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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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138 Comments

  • Reply
    Rich
    September 16, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    It pays to read the entire recipe, Estrella, prior to purchasing ingredients. With that being said, all these ingredients can be used in tons of other yummy recipes. That should not present a problem.
    As for me, I bought ground beef & ground turkey (50% each) & will also use Whole Wheat pasta. That should cut some of the calories. I’ve found that ground turkey can be substituted in many Italian dishes (added with ground beef) and not even noticed. Like in lasagna.
    I’ll be making this soon soon & I will let you know Farah. It looks really delicious! Thanks.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 16, 2015 at 9:30 PM

      Thank you for saying that! 🙂 I’ve been pairing ground beef with Italian turkey sausage lately and loved the combo in the lasagna roll ups. It was plenty beefy still so it will work, especially when you use beef bouillon cubes to heighten the beef flavor in this recipe. Good luck with the cooking, Rich!

  • Reply
    Myranda
    September 23, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    I made this for dinner tonight. It turned out well, the only problem I had was that there was not enough liquid for the pasta ? Maybe I misread the directions.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 24, 2015 at 12:33 PM

      It’s not very sauce heavy but if you do decide to make it again next time, maybe you can add more marinara sauce to tweak it to your tastes 🙂

  • Reply
    Marg
    September 24, 2015 at 9:28 PM

    Was very good and juicy. Husband loved it. The only thing is the 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes for me would have made this dish to spicy hot to eat. I added less than a teaspoon and it made my lips tingle. Next time and there will be a next time I will add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Could add more spinach also.
    Thank you for the recipe.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 28, 2015 at 4:04 PM

      Thanks for the input, Marg! I’m thinking of changing the amount and notating to adjust the red pepper flakes to taste. That way, everyone is happy!

  • Reply
    Ray
    September 26, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    I made this for lunch today and it was really good. Husband said it was just as good as a restruant. Only thing I did different was I did not add all the pasta and I only added 1 tsp pepper flakes. Thanks!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 28, 2015 at 4:06 PM

      Welcome, Ray! Thanks for letting me know how you and the husband liked it. I’ll change the wording of red pepper flakes to have folks adjust to taste 🙂

  • Reply
    Gabbi
    October 1, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    I’m making this right now and wondering if I need to thaw AND drain the spinach. I have a block of frozen spinach.

    Thanks for any help! It’s smelling delicious!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 1, 2015 at 4:49 PM

      Heya Gabbi! If it’s frozen spinach, they usually tell you to cook/steam it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Cook it according to the package directions. As for draining, you could drain it if you want to but the amount of liquid is so little versus the whole pasta proportions, I think it will be negligible. Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    Gabbi
    October 1, 2015 at 5:09 PM

    Great! Thank you for such a quick response =)

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 1, 2015 at 5:11 PM

      Sure thing! I just happened to be on the laptop and thought to answer you quickly since you’re making it right now!

  • Reply
    Shanika
    October 4, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    Recipe calls for Worcestershire sauce but doesn’t tell when to put it in.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 5, 2015 at 9:47 PM

      Worcestershire sauce goes in with the rest of the ‘seasonings’ in step three: Basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes.

  • Reply
    Parker
    November 4, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    I hate to sound negative, and maybe this is implied, but it was never directly stated in the cooking directions to cook the pasta before hand. I should have caught myself, but failed to do so and now I have a completely wasted meal.
    Just a thought. Might save others this same aggravation.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 4, 2015 at 4:43 PM

      That’s okay. I know you mean well. The ingredient list stated to cook the pasta al dente but I’ll add it to the directions as well for those that might miss it. Thanks for letting me know, Parker! Always room for improvement.

      PS: If you haven’t thrown it out yet, you could heat the whole thing over the stove and add some liquid like beef broth so the pasta has a chance to cook. The sauce won’t hurt cooking more so the only thing that might taste off is the spinach and the cheese.

  • Reply
    liz
    December 6, 2015 at 4:31 AM

    I know your new to freezing but I’m gonna ask anyway, lol. I hate freezing pasta because of texture change what are your thoughts on making basic sauce (without spinach and pasta), freeze and then add those when reheating

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 7, 2015 at 2:31 PM

      If you’re making just the sauce (minus the pasta, spinach and cheese), you can absolutely freeze it. It’s just a form of meat sauce at that point. By basic sauce, I mean everything from ‘ground beef’ up till ‘salt and pepper to taste’ in the ingredient list, just to clarify. So just add in your cooked pasta, spinach and cheese when you’re ready to eat. Should work fine! It should keep for up to 4 months.

  • Reply
    Jamie Mason
    January 11, 2016 at 12:42 PM

    This sounds amazing!! I want to try this asba casserole for dinner tonight so I have time to run to the store for a few of the ingredients, I’m new to cooking in general lol I’m a stahm now and its all new to me, could you tell me how I could prepare this recipe to be made in the oven? I’d greatly appreciate it I don’t want to mess anything up so pointers would be awesome lol

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 11, 2016 at 12:58 PM

      Sure! Follow step 1 and 2 in a dutch oven, then add all the ingredients in step 3 to the pot and simmer while you prepare your pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, mix it with the beef sauce and spinach. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish and top with mozzarella and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

  • Reply
    Alexis
    January 12, 2016 at 8:06 PM

    How many does this feed?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 16, 2016 at 10:29 PM

      It should feed 8 or so people, depending how big or small their portions are. Happy eats, Alexis!

  • Reply
    Krystal
    January 20, 2016 at 2:26 PM

    This was delicious, I will definitely be making this again! Visiting from http://kidscraftsandcakes.blogspot.com

    • Reply
      Maureen
      January 24, 2016 at 2:27 PM

      My son hates spinach – any other veggie you might recommend to go with this?

      • Reply
        The Cooking Jar
        January 26, 2016 at 2:01 AM

        You could try mushrooms? That always goes really well with pasta and meat.

      • Reply
        nina
        March 1, 2016 at 7:40 AM

        Any chance kale would work with this?

        • Reply
          The Cooking Jar
          March 3, 2016 at 2:49 PM

          I think kale is a little tougher than spinach so it might take longer to cook down. If you like kale, then you should be able to substitute the spinach with it. Just cook it down and add it in towards the end. Or add it in fresh a little earlier than I specified adding the spinach. If you do try it, let me know how it worked out?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 25, 2016 at 11:17 PM

      Thanks for trying it out, Krystal! I hopped on over to your blog and wow, those Frozen cakes are incredibly beautiful! That takes talent!

  • Reply
    Jodi
    February 15, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    Hi there,
    I’m wondering why the sugar is added to the recipe. Would it be okay to eliminate it?
    Thanks! Looking forward to giving it a try.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 16, 2016 at 2:37 PM

      Absolutely! I add sugar to my marinara/pasta sauces to balance out the acidity from the tomatoes. It’s just a personal preference. If you like your sauce as is, feel free to leave out the sugar. Good luck making this, Jodi!

  • Reply
    Abby
    February 28, 2016 at 9:29 PM

    Delish! I will use a bit less sugar next time, but otherwise everything was on point!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 3, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      Glad to hear it, Abby! The sugar part is definitely a matter of personal taste, so feel free to tweak/taste the marinara sauce to your liking.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    March 17, 2016 at 12:08 AM

    I stumbled across this recipe on pinterest (I think) and just made it today. I have made quite a few recipes from there but never felt the need to make a comment. But on this one I just had to let you this was the best meat sauce ever!!! I made the sauce as directed and didn’t mix it with the noodles. I just spooned it on like spaghetti sauce. Seriously awesome! I’ll probably have some for breakfast too! 😀 I can’t wait to look at some of your other recipes. I’m so glad I came across your site!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 20, 2016 at 5:45 PM

      Thank you, Jessica! I’m seriously thrilled you liked it enough to leave a comment. 🙂 The pasta sauce is a spin-off a vegetable pasta sauce I’ve refined over the course of 15 years. You just gave me the idea to include this for my next recipe!

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