No. 267: Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Mr. McC had quite a Sunday - a round of golf, dropping a friend at the airport and then a double header softball evening to end the season.

Meanwhile, I ran errands and did the laundry. Aren't we so exciting?

But with all those crazy plans, our Sunday dinner was in flux. Would dinner be at home or pizza with the team in between the two games? With that level of ambiguity, a slow cooker meal seemed like the perfect solution. I immediately gravitated toward these simple meatballs on the Food & Wine site.


Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large basil sprig plus 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef chuck
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

To make

Using your hands, crush the tomatoes into a slow cooker and add their juices. Add the olive oil, tomato paste, basil sprig, crushed red pepper and half of the garlic. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, until the tomato sauce is very flavorful and reduced.

With about 30 minutes to go on the sauce, start the meatballs. In a large bowl, mix the ground chuck with the remaining garlic and the bread crumbs, egg, 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Roll the mixture into 18 meatballs, being careful not to pack them too firmly.


Add the meatballs to the sauce.

Meatballs in sauce

Cover and cook on high for 1 hour longer, until no trace of pink remains in the center of the meatballs.

When finished cooking, discard the basil sprig. Add 1 tablespoon of the sliced basil to the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the meatballs into bowls, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sliced basil and serve, passing grated cheese at the table.

Note: The cooked meatballs can be refrigerated in the sauce for up to 2 days before serving.

The results

It was such a great feeling to be sitting at Round Table Pizza knowing that my handy dandy 'oven' had switched over to warm and my prepared dinner would be just fine hanging out for a couple more hours.

I came home in the late evening to meatballs that were perfectly cooked through in a heavy and flavorful sauce.

Final meatballs

We packed them up, put them in the fridge and were excited to have a delicious lunch for Monday.

Only one note on the ingredients. I used 80/20 beef for the meatballs which put a hefty amount of fat into the sauce. Next time I'd go for a leaner mix and skip the olive oil.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina