Slow Cooker: Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

We try to cook using the Crock Pot at least once a week. These meals are easy, quick, and generally provide leftovers for later in the week (or several weeks as is the case with this recipe). To cook good food in a slow cooker generally means that you can’t just dump things in and turn it on. You have build layers of flavor just as you would with any other meal.

These meatballs are great. They’re relatively healthy, provide an abundance of food (either for a crowd or the freezer), and taste outstanding. They’re made with pork, beef, and turkey and baked prior to putting in the slow cooker. We ate these with pasta the first night. Stay tuned for meatball extravaganza.

Slow Cooker Meatballs

  • 1lb ground chuck
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs — you should make your own
  • 1 egg beaten lightly
  • 1tbsp ground oregano
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

    Preheat oven to 500°

    If you’re making your own breadcrumbs (and you should be) toast a few slices of bread and toss them in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until thoroughly chopped. Set aside.

    Combine onion, garlic, and carrot in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until chopped. Add frozen spinach and pulse to combine. Put the meat into a large bowl and mix with all ingredients to form a solid meatball mixture — be careful not to over mix though or your meatballs will be tough. At this point I pull out a small amount and cook it on the stove to test the flavor. It’s really the only way to know if you need to add something (usually spiciness in my case).

    Shape into balls (I use a #40 disher) and place on a rack rack in a half sheet pan. Be sure that you’re using a sheet pan and not a cookie sheet, otherwise the fat from your meatballs will drain into your oven as opposed to the waiting pan. Bake in 500° oven for 15-20 minutes until well browned.

    At this point you could stop and store the meatballs (they’re cooked) or you could continue and cook them further in a tomato sauce.

    Tomato Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 28oz cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp black pepper
  • 2tsp red pepper flakes

    Sweat the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened. Combine with other ingredients in slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours.