply
    Becca
    February 12, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    We made this and it was super yummy! I did not cook the noodles before I put them in and it turned out perfect. I put them in the last 30-40 min with about 3/4 cup water. Do you know how many calories are in a cup of this?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 13, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      I’m glad someone tried it without cooking the pasta first and came back to let everyone know. Thank you, Becca! It was a good idea to add in some water so there was more sauce to coat the pasta to cook it evenly. As for the calories per cup, that’s a little bit much than the calorie generator I use can handle. I suppose the best way to would be to take the total calorie count, estimate how many cups are in the whole batch and divide it?

  • Reply
    Kim
    February 16, 2015 at 6:42 PM

    Hi Farah, This looks super delicious and super easy. It’s just me so I was wondering if I divided the ingredients in half if that will work for 4 servings? If yes, would I also reduce my cook time by half as well?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 19, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      Hey Kim! Sure you can halve the ingredients for a smaller serving but the cooking time stays the same 😉 I wish cooking worked that way too! 🙂 Although if you’re in a rush you could cook it over the stove to save time. Simmer for 30 minutes on medium heat in a covered pot. That will work for a quicker version of this.

  • Reply
    Hannah
    February 24, 2015 at 9:29 PM

    I am making this dish tomorrow for only two of us but if I make the whole pot according to your directions could I freeze half of it, even with the noodles in it? If so how would I ‘re heat it?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 26, 2015 at 1:29 PM

      Well I’m entirely new to freezing meals since food doesn’t last long enough in my house! I suppose you could freeze half of it but I’m worried if the noodles were cooked al dente, if reheated later, it might turn out mushy or soggy, you know? Especially if it freezes with the sauce. Here’s a quick guide to freezing pasta but it does not mention doing it with the sauce. Reheating should be done in the microwave! Hope this helps?

  • Reply
    Amelia D.
    March 2, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    This looks yummy…I’m gonna try it this wknd and sine I’m not a big beef eater, do you think it would be okay with ground turkey?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 3, 2015 at 1:44 AM

      I’ve never really cooked ground turkey before but if it behaves the same way as ground beef, then I don’t see why not!

  • Reply
    melissa
    March 3, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    Just tried this recipe. Yum!!! Made it to the t, except I let mine go overnight, maybe 8-10 hours. Soo good. Very different tasting than I am used to, but I like it. The pasta and spinach add a little liquid if you don’t cook it first, but I liked it with the little extra. Its not much liquid, but it thins the heartiness of the sauce just a little. Overall pretty easy; good job!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 4, 2015 at 7:28 PM

      Thanks for letting us know that it works overnight, Melissa! Pasta wasn’t too soggy? Spinach does have a lot of water content but it shouldn’t be too overwhelming with the pasta sauce.

  • Reply
    Christine
    March 9, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    I made this last night for dinner. It was a huge hit!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 11, 2015 at 2:24 PM

      Hooray! Glad to have brought some good eats to your table, Christine! Thanks so much for dropping a note on how you liked it.

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