slow cooker italian meatballs
These Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs are one of my favorite go-to recipes for basically anything. They taste great on their own as an appetizer, but also work well with pasta or on sub sandwiches with melty cheese. They’re freezer-friendly, too — meaning you can make a double-batch now and save some for later.
I realllllly wanted to title this post “slow cooker Italian meat-a-balls” because that’s how I always say it in my head. But we’re trying to keep it profesh around here, so the traditional spelling wins out (though you’ll totally say “meat-a-balls” in your head now, too. You’re welcome).
This is one of the recipes I made pre-baby for our freezer stash, and I made a royal mistake with them — I froze all eleventy billion (or, like, 40) of them in one container. Do you know where I’m going with this? It means I had to thaw all 40 meatballs for me, my husband and my mom (who was staying with us at the time) at once. I was shaking in my boots that some of these delicious meat-a-balls would end up going to waste.
How to Make Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
Well it turns out I completely underestimated my husband’s love for the meatball, because they were all gone — GONE — in two days. Down the hatch in meatball sub form, on top of pasta, cold and sliced and placed atop whole-grain toast (YUM, really), etc. OK, OK — my mom and I helped, too.
Needless to say, this recipe is one of those low-effort, high-result recipes that you’re going to want to make again and again (just maybe freeze them in batches if you do, unless you love eating meatballs for two days straight like my husband).
The slow cooker is my friend in so many ways, and if you have one, you probably agree. It’s so helpful for those hustle-bustle days when dinner is the last thing you want to/have time to make. It also comes in handy when it’s 100 degrees outside and you want to avoid that oven at all costs (except maybe to bake chocolate chip cookies. No amount of heat will keep me from my cookies). And I love using it to make big ol’ batches of easy-peasy foods like these here meatballs, which I intended to use for at least three to four separate meals over the course of, like, a month (see above how that did not go as planned, but all is well).
Making meatballs in the slow cooker is especially delicious because I feel like slow-cooked meat and tomatoes are some of the best things to exist in life. But with a slow cooker, you have to do very little prep work. So the end result is something that tastes like you slaved over it for hours and hours when in reality, you spent about 15 minutes making it happen. WINNER.
How to Serve Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
Like I mentioned before, we enjoyed these meatballs as cheesy subs, on top of spaghetti, cold for lunch on toasted, crusty, whole-grain bread and just by themselves with a salad on the side, but I see sooooo many other uses for them, too. Mayhaps on a pizza? Or in a cheesy baked casserole? If you’ve got more ideas, please share them. And by share, I mean make them and invite me over for dinner. I’ll bring cookies.Print
Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 4 hours 15 mins
- Total Time: 4 hours 30 mins
- Yield: About 40 meatballs 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Slow Cooker
- Cuisine: Italian
Deliciously easy slow cooker Italian meatballs — perfect as an appetizer, with pasta or on a sub sandwich with melty cheese. Freezer-friendly, too!
- ½ cup milk
- 4 eggs
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 12 ounces bulk mild Italian sausage
- 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 (24 oz) jars marinara pasta sauce (or make your own & use 6 cups)
- In a large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until combined. Add ground beef, Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder; stir with a wooden spoon or mix with your fingers until well combined.
- Heat broiler to high; place an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches from the broiler. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or oil. Using your hands, shape (about 40) 1 to 2-inch meatballs from the mixture; place on prepared baking sheets.
- Broil meatballs 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Top meatballs evenly with sauce. Cover and cook on low 4 to 5 hours in the slow cooker until meatballs are cooked through to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F.
- Serve on top of pasta, on split hoagie rolls with melty cheese for meatball sub sandwiches, alongside buttery mashed potatoes or on their own as an appetizer.
- TO FREEZE: Let meatballs and sauce cool completely. Place in a resealable plastic bag and freeze in a single layer; or, freeze in a Tupperware container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then heat the thawed mixture (meatballs and sauce) together until heated through.
- This recipe makes a lot of meatballs, so if you don’t plan to freeze any I’d suggest halving the recipe.
Keywords: crockpot beef meatballs, freezer friendly meatballs, slow cooker beef meatballs
I’m on the hunt for more meals to make and freeze before the baby, definitely keep them coming!
I love that we’re on the same meatball page today!! I am such a slow cooker fan!
Meat balls never last long in my house hold! I could simply eat them as they are with good bread for any meal of the day. So easy but looks like you slaved over these.
YUMZ. I can see why these went so fast!! I lovelove my slow cooker but have never made meatballs in it…changing that ASAP.
BUENISIMO! (I’m not sure if it’s Italian, but I pronounced it that way in my head.) These puppies wouldn’t last long around our house either!
Haha Meat a- balls! Made me laugh on this Monday! 🙂
And these meatballs sounds amazing! Yeah for slow cooking in the summer!
Three cheers for slow cookers today!! And your balls, digging them. Wait.
This is awesome. I actually had no idea you could make meatballs in the crock-pot. Big win, thank you.
Haha, I say meat a balls too 🙂 Frozen meatballs made in large batches are the best! And so funny that you guys had to enjoy them at all once but they look good enough that I wouldn’t be able to stay away.
Lauren — Slow cookers FTW! And balls FTW! 😉
I don’t make as many slow cooker meals as I should, but definitely need to make these soon. I would love to serve these meatballs over a big plate of pasta!
Elizabeth — Oh, you totally can. It’s life changing. 🙂
Gorgeous! Somehow you managed to make meatballs look ultimately gourmet. Love it!
I love slow cookers recipes!! and I would totally devour these meatballs in a sandwich with cheese. . yummmmo!
These would be devoured in my house. I have no willpower around meatballs. I mean, they’re just so cute and bite sized. It’s like the perfect little snack…until you eat 10 of them. Oops.
We make a lot of Italian meat-a-balls (totally going to say it that way from now on!!) around here but I don’t use my slow cooker nearly enough. cant wait to try this deliciousness!!
I’m with you – I love my crockpot for busy days. Few minutes prep and I know dinner is practically done! These meatballs sound amazing – I’ve never made meatballs in my crockpot which I am cursing myself for now! haha 🙂
I have a feeling the same thing would happen in my house! My husband flips for meatballs and I don’t make them very often, why??? I’ll have to make these and be a hero 🙂
How did you freeze them? Was it after cooked or before? Thanks, great recipe. 🙂
Kaitlyn — I let them cool completely after cooking and froze everything in one container (sauce and meatballs). You could probably freeze them ahead of time, though, too!
I can’t wait to make these, they look amazing and love that you used the slow cooker!
Love slow cooker meatballs! So smart of you to freeze them pre baby! I will have to give these a try !! 🙂
I really need to use my slow cooker more in the summer! These meatballs look great!
Sounds like such a great thing to have in the freezer — and so versatile too!
I have been hunting for a great recipe for my freezer meal club and lo and behold, here are these meatballs! Problem solved. They sound divine!
I am going to have to agree with your husband on this one! I could eat meatballs for days on end! This recipe looks super easy. Just a quick question…at what point did you freeze them? Did you freeze them after baking them and then cooked in slow cooker or did you go all the way through the recipe and then freeze with the sauce?
And, yes, thank you because now all I hear is “meat-a-balls” in my head. Make it stop!!!
Lindsey — I froze them after the whole shebang, so they went into a container in the freezer with the sauce. Just be sure to freeze them in batches if you make the whole recipe, unless you want to eat 40 meatballs at once like we did! 😉
Thanks! I will definitely freeze them in more manageable portions. I have also been known to chisel sections out of containers, because I have definitely had a freezer portioning mishap or two!
Amanda — Umm, freezer meal club? I must know more.
I love recipes like this where they make a huge quantity and I can freeze them for when I don’t have time or just don’t want to cook. I love that these meatballs are cooked in the crockpot, I can just imagine how delicious they would be a on a sub!
Yum! My boys would demolish the entire batch. They look so good!
Meat-a-balls for the win girrrrrrrrrl! And oh wow – do these look bomb! That tomato sauce is calling my name. These must taste gorgeous paired with some crusty sourdough *-*
Have a great week xxxx
Well, you already know how we feel about balls – I mean, Alex’s balls – I mean, MEATBALLS over here.
That is to say – YUM.
I’m done. I promise.
That’s a spicy meat-a-ball! Can we play Mario Brothers on an original Nintendo and eat ball after ball? I so agree with your assessment of slow-cooked meats….that is the way all the meats should be cooked!
Oh my gosh. That has so happened to me before. But lucky for me I also have a carnivorous husband who wastes no time getting rid of extra food! I love the quick broil that skips the greasy/oil splashing pan frying!
My husband has Italian roots and his aunts make the best meatballs. I think these might live up to his high standards!
Saw these on Facebook and just HAD to come get the recipe!! They look absolutely delicious, I’m always on the look out for new slow cooker recipes and these are sure to be winners in our house!
Looks like a great comfort food.. 🙂
Meat-a-ball! Totally on repeat during this entire post! And like having 40 meat-a-balls would be such a bad thing! We would devour them all if they looked this good! Pinned!
I could see myself just sitting in front of this pot with a fork — and that’s all
Annie — Thanks so much for stopping by! Isn’t the slow cooker in the summer the best? 🙂
Steph — No judgement if you do. 😉
Julia — Um, YES. I love this plan times a bazillion.
Stephie — This is why I love you.
Yessss. Love that they have both beef and sausage in them as all good meatballs *should*. Meatball subs are a crazy weakness of mine.. paired with a huge glass of red wine.. drooool.
Pinning for later!
Can’t beat the slow cooker for a recipe like this! They look perfect!
love how hearty this is.. perfect for this winter weather. definitely a recipe i will be recreating for my household. thanks!
I love that you type meat-a-ball. That’s exactly how I say it too… in and out of mah head 😉 I want a whole bowl of these saucy stunners right now please!
I love recipes like this that I can throw in the slow cooker and have enough to freeze! These look wonderful!
I so want to make these today but all I have are panko bread crumbs. Do you think that would work with the addition of a little Italian seasoning??
Jeanne R — That would probably work! Or you can make your own breadcrumbs by toasting some sandwich bread and giving it a whir in the food processor (and then adding Italian seasoning). Hope you enjoy the recipe!
These meatballs sound delicious but I’m making 3lbs of meatballs for a very large group of people, and I just want to know if I should use the same amount of ingredients as you used for 2lbs.
Rebecca — If you’re making 3 lbs, I suggest you increase all of the ingredients to 1 1/2. So for example, instead of 1/2 cup milk, you’ll use 3/4 cup; instead of 4 eggs, you’ll use 6; and so forth. Let me know if you have any more questions… and enjoy! 🙂
Pingback: 21 Slow Cooker Recipes | All to make your life easier.
Great recipe, but quick question: When do you freeze them?
Duckie — I froze them with the sauce after they were fully cooked. Just remember to freeze in batches, unless you want to eat them all at once! 🙂
Made these last night and they turned out great! Only issue was that when I baked them, they kind of flattened out instead of staying round. Is it possible that there was too much milk? I had literally just halved everything on the recipe. I even increased the breadcrumbs to try to dry it out a little so they would stay round.
Mehnaz — Hmm, I’ve never had that happen before (even with halving the ingredients)! My only suggestion is to decrease the milk and increase the breadcrumbs even more than you did, or maybe add more meat. Sorry I can’t be more helpful — still, I’m glad you enjoyed them! 🙂
At what point would you freeze them? After being in the broiler? After cooked completely? or would you freeze them raw?
Margaret — I froze mine after everything was cooked and mixed together — sauce and all. You could also probably freeze them right after broiling, and then thaw them before adding them to the slow cooker with the sauce!
I’ve been making meatballs cooked in sauce on the stovetop for years, and was craving them but it’s still so very hot here I thought about using the crock pot. Thanks! Luckily grass fed beef was on sale so this is perfect.
What’s the best ground beef to use? Lean or a ground chuck?
Sherry — I used lean ground beef for the recipe.
It looks so delicious this recipe. I prefer to serve it with linguini.
Pingback: 10 Favorite Easy Crockpot Recipes! | Women's f Blog
I have one concern before jumping in to this one. I’ve made a big batch of home made sauce and it will go GREAT with these. However, doesn’t the sauce get watered down in the crock pot? Seems like it would. That’s my only complaint about slow cookers, some recipes get watery and yuk!
Mrs Kelly — From my experience the sauce doesn’t get watered down, but I often use the store-bought sauce (blasphemy, I know ;)). If you’ve got a thick homemade sauce it should be just fine!
Looks delicious! Tuck those meatballs into some bread, top with mozzarella and I’m in heaven!
At what stage would you freeze them?
Mary Beth — I froze them after everything was cooked, in the sauce.
This looks wonderful! 2 of my sons have been begging for meatballs and, of course, I can’t find my recipe after moving, so I’ll definitely try this. Do you have any freezing advice? I’ve never been good at freezer meals. Freeze before cooking?
Kathy — I froze mine in the sauce after everything was cooked in the slow cooker, but you can also freeze the meatballs after browning/broiling them, out of the sauce. Just thaw them in the fridge overnight before cooking them in the slow cooker with the sauce. Hope that helps (and enjoy)!
These were amazing! The whole family (even my picky 2 year old) loved them! I used my leftovers to make a meatball sub casserole that was also fantastic (I cut a loaf of French bread into 1 inch thick pieces and layered an ungreased 9×13 pan with them, then I topped the bread with a mixture of 1 block cream cheese mixed with 1/2 C mayo and 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/2 tsp pepper then I layered a 1/2 C of mozzarella onto that and then my leftover meatballs and a little more cheese! Baked at 350 for 30 minutes!) thanks for the recipe!
I am going to try these for sure….my family does not love sausage so I thought I would just add more ground beef? Ever tried that??
Jan — I have not, but I’m sure it would taste just as good!
Pingback: 20 Easy & Delicious Crock Pot Recipes for Dinner - Mama's Got It Together
Excellent and delicious
Pingback: Simply Scrumptious - Holiday Hub Bub - Hissy Fits & Happiness
Pingback: 20 Slow Cooker Recipes Your Family Will Love - Home. Made. Interest.
I’m always looking to improve on my meatball recipe so this gives me some good ideas!
Made these tonight. Delicious! I made a couple changes because I had ground turkey. Turkey instead of beef and I halved the rest of meat recipe except the cheese. Meatball sandwiches tomorrow! Thank you.
Pingback: 8 easy slow cooker dinner recipes to help beat winter nights
I made this recipe over the weekend when my husband and I had friends over. The meatballs were delicious! It was so easy. Thanks for sharing!
Hi I would love to try this recipe but half it. How long would you cook it in the crockpot once the ingredients are cut in half?
Robyn — It should be roughly the same amount of time, maybe less by about a half hour. Just check the internal temperature of the meatballs about an hour to a half-hour sooner, and if they’re cooked through, you’re good!
Pingback: 31 Crock Pot Dinner Recipes to Make All Month Long | Make and Takes
These have become my boys’ FAVORITE meatballs. Not sure how my Italian grandma feels about that.. 😉
Tricia — Haha, I LOVE that (don’t tell Grandma ;)). I’m so glad they love the recipe!
Pingback: The 5 easiest potluck dishes you’ll ever make. Thanks, slow cooker! | Italian Cooking School
Pingback: Gourmet Project | Stephanie (Girl versus Dough)
Pingback: 3 Ingredient BBQ Meatballs | Cooking with a Crockpot
Pingback: 20 Easy & Delicious Crockpot Recipes - The Craftiest CoupleThe Craftiest Couple
I made these meat balls and I have to say not only were they easy to make, they were to put it simply the BEST meat balls I have ever had!! Thank You so much! Keep more slow cooker recipes coming!!!!
i was hoping you had a quick way to make the meatballs. it takes forever to form them. any suggestions?
and i don’t like the ones that are already formed and frozen. i would definitely make them more often but even with the slow cooker this meatballs has to long of standing time.
Pingback: 20 Slow Cooker Dinner Recipes for Busy Week Nights - Deleting the AdjectivesDeleting the Adjectives
Just a quick question…So I see that you froze the meatballs in the sauce after they were cooked. My question is, How did you prepare the already cooked meatballs? Did you thaw them and then put them back in the slow cooker? If so, for how long?
Carolyn — I thawed them and then reheated them on the stovetop, actually — just dumped all the ingredients in there and warmed them up over medium heat!
Love love love this recipe and so does my hubby! Thanks so much for sharing. Making extra and freezing it makes my life a whole lot easier, especially for packing hubby some lunch for work, the ideas are endless with the meatballs too. We make subs and meals out of them. Even our 1 year old nibbles on them.
Quick question: How did you cook them after your froze them? Did you just microwave them? Oven? Stovetop? Slowcooker again? I love the idea of freezing them, but get stuck at the best way to heat them up again. Thanks!
I made these tonight and they were amaze-balls 🙂 I don’t blog, but if I did I would be blogging about your recipe. Well done – 2, 4, 6 and 40 year olds happy.
Anna — Lol, amazeballs 😉 I’m so glad everyone loved them! Thanks for sharing!
Karrie — I just thawed the whole container in the fridge overnight, then heated everything (sauce + meatballs) on the stovetop until they were warmed through.
Pingback: Top 50 Slow Cooker Meals - I Heart Nap Time
Pingback: Sunday Meal Plan #2 - Boston Girl Bakes
Pingback: Baby finger foods 6+ maanden - in my Red Kitchen
Pingback: 15 Family Friendly Slow Cooker Recipes - Bright Star Kids
Pingback: 20 Crock Pot Meatball Recipes for Potlucks, Dinner Parties and More! - Feeding My Kid
Pingback: Crockpot Meatballs for Dinner Parties, Potlucks, and More!
Pingback: » 12 Easy Holiday Appetizers You Can Make in a Slow CookerMake Up Tips
Pingback: 17 Slow-Cooker Super Bowl Recipes That Are Delicious & Low-Key – STYLECASTER | Walking Weight
Pingback: 12 slow cooker recipes: for busy nights
Pingback: Delicious Low Carb Crockpot Meatballs - Best of Life Magazine