One of my Mom’s most requested slow cooker dishes by far was her Crock Pot Italian meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce. She always brought these to pot luck dinners and they were requested for family functions and are still even a family favorite on Christmas Eve when we make a buffet of finger foods for dinner. These crock pot meatballs and sauce would most often “sell out” first on the buffet. In fact, she had to start making double and triple batches just to handle the demand! My Mom was not one to ever let someone go away hungry and it would have hurt her feelings if she thought that someone wanted a certain dish and did not get to have any. So every year she increased the supply to meet the demand until we were making 10 pounds of meatballs. There’s just something people love about meatballs and sauce — especially when it’s homemade.
Homemade Italian Meatballs are so simple — and delicious. It’s truly worth every bit of effort you put in (which isn’t much) and as a reward, you get every bit of that effort back in two-fold in appreciation from your family and guests. You will never get a meatball from a bag as tasty as the ones you make homemade, and the same goes for the spaghetti sauce. With this recipe, the sauce doesn’t have to be a labor of love. It’s quite easy to pop it into the crockpot and let it simmer and bubble away while you go on about your day. That’s my kind of recipe, for sure.
Our big tip for this recipe is to add all the ingredients except the beef together in a bowl and mix well. Add the beef into the bowl by breaking it up a little at a time until it’s all in. Then lightly combine the ingredients with just your fingertips until just combined trying not to over mix the mixture. Then using a measuring cup, lightly compress the meatballs into form without compacting it tightly. This results in a very light, soft meatball. Over-mixing and compacting the mixture as you roll them creates a very dense meatball. People seem to enjoy the light, soft texture of the meatballs over a more compacted mix. We employ this same technique for meatloaf, and it is also very well received.
Crock Pot Italian Meatballs
Yield 8 servings (32 meatballs)
- 2 large eggs ( 1 per pound of beef as a binder - optional)
- 1 cup breadcrumbs, fresh or dried [See Note 2]
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon poultry or Italian seasoning (optional)
- 32 oz lean (90% or leaner) ground beef
- 6 cups (48 ounces) Spaghetti Sauce, Homemade or jarred marinara
- Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, milk, onion, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Next add the beef and with your fingertips lightly mix the ingredients until just combined but try not to over mix or compact the meat. Make the meatballs into 1 ounce balls (about 1 to 1 1/2-inches) compressing them just enough to form a ball and place in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover with sauce and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
- This recipe is easily halved or doubled.
- For fresh breadcrumbs, I pulse the heels of bread in the food processor.
- Meatballs may also be pan-fried or baked first.