Few things are more delicious and comforting than meatballs simmered low and slow in tomato sauce with hints of Parmesan, parsley, and sausage studded throughout. True Italian meatballs normally combine pork, beef, and veal to create rich deep flavors. These lightened-up slow cooker meatballs use lighter turkey sausage to deepen the flavor without all the added calories and fat. They are cooked in a rich tomato sauce in the slow cooker to create delicious and moist meatballs. Try them over pasta, spaghetti squash, or stuffed in crusty rolls to make meatball sandwiches.
- Ground Beef: If you want to keep these meatballs on the lighter side, then make sure to use a lean ground beef that's at least 90% lean. If you aren't worried about that, any ground beef will work. You can also swap in ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground pork.
- Ground Italian Sausage: This is the secret ingredient in this recipe, it adds so much flavor. You could swap in extra ground beef, but you will need to add some extra spices since you won't get all the flavor in the sausage.
- Crushed and diced tomatoes: These are for making the sauce. San Marzano tomatoes will give you the best flavor, but any canned tomatoes will work. Using both the crushed and diced provides a nice texture of the sauce. You could also use some whole tomatoes, just break them up with a wooden spoon.
- Garlic and herbs: In order to get a rich flavor in the meatballs and in the sauce, you want to add lots of garlic, parsley, and dried herbs. If you love garlic, you can add extra. Italian seasoning is a great way to add lots of flavor with just one seasoning mix or you can add your own combination of dried basil, parsley, and oregano.
- Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese serves a dual purpose in these meatballs as both a flavor agent and binder. Parmesan, romano, pecorino, or any combination of these classic Italian cheeses will work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to all the most common questions about cooking meatballs in the slow cooker.
For a quicker way to make Italian meatballs in the slow cooker, you can swap in a bag of frozen meatballs. Just make the sauce as directed and add the frozen meatballs and sauce to the slow cooker. Cook for 3-6 hours on low, depending on whether the meatballs are raw or precooked.
It is difficult to overcook meatballs on the stove or in the slow cooker, as long as the meatballs are cooked on low. Many people mistake tough meatballs for overcooked meatballs. Tough meatballs are usually caused by the meat being overmixed or overly compressed.
This recipe doesn't require the meatballs to be browned beforehand, but taking a few minutes to brown them first will add even more flavor. The meatballs can be browned in a hot skillet or browned in the oven at 400 degrees. This can also help the meatballs to stay together if you have found your meatballs fall apart in the crockpot.
These meatballs can be reheated in the slow cooker or on the stovetop. Just reheat them until warmed through and keep the slow cooker set to warm.
Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
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- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs (leave out for low carb)
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb 95% lean ground beef
- 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey sausage
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onion and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Stir for 30 seconds and add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and bay leaf. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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