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Slow Cooker Beef and Cheese Pasta

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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!

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 1x
Scale

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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145 Comments

  • Reply
    Lauren Franson
    August 12, 2016 at 2:56 PM

    I made this with lean ground turkey and doubled the sauce, used fresh spinach (about 2 bags) also added a bit more mozzarella to cover the added sauce. It was DELICIOUS! The entire house went for seconds.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      August 16, 2016 at 2:22 PM

      Ground turkey works too. I’m glad your substitutions worked for you, Lauren!

  • Reply
    Mark Attle
    January 12, 2017 at 10:42 AM

    I have a small crock pot and only two of us were eating. After 7 hours, I took out half the meaty sauce (froze it) and added half the weights of the final ingredients. Perfect if your pot isn’t quite big enough for all of it. And for all the freezer questions, it’s perfect this way. All you need to do next time is reheat the frozen sauce and add the final ingredients as you would have before, no soggy pasta or tough spinach and fresh cheesiness!

    Hey presto!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 14, 2017 at 5:59 PM

      Great way to adjust the portions for two! And save some for later by freezing it. I hope this helps others in the same boat. Thanks, Mark!

  • Reply
    Darryl
    February 5, 2017 at 6:28 PM

    I found this recipe and had to try it! It’s cooking as we speak! Smells delicious, and I can’t wait to try! I have a question or two for next time: For the red pepper flakes, it says season to taste. I’m a college student, and fairly new to cooking, so I’m not sure what a good baseline would be. I don’t mind heat in my food, but at the same time, I don’t want to go overboard. What would you recommend as a good starting base? I did 1/2 tsp this time. Also, I could only find 24 oz jars of marinara. If I used the whole jar, should I add more oregano, basil, and italian seasoning, or should it be ok?

    Thanks for the quick and easy recipe! I haven’t tasted it yet, but from the smell, it definitely gets 5 stars!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 14, 2017 at 6:04 PM

      I think 1/2 teaspoon is a good place to start, Darryl. You could always add more later. It’s always better to start small then keep on adding more to taste instead of the other way round. As for the marinara, add a teensy tiny bit of the seasonings you mentioned to make up for it. The dried herbs are pretty forgiving in my opinion, so you won’t risk spoiling the taste with those ones.

      Thanks for the 5 stars, sorry for the late reply and I hope you liked it!

  • Reply
    Traci
    April 3, 2017 at 11:33 AM

    Hey im making this wednesday night. Is it ok if i use canned spinach if i rinse it off really good

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 4, 2017 at 6:24 PM

      Sure, you can do that. Like you mentioned, just drain it really well!

  • Reply
    Cathy
    April 21, 2017 at 5:31 PM

    I am way down in New Zealand and I have never put a comment on a site before – but this recipe is the best pasta recipe I have found!! And when Im in a rush after work I just use same recipe and simmer the sauce for about an hour. We have this at least once a fortnight. And I have shared with friends. My kids love it. Thanks

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 25, 2017 at 6:52 PM

      Well thank you for taking the time to let me know, Cathy. The pasta sauce is a staple in my kitchen with all the seasonings the way it is. I never liked the tanginess of red pasta sauces so I spent over 10 years testing and adding one thing after another to have a more ‘wholesome’ sauce, if that makes any sense!

  • Reply
    Staci
    July 19, 2017 at 12:38 AM

    Do you drain the stewed tomatoes?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      July 19, 2017 at 1:14 AM

      Heya Staci! No I don’t drain them. The liquid ratio is so minimal anyway and a little more sauciness doesn’t hurt. Good luck!

  • Reply
    Liz
    August 3, 2017 at 3:29 PM

    Hi, I have a smaller crockpot so I only made 1 pound of ground beef but did the rest exactly. I’m wondering if I could make it in a shorter time frame, about 2-3 hours on high.. will that be ok still??

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      August 14, 2017 at 3:09 PM

      The crockpot is for your convenience so the flavors of the sauce can marry longer while you get to twiddle your thumbs. If you want to try for a shorter time frame because it’s inconvenient, you can do it. Having said that, be sure your crock pot does not run too hot on high (cause I know some do…you would think there would be a standard among the different brands) so it does not burn. I’ve heard some brands run hotter than others. Good luck, Liz!

      • Reply
        Liz
        August 28, 2017 at 10:32 PM

        Thanks! I did do it for a shorter amount of time and it turned out SO delicious! Family favorite!!!

        • Reply
          The Cooking Jar
          September 2, 2017 at 4:07 PM

          Yay!!! Glad it worked out for you. What brand crockpot do you have out of curiosity?

  • Reply
    Eric
    August 25, 2017 at 6:06 PM

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site. My husband usually does the cooking, but because of his new job resulting in a longer commute and arrival time, I’m trying to chip in with the cooking. I’m not fond of cooking, so I was in search of easy and tasty slow cooker recipes. Your Beef & Cheese Pasta certainly fit the bill. I made this yesterday and we had it for dinner last night. It sure did fit the bill for easy and tasty. YUM! I will definitely be making this dish again. I attempted your Parmesan garlic knots – they were really fun to make and looked great. But unfortunately, our oven must run hot because I burned them. I’m not discouraged though and will try them again next time, either at a lower temp or shorter duration. Thanks so much for this delicious recipe. I will be scouring your blog for more. Cheers!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 2, 2017 at 4:11 PM

      Sorry to hear about your burned knots but good luck with the revisiting of them! I suggest babysitting the last couple minutes to find the sweet spot for your oven temps. Thanks for trying other recipes too and I hope you find stuff that won’t make cooking such a chore for you 🙂

  • Reply
    Rebecca
    August 26, 2017 at 7:18 PM

    This has become a staple in our home. It’s simple and tastes amazing. Thanks!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 2, 2017 at 4:12 PM

      You’re welcome, Rebecca! Thank you for letting me know 🙂

  • Reply
    Eileen
    October 30, 2017 at 12:06 PM

    Not only does this recipe look yummy and look forward to trying it, I also love the white bowls you have the food served in! Where would I find?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 6, 2017 at 1:15 AM

      Those bowls were a gem I found at Dollar Tree. I used to check in there every now and then while I was building my blog props collection. Got those for a couple of bucks!

  • Reply
    Vivian Doolittle
    November 8, 2017 at 5:46 PM

    What is the purpose of adding 2 Tbl sugar? It’s not enough to “sweeten” the recipe, so it really seems extraneous.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 6, 2017 at 1:18 AM

      It’s to balance out the tartness from the tomatoes so it’s not just a punch of acid in your mouth but a slightly deeper flavor. It’s something I’ve always done with red pasta sauces cause I can’t stand the taste of tart alone 😉

  • Reply
    Donica
    November 23, 2017 at 8:58 AM

    May I use the chicken buillon cube. I don’t not eat anything pork or beef.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 6, 2017 at 1:20 AM

      I guess you could but how would you eat the rest of the dish with ground beef? If you’re planning to substitute with chicken, I would cook the chicken on stove top instead or add it to the slow cooker for only 4 hours max on low since chicken can overcook if left too long there and gets tough.

  • Reply
    JPF
    December 17, 2017 at 4:54 AM

    Can this recipe be made in the oven ?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 29, 2018 at 5:15 PM

      Yes it can. I suggest doing until step 4 over the stove top, cook the pasta until al dente then mix it all up with the sauce and spinach. Transfer the pasta mix to a 9×13 casserole dish and top with the cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F until cooked and bubbly. Then broil at 450 degrees F for 2-3 minutes or until cheese layer has browned.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    January 17, 2018 at 6:03 PM

    I’ve tried this recipe numerous times and my family really likes it! Like everyone else, I got an instant pot for Christmas and was wondering if you had tried it in an instant pot?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 29, 2018 at 5:16 PM

      I’ve honestly never heard of an instant pot until you mentioned it. I thought you were talking about a pressure cooker. I had to Google it and it sounds amazing! I don’t own one (yet).

  • Reply
    Erin O'Connor
    February 17, 2018 at 5:17 PM

    It’s so cold I don’t even want to step out the door! I don’t have any jars of marinara. Any suggestions? Can I double the ‘sauce’ part instead of the jar of marinara sauce? Also, all of the Italian seasonings have rosemary in them and I hate rosemary. Can you tell me what to put together to make Italian seasoning myself?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 19, 2018 at 5:51 PM

      Sure, go ahead and double the tomato sauce. I just use the marinara as a sauce base cause of the flavor. But you can go around that by just adding more herbs yourself. I would suggest thyme, oregano and basil. Good luck, Erin!

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