Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Homemade meatballs are a staple in my house. And rightfully so because they’re so much better than frozen. If you’re looking for a quick meatball skillet to feed a small number of people, try out this cheesy meatball skillet. If you have a ton of people to feed or want enough food to last you for some time, this is the recipe for you. These slow cooker Italian meatballs are lovingly braised in marinara sauce for hours. All 40 of them. I usually serve 5 meatballs per person, so that’s about 8 servings. And you can also opt to freeze them for a quick dinner in the future.

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

The meatballs are a combination of extra lean ground beef and Italian sausage mixed with Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and Italian breadcrumbs. They’re hearty and will fill you up paired with a pasta of your choice or in a sub, Italian bread or demi baguette. Have a sudden craving for a meatball sub for dinner? No problem! Heat up the meatballs, toss in more marinara sauce if needed, arrange them on a sub and tuck in some slices of provolone then bake it for awhile. Yum.

So let’s try this one out!

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Firstly, I’d like to point out that we will be broiling the meatballs prior to putting them in the slow cooker. Why do we need to broil it? Because even though we’ll be using super lean ground beef, there’s still some fat in it. This fat will melt in the slow cooker and you’ll get a greasy marinara sauce. It’s not pretty. So to avoid this, we use super lean ground beef and broil the meatballs to melt the fat from them prior to slow cooking them. There will still be some fat rendered in the slow cooker but not as much. It’s easy to spoon it all out after all is said and done.

To make the meatballs, we’ll combine all the meatball ingredients and mix them up with our hands until all the Parmesan cheese, egg and breadcrumbs are absorbed  and evenly distributed into the meats. You can use freshly grated Parmesan or the dry kind in the shaker. I tend to use the shaker kind.

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Now it’s time to form the meatballs. Your hands are your best friends here. It’ll take some time since this is the bulk of the prep work, so put on some music while you’re doing it and if you have some extra set of hands around the house, coax them into helping you. Use an ice cream scoop as a baseline of how to size your meatballs. Then pack them in tightly, smoothing over any cracks so they don’t fall apart.

Grease a baking sheet and line them up nicely. I have a pretty big baking sheet so all 40 meatballs fit in one. You might need to use two if yours are a little on the small side. Broil them at 500 degrees F on the top rack until browned and the fat has melted through, about 8 minutes. Let them sit awhile to harden up before transferring to a slow cooker.

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Now for the marinara sauce. If you’re perfectly happy with the jarred kind, then pour it over the meatballs and call it day. If you have a favorite recipe you swear to, fix that up and add them to the meatballs. I tweaked mine a little by adding some seasonings to the jarred marinara sauce before adding it in. I’m not a big fan of the tartness you get straight from the jar so I’ve added a quick recipe for a mildly sweetened, balanced and slightly beefy marinara sauce in the recipe notes. Season the sauce till you get it the way you like.

Then we cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. The meatballs stayed intact throughout. If the sauce comes out a little too thick for your liking, just add some beef broth to thin it out once it’s all cooked.

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Now it’s time to eat! Put it in a hoagie/sub/demi baguette/Italian bread or try it with some cooked pasta. I’ve included a couple pics with some pasta for a visual idea. I didn’t have any bread handy or there would be a pic of that too! If you have a big family, then you’re set. If it’s just a few of you and you want to eat it the next couple of days, refrigerate the rest. If there’s a few of you and you want to save it for another day, freeze it!

That’s it folks! Happy eats 🙂

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These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs


  • Author: The Cooking Jar
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 15 mins
  • Yield: 50 meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 jars (24 oz.) marinara sauce

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. hot/mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to mix thoroughly
  2. Scoop out about 1 golf ball sized meatball mixture, roll it in your hands to make a meatball. I used an ice cream scoop
  3. Grease a baking sheet and arrange meatballs on them. Broil at 500 degrees F for 8 minutes or until browned and fat has melted through
  4. Transfer meatballs to a 5-qt. slow cooker and pour in marinara sauce
  5. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours
  6. Serve with pasta, demi-baguettes, baguettes, Italian rolls or any kind of bread you like
  7. Freeze the remaining meatballs for future dinners!

Notes

Homemade marinara sauce:

Ingredients:
2 jars (24 oz.) marinara sauce
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 beef bouillon cubes
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Over medium high heat, saute the onion and garlic in some oil until translucent and fragrant
Pour in marinara sauce and add the remaining ingredients
Stir to combine and adjust seasoning to taste

Nutrition per meatball (serving size 40):

These slow cooker Italian meatballs are a great answer for quick weeknight dinners. Freeze leftovers for another day!

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Fida | Sweet and Savoury Pursuits
    November 12, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    So happy to have discovered your blog on yummly! Your recipes look delicious and this meatball recipe sounds perfect!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 16, 2015 at 2:16 PM

      Thank you, Fida, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply
    Alisha
    November 13, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Do you recommend cooking them in the crock pot and then freezing or freezing before cooking them? Thanks!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 16, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      I personally would cook them in the slow cooker then freeze them so you can heat them up whenever you want, all ready to go! Just remember when reheating that if the marinara sauce is too thick, add a little beef broth and stir till you get the consistency you want.

  • Reply
    Barely Vegan
    November 17, 2015 at 1:30 AM

    These would definitely be going in a hoagie roll for me!! And with extra sauce. I like the roll to be soaked in red sauce!! YUM! They really do look amazing!! And BEAUTIFUL photography!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 17, 2015 at 2:22 PM

      Thank you, Monique! I usually load mine with provolone cheese on the side sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and bake it for awhile to get melt the cheese and get the bread a little crusty!

  • Reply
    Liz
    April 26, 2016 at 9:57 PM

    Thank you for the nice recipes

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 29, 2016 at 12:13 PM

      Thanks for the nice comment, Liz! 🙂

  • Reply
    Shannon
    December 24, 2016 at 1:34 PM

    Thanks for the tip about broiling. I’m serving these for Christmas Eve dinner!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 20, 2017 at 9:49 AM

      Definitely broil them. You’ll want to get off all that nasty fat so it doesn’t ruin your sauce in the slow cooker!

  • Reply
    Maggie
    May 8, 2017 at 5:27 PM

    Hi! This sounds great! My broiler drawer is a ridiculous pain in the butt to use. I can heat my oven up to 500 to bake. Could I do that instead of broiling, do you think?? Would love to make these this week. Thanks!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      May 9, 2017 at 4:14 PM

      I think it’ll work. Just adjust the baking time accordingly if needed. Good luck, Maggie!

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