Slow Cooker Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce

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The best Italian Meatballs simmered in homemade sauce right in your crock pot. This healthy recipe is super easy to make!

Two plates with homemade slow cooker meatballs

Homemade Italian meatballs and sauce is one of my absolute favorite dinners. There’s pretty much nothing better than walking into the kitchen and smelling slow cooker meatballs that have simmered all day. It’s so cozy and comforting! 

This slow cooker meatball recipe is super easy to make but seriously rich and flavorful. Serve them over pasta or zucchini noodles, on bread, or even on top of a salad

a big bowl of meatballs with bread in the background

Crockpot Meatballs 

This slow cooker recipe is one of my favorite ways to get a healthy dinner on the table without much fuss. 

I love using my crock pot on weeknights because I can start dinner in the morning and let it cook for me. 

A few months ago, I would have said I like to start the slow cooker in the morning before I leave for work, but even now while I’m working from home it’s still nice to not have to worry about cooking come dinner time. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions these days, so one less chore that I have to do on a set schedule is always nice!

If you enjoy making healthy meals in your slow cooker too, be sure to keep your eyes peeled – I have a huge announcement coming in a few days that I just know you’re going to love.  

ingredients to make homemade meatballs in sauce

What kind of ground beef should I use for meatballs?

For these crock pot meatballs, I use 93% lean ground beef. It strike the perfect balance of being tender and flavorful without being too greasy. You can get away with a higher fat content when making meatballs on the stovetop since the grease can be drained away, but for the slow cooker, lean is definitely the way to go. 

For this particular recipe I decided to keep things simple and use only beef. You can also make spicy pork meatballs or use even ground turkey. 

Can I Make These Slow Cooker Meatballs Gluten Free? {H3 Heading} 

Yes! If you’re looking for a gluten free meal, these meatballs also come out great if you use substitute the bread for a gluten free version. 

As always, keep an eye on the other ingredients you use – especially the spices – to make sure they’re processed in a gluten free facility. 

 You can also use my tutorial for How to Bake Spaghetti Squash to serve these over some spaghetti squash “noodles” or serve them with my Cheesy Polenta with Roast Vegetables. So good.  

meatballs in a slow cooker

Are Italian Meatballs in the Slow Cooker Freezer Friendly?

Yes, this recipe is fantastic for meal prep! 

I often make a few batches of the meatballs and freeze to then add to the slow cooker with the sauce ingredients the day you want to prepare this meal. It gives you a great healthy and delicious meal that can easily be thrown together at the last minute. 

The one downside to making meatballs is that they’re so messy, so you might as well make a bunch if you’re going to make any at all! I also love using a meat baller (affiliate link) or large cookie scoop to shape the meatballs and keep my hands a little cleaner. If you do go this route, still be sure to give the meatballs a quick roll between your palms to make sure they’re nice and tight – that will help prevent them from falling apart in the sauce. 

If freezing meatballs, I recommend rolling and placing them on a lined baking sheet, then loosely covering them and popping into the freezer for 1-2 hours to help them keep their shape.  Remove them from the freezer, and put the semi-frozen meatballs into freezer storage bags that have been dated and labeled.  This keeps them from sticking together and makes it easy to just grab what you need out of a bag when needed.

overhead view of meatballs in a bowl with bread next to them
Two plates with homemade slow cooker meatballs

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Homemade Sauce

The best Crock Pot Italian Meatballs simmered in Homemade Sauce. This healthy recipe is super easy to make! Serve over spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles and top with shredded Parmesan cheese. Yum!
5
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Course: slow cooker recipes
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: crock pot meatballs, homemade meatballs, Italian meatballs, meatballs in sauce, slow cooker meatballs
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 334kcal
Author: Lauren Keating

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 6 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices bread torn into small pieces
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup spinach finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • cup milk dairy or nondairy
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Sauce

  • 15- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15- ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • To make the meatballs, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
  • Transfer the onions and garlic to a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
  • Stir in the egg, bread pieces, breadcrumbs, and seasonings. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Mix in the ground beef, spinach, and parmesan.
  • Using a meatballer or damp hands, form the mixture into 12-16 meatballs.
  • Return the skillet to the stove. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook 304 minutes per side, until browned.
  • Add the sauce ingredients to your slow cooker. Stir well to combine. Gently add the meatballs to the sauce.
  • Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.
Nutrition Facts
Slow Cooker Meatballs in Homemade Sauce
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 334 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Polyunsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 103mg34%
Sodium 567mg25%
Carbohydrates 22g7%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 29g58%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
By on May 17th, 2020

About Lauren

Hi, I'm Lauren! I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie.

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