slow cooker italian meatballs
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.
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.
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.
- 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: I froze mine in the sauce after everything was cooked in the slow cooker with great success, but you could also freeze the broiled/browned meatballs out of the sauce. Just be sure to thaw them in the fridge overnight before cooking them in the slow cooker with the sauce.
- NOTE: This recipe makes a lot of meatballs, so if you don’t plan to freeze any I’d suggest halving the recipe.