These slow cooker meatballs are a traditional, Italian style meatballs made with ground beef and pork, Parmesan cheese, herbs and spices. They are slow simmered in tomato sauce, to tender perfection in the crock pot and are perfect served over spaghetti. This post was originally published in 2014.
I’ve been a big fan of the slow cooker for years. And then the pressure cooker came around and I feel like people kind of forgot about the beauty of the slow cooker. The hands-off nature of it. My favourite that I’ve had for eight years is this 6-quart slow cooker from KitchenAid.
This meatball recipe is as easy as any meatball recipe out there. The first step is to mix the ingredients for the tomato sauce in the slow cooker, and then you mix and shape the meatballs. And everything cooks in the slow cooker at the same time.
Yes, you read that right. All you need to do is turn your slow cooker on.
Do I need to brown the meatballs before putting them in the slow cooker?
With this recipe, there is no need to brown the meatballs. They hold their shape and cook perfectly and end up tender and juicy in the slow cooker. You could also try using this method with my turkey and spinach meatballs.
The meatballs are gently simmered in the crockpot and the tomato sauce becomes luscious and rich. I like to use mixture of lean ground beef and pork for these so that the sauce doesn’t become greasy.
The secret to these meatballs comes from dried fennel. I find it gives them a hint of fennel without being overpowering. Think of the meatballs you’d have at your favourite Italian restaurant.
The other secret to a rich, slow cooker tomato sauce comes from using an entire can of tomato paste. This adds a depth of flavour to the tomato sauce that you’d find in a slow simmered tomato sauce.
Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
For Tomato Sauce
- 1 can whole tomatoes, broken up with a spoon
- 1 5.5 oz can tomato paste
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb lean ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp fennel, crushed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- In the slow cooker, combine whole tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, carrot, garlic, salt and hot pepper flakes.
- In a large bowl, mix beef, pork, eggs, bread crumbs, milk, garlic, parsley, Parmesan cheese, fennel seeds, salt and pepper until combined.
- Shape in 12 large meatballs and arrange meatballs on top of tomato sauce in the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until carrots are tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into several meatballs reads 160F. Skim off fat. Serve sprinkled with basil.