Crock Pot Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Homemade Crock Pot Italian Meatballs are so simple — and delicious. Delicate and tender, these scratch-made meatballs poach in the marinara creating a rich and delicious sauce in the crockpot. Serve as an appetizer or entree.

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 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.

a close up photo of meatballs plated with spaghetti and sauce.

One of my Mom’s most requested slow cooker [paid link] dishes by far was her Crock Pot Italian meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce. She always brought these to potluck 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.

A 3/4 angle photo of meatballs, spaghetti, and sauce on a plate.

These crock pot meatballs and sauce would most often “sell out” first on the buffet. In fact, she started making double and triple batches just to handle the demand!

My Mom was not one to ever let someone go away hungry, so every year she increased the supply to meet the demand until we were making over 10 pounds of meatballs. There’s just something people love about meatballs and sauce — especially when it’s homemade.

A close up photo of spaghetti and meatballs in marinara sauce on a white plate garnished with Parmesan cheese and torn basil.

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 to 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.

Using a small ice cream scoop [paid link] or digital kitchen scale to measure the meat, 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.

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Crock Pot Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Ronda Eagle | Kitchen Dreaming
Crock Pot Italian Meatballs are so simple and delicious. Delicate and tender, these scratch-made meatballs poach in the marinara creating a rich and delicious sauce in the crock pot. Serve as an appetizer or entree.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 10 mins
Course Appetizer, Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 servings
Calories 296 kcal


  • Slow Cooker


  • 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
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 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.


  1. This recipe is easily halved or doubled.
  2. For fresh breadcrumbs, I pulse the heels of bread in the food processor.
  3. Meatballs may also be pan-fried or baked first.


Serving: 1serving (4 meatballs with sauce)Calories: 296kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 32gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 115mgSodium: 1496mgPotassium: 1087mgFiber: 4gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 1066IUVitamin C: 17mgVitamin D: 1µgVitamin E: 3mgVitamin K: 41µgCalcium: 121mgFolate: 52µgIron: 6mgZinc: 7mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

20 thoughts on “Crock Pot Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce”

  1. Tried this last weekend along with the sauce. What a great hack with the poultry seasoning. I would have never thought to look at that otherwise.

  2. I just made oven roasted meatballs two nights ago and there was lots of fat on the sheet pan under the rack. Do you skim lots of fat off the top before serving?

  3. Hi! I noticed that cheese is mentioned in the directions but not listed in the ingredients. What kind of cheese and how much? Thank you!

    • Hi Liz – thanks for pointing this out! I use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I love the saltiness of it. I have added this to the instructions! Thanks so much for taking the time to point this out – I truly appreciate it.

  4. I noticed that the homemade sauce recipe takes 8 hours to cook, and so does the meatball recipe. Does that mean you make the sauce first for 8 hours, and then cook it again with the meatballs for another 8 hours? Or do you combine both recipes’ uncooked ingredients and cook for 8 hours just once?

  5. This is a good starter recipe. My daughter was able to follow it easily and make dinner in our crock pot while we were at work. Thanks!

    • Yes, Sasha, this is our most basic recipe. It’s one we can use to make or adapt in any direction flavorwise. Also great as BBQ meatballs or sweet and sour meatballs. For more intense Italian flavors, I would add a few tablespoons of dry Italian spice blend.


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