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Slow Cooker Meatballs with Garden Vegetable Sauce

Slow Cooker Meatballs with Garden Vegetable Sauce

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Because of all the extra veggies, the sauce is light but savory, with just enough cream (or coconut cream) to make it extra satisfying. You could serve these on their own, with rice, or over pasta, but I love to spoon these slow-cooker meatballs over simple zucchini noodles (learn how to make zoodles here), using up the abundance of summer squash and adding some extra lightness to this dish on a hot day.

— Emily of Holistic Squid

Click here for more recipes from the Holistic Squid.

Click here for more of the 101 Best Slow Cooker Recipes



  • 1/2 Pound ground beef
  • 1/2 Pound ground pork (or use all beef)
  • 1/4 pound beef liver
  • 2 eggs, preferably from pasture-raised hens
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon. ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or almond meal

Garden Vegetable Sauce

  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 cup raw cream or coconut milk
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano cheese, optional
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil


Calories Per Serving1098

Folate equivalent (total)173µg43%

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into a slow cooker and add their juices. Add the olive oil, tomato paste, basil sprig, crushed red pepper and half of the garlic. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, until the tomato sauce is very flavorful.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the ground chuck with the remaining garlic and the bread crumbs, egg, 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Roll the mixture into 18 meatballs, being careful not to pack them too firmly.

Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour longer, until no trace of pink remains in the center of the meatballs. Discard the basil sprig. Add 1 tablespoon of the sliced basil to the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the meatballs into bowls, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sliced basil and serve, passing grated cheese at the table.

Slow Cooker Asian Meatballs

I have to admit – it feels kind of silly to be writing about meatballs just days before Thanksgiving. But I figured that at this point, you most likely have your Thanksgiving menu planned out, but you are still going to need easy recipes for the weeknights – or for those crazy busy nights that are coming up between Thanksgiving and Christmas!!

I have a thing for meatballs, I think. I’ve made them in the slow cooker before. And I’ve made them Asian style before. But I combined them this time – Asian style in the slow cooker!! I actually came up with this when I was in a clean out the fridge mood, and found a bottle of hoisin sauce and a bottle of plum sauce that both needed to be used. What I ended up with was a winner!! And while this isn’t a dump and cook slow cooker meal, I think the extra little bit of effort is totally worth it. I haven’t tried it, but I’m guessing that you could even make these meatballs ahead of time, freeze them, and then slow cook them (adding some extra time if they are frozen). That will make the morning prep even easier!

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Recipe Summary

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 each garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can RED GOLD® Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 (28 ounce) can RED GOLD® Tomato Sauce
  • 1 (6 ounce) can RED GOLD® Tomato Paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • ½ cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs eggs
  • 8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large skillet heat extra-virgin olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Spray 5 quart or larger slow cooker. Add onion and garlic and remaining sauce ingredients. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Serve on pasta of your choice.

Meat can be added to the sauce if desired. Below is a meatball recipe that could be added to the sauce at the beginning of the cook time.

Mozzarella Meatballs: In a large bowl mix turkey, oats, basil, black pepper, garlic cloves and eggs. Shape into 2-inch balls (should get 14 to 16 meatballs). Press 1 small mozzarella ball into center of each meatball, sealed inside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high neat. Add meatballs cook just until browned on all side. Place half of the sauce in slow cooker, add meatballs and then last half of sauce. Cook as directed.

How to make Sweet and Sour Meatballs:

  • Meatballs &ndash Frozen homestyle meatballs
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce &ndash Look for a jar of Sun Luck brand, P.F. Changs brand. Or a can of Contadina Sweet and Sour Sauce. I find these in the Asian section of the store.
  • Pineapple &ndash Use pineapple chunks not tidbits if possible.
  • Bell Pepper &ndash One red and one green.
  • Baby Corn &ndash Find these in the Asian section of the store. Drain well.
  • Water Chestnuts &ndash You will find these in the Asain section as well. Drain well.
  • Seasonings &ndash Freshly minced garlic and red pepper flakes.

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Asian Meatballs

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Asian Meatballs that come together in minutes with frozen meatless meatballs, hoisin sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger. These are so easy to make and perfect for dinner, an appetizer, or for meal prep.

These easy crockpot meatballs may just be my new favorite meatless meal. Last weekend, we were having friends over. About two hours before we planned on starting, I found out we would have three extra guests, all of whom were vegetarian. I had already prepped these Asian Meatballs with Asian Kale Apple Slaw and some brown rice, but I needed a meatless option.

Staring at a bag of frozen Trader Joe's meatballs, I knew those would be the key to creating a quick meatless option. Raiding my fridge, I came across some hoisin sauce and knew that was the perfect option. Since I still had some prep work to do and didn't have time to stand in front of the stove, I just tossed the meatballs in the slow cooker with the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, garlic, and ginger. And the results were so good. In fact, the vegetarian meatballs disappeared just as quickly as the meat version.

The other thing I love about this recipe is that it is great for meal prep. While the meatballs cook, cook some brown rice or quinoa. Let it cool and divide among four containers. Then add some raw or cooked cabbage slaw, frozen shelled edamame, and the cooked meatballs. Pack up with lunch all week.

In this recipe (and in these photos) you will see 1 ½ inch size meatballs, which in the words of Goldilocks we find not too big and not too small. You can make bigger or small meatballs as you like, and the cooking time will be pretty much the same, perhaps a little longer for meatballs 2-inches or larger.

This works best if you have a large slow cooker with a lot of surface area on the bottom. A larger appliance prevents them from squishing a bit as they cook, but you can stack a light second layer on the bottom layer if you need to.

Slow Cooker Meatballs & Potatoes

Slow Cooker Meatballs & Potatoes recipe, served with a creamy beef gravy. This easy to make crockpot recipe is perfect for busy weeknights! This Italian Meatballs dish uses cream of mushroom soup and is filled with vegetables including potatoes, carrots, celery and onion!

The recipe calls for 1 pound Italian-Style Meatballs. I used Carando Abruzzese Italian Style Meatballs, which are blended with cheese and herbs.

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Slow Cooker Meatballs with Spaghetti

In a large bowl mix together ground beef, garlic, bread crumbs (I use Italian), Parmesan cheese, onion powder and an egg.

Place on a baking sheet (on top of parchment paper for easy cleanup) and bake for 15 minutes.

In a slow cooker add your favorite jar of spaghetti sauce.

Now add in a can of crushed tomatoes.

And a can of tomato paste.

Finally add in brown sugar and a bay leaf.

Mix to combine all these ingredients to make a delicious tomato sauce. Place your baked meatballs into the sauce and mix the sauce so it covers them.

Cook on low for 6 hours. When there is 15 minutes left, cook spaghetti in a pot of salted water. Drain and either add directly into the slow cooker, stirring to make it saucy, or place it directly on plates.

Serve spaghetti with meatballs and sauce on top. I like to add a sprinkle of additional Parmesan cheese and parsley on top too!

Tip: You can make these meatballs for a meatball sub too! Trust me, they&rsquore amazing on a hoagie roll!

Recipe Tips

  • Make sure the pasta is completely covered by the beef broth and other cooking liquid before cooking.
  • When storing leftovers, put in single-servingcontainers to make reheating easier.
  • If you like a thinner sauce, you may want to add more broth to your Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs sauce.
  • Break the dry spaghetti into thirdsso it fits inside the crockpot.
  • Slow Cooker temperatures may vary depending on your make and model, check the internal temperatures of meatballs and tenderness of pasta before eating. You may find that your pasta dinner is ready in less time.

The Best Slow Cooker Meatballs

The idea of a slow cooker meatball recipe seems like a good one at first. After all, how many meatball recipes have you read out there that tell you to simmer the meatballs for a good, long time in their bath of tomato sauce? Long-simmering leads to better flavor and more tender texture, right?

Not so fast. We're people of science here! We don't put stock in hearsay! To test out this idea, I cooked up a few batches of Daniel's exemplary Juicy and Tender Italian Meatballs, leaving out the gelled chicken stock as I was afraid it might be too much of a confounding factor in my testing. I also streamlined a couple of the steps and ingredients—after all, slow cooker recipes are meant to be minimal fuss. After broiling the meatballs and heating up the sauce, I transferred the sauce to a slow cooker set on low heat.

I then added my meatballs to the pot, removing them one at a time at 15 minute intervals from 15 minutes all the way to seven hours later. I also removed a tablespoon of sauce each time in order to gauge the effects of long cooking on its flavor. While slow-cookers vary, and there's no industry standard on what "high," "low," or "warm" mean, I monitored the temperature of my cooker and know that it held steady at between 185 and 190°F for the entire time. Once all the meatballs were removed, I refrigerated all of them overnight, then gently reheated them to 140°F before tasting in order to iron out any differences that their final temperature might have made.

What did I find after tasting the meatballs? Not only does extended cooking make a difference in how the meatballs taste, but it's a drastic one, and not in the right direction. Meatballs cooked for 15 to 45 minutes or so were still tender and moist with a smooth, almost custard-like texture that just melts in your mouth. Between one hour and four hours, the meatballs become increasingly tougher and dryer. By the time you're over the five-hour mark, the meatballs are dry and crumbly, having expelled a good chunk of their moisture to the pot of sauce:

Next I figured I'd go at a lower temperature: my slow cooker holds around 165°F when set to "warm." Even at this temperature, the meatballs ended up starting to dry at nearly the same time.

It's pretty clear that longer cooking does not benefit the meatballs in any way. Just like a sausage, a hamburger, or a steak, the hotter you get them and the longer you cook them, the more moisture they lose.

On the other hand, it was undeniable that the sauce got better and better as it cooked, both by reducing and by picking up flavor from the meatballs as they simmered.

So what's a cook to do? Cook the meatballs for a short time in the sauce and you've got excellent balls but sub-par sauce. The other way around and you've got great sauce and meatballs that are tough as balls.

The solution turned out to be similar to what I did for my meatball pizza: flavor the sauce with some of the meat mixture before you form it into balls.

By sautéing the mixture in some olive oil, then adding an onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes, I created a really flavorful base for my tomatoes. What's more, once the sauce was in the slow cooker, it continued to reduce, the flavors of the meat and tomatoes exchanging.

So how does it all break down? Well, the night before (or the morning of) the day I want to eat my meal, I make my meatball mixture, form the meatballs, and construct the sauce. When I'm ready to go, I let the sauce cook for anywhere between seven to 10 hours at low heat (perfect for when you get home from work). When I want to serve the meatballs, I just drop the refrigerated meatballs into the sauce (you can broil them prior to refrigerating if you want a bit more browned flavor, or just drop them in completely raw) and let them cook through for about 30 minutes.

You end up with meatballs that are as tender as any you've ever had, with a sauce that's rich and thick, packed with intense meaty flavor. Finally, a slow cooker meatball that actually lives up to its imagined ideal.


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