As an Italian, there’s nothing I love better than the aroma of a good batch of meatballs. Besides amazingly crunchy yet soft Italian bread, meatballs are my ultimate Italian comfort food. This recipe for crock pot meatballs is so easy that you’ll be making them again and again.
My family always made homemade meatballs when I was growing up; nothing frozen or bought from Ikea or imitation. But when we went to visit my Nana and Papa, there was nothing that compared to their recipe. It just tasted better when they made it. We used the same recipe at home but you know, food always tastes better when someone else prepares it. They made marinara and meatballs all from scratch! It was an all day event to make the sauce and the meatballs but it was totally worth it.
Their meatballs always burst with flavor and juice. I never had a meatball that was dry, hard, or bland. And everything was fresh! Garlic, onion, parsley, oregano, basil, and tomatoes all chopped by hand to create a meatball and sauce from the ground up. Each bite tasted as if I just plucked the ingredients from the garden. There were perfect amounts of each ingredient where none overpowered any of the others. They played together nicely in your mouth and made you desperate for more. That was one of my favorite experiences growing up: watching my grandparents cook all day to make these meals that I couldn’t get enough of.
Unlike traditional methods, my grandparents hardly ever cooked their meatballs in the oven or in the sauce. Every so often they’d cook them in the sauce but most of the time they cooked them in oil. Hot olive oil in a skillet and the meatballs turned a perfect dark brown with a crispiness you taste on the first bite and a great mouth-feel. I still cook my meatballs this way unless I’m making crock pot meatballs. When I want to infuse the sauce flavors into my meatballs, I use my cooking love, my crock pot.
Using the crock pot allows all the flavors, juices, and ingredients to form a happy harmony of stomach-goodness. The meat juices leak into the sauce and add a nice garden flavor from the spices with smoky meat tones in the background. The marinara gives the meatballs tenderness over the many hours they soak and the tomato flavor only adds to the fresh herbs. They create this world of Italian flavors that makes you want seconds and thirds.
I love that the sauce can pick up so many hints from the meatballs that you don’t need to spice the sauce. If you use just basic tomato ingredients (plain tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato puree), you can get all the same spices from the meatballs into the sauce. You don’t need to add extra basil or oregano or garlic; the sauce soaks these up from the meatballs in the crock pot.
One of the major benefits to using the crock pot is saving calories. From resisting the deep frying, you save yourself oils and fats. Cooking in the crock pot doesn’t add any extra butter or calories and is the healthier option. It also allows your family to have an excellent meal without you having to do much.
You save time by making the crock pot meatballs the night before, adding them and the tomato ingredients to the crock pot on the day of, let it cook all day, and then spending 10 minutes cooking some pasta to add. You don’t have to stand by pan while it fries the meatballs and make sure they don’t burn. You don’t have to check the oven or stand around while the meatballs cook in a saucepan while you stir every so often. Just a bit of prep then let it cook all day.
Although I’ve altered the original recipe my Nana gave me to give this one a little more kick, it’s still the only meatballs I continually fall in love with. I never get tired of their taste, texture, or how they mix with homemade sauce. The main flavor combinations are still there but I think a little back heat from red pepper flakes and the added garlic salt bring the recipe to a whole new level.
This sauce isn’t my Nana’s recipe but it still complements the crock pot meatballs well. It goes great with any type of pasta, I suggest angel hair or penne because they’re my favorites, but any type is great. Dip some great French bread or homemade Olive Garden breadsticks in this sauce and serve with the meatballs as well.
For a dish that impresses with both it’s easiness and tastiness, turn to crock pot meatballs and enjoy the meal that keeps on lighting up your eyes and your stomach with happiness.
- • 3 lbs ground beef
- • Salt and pepper to taste
- • 10 cloves of garlic, minced
- • 1 medium white onion, chopped
- • 2 large eggs
- • 2 TB (Tablespoon) parsley
- • 2 TB garlic salt with parsley
- • 4 TB oregano
- • 2 TB red pepper flakes
- • 3 TB Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning
- • 1 TB Basil
- • 2 TB olive oil
- • 2 cups Italian Style Breadcrumbs
- • 2 (23.5 oz) jars of tomato sauce
- • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
- • 1 (15 oz) can tomato puree
- For the crockpot meatballs: Add ground beef to a large bowl and salt and pepper it to taste. chop the onion and mince the garlic then add them to the large bowl. Add the eggs to the large bowl. Add all of the seasonings from parsley to olive oil to the large bowl. Mix the ingredients with yoru hands until they’re all fully incorporated. Add the breadcrumbs and mix with your hands until fully combined. Add the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree to the crock pot and stir until combined. Roll the meat in your hands to create tennis ball-sized meatballs and then add them to the sauce in the crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours and stir every so often. When the meatballs are finished cooking, add them to your favorite type of pasta and enjoy!
Recipe Category: Entree
Recipe Cuisine: Italian, Italian-American
Slow Cook it:
- In a large bowl, add the ground beef
- Salt and pepper the ground beef to taste
- Chop the onion and mince the garlic then add both to the bowl
- Add the eggs to the large bowl
- Add all of the seasonings from parsley to olive oil to the large bowl
- Mix all the ingredients in the large bowl together with your hands until fully combined
- Add the breadcrumbs to the large bowl and mix with your hands until fully combined
- Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato puree to crock pot and stir until combined
- Roll the meat mixture in your hands to create tennis ball-sized meatballs and then add them to the sauce and cook on low for 6-8 hours (Every so often, stir the meatballs into the sauce mixture to make sure they’re absorbing all the flavors of the sauce. You should have about 17-20 meatballs depending on the size. If you prefer to have smaller meatballs, that will work fine and it will decrease the cooking time to low for 4-6 hours.)
- When the meatballs have finished cooking, use a large ladle and add the meatballs and their sauce to a large bowl of pasta
- Serve with your favorite type of pasta and enjoy this hearty Italian masterpiece!