Slow Cooker: Meatballs in Tomato-Wine Sauce

Sunday January 12, 2014

Meatballs have become a hot topic in the kitchen. While we all love Italian style meatballs, the family has grown to include all types of ground meat and spices in a variety of sauces. Entire books are devoted to meatballs! And I love it.

Hearty yet tender meatballs in a robust tomato sauce are perfect with pasta. There’s always spaghetti, but I especially like them with penne or another chunky pasta shape. Leftover meatballs make super knife-and-fork sandwiches. Just ladle them over a chewy and crusty Italian roll that you’ve warmed, then split open. If you like a chunky-textured tomato sauce, use diced tomatoes; for a smoother sauce, use tomato puree.

Now doesn’t this look GOOD!?

This recipe makes enough for 1 pound of pasta, serving 4


Slow Cooker: Medium or Large Round or Oval
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Briefly on High Heat, then Low Heat: 5 to 6 hours
Serves 6


For The Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup dry red wine

28-ounces diced canned tomatoes in juice, or 28-ounces canned tomato puree

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, or more to taste

For The Meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1 cup bread crumbs (can be panko)

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried basil, or 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh oregano

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Dash ground allspice

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup dry red wine


To prepare the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over  medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are soft but not browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add  the wine and bring it to a boil. Boil 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to dissolve any particles stuck to the pan. Pour and scrape the onion, garlic and wine into the crock. Add the tomatoes or tomato puree, the tomato paste, the salt and pepper, the basil, the oregano, the allspice and the bay leaf into the crock. Stir to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Cover and cook on HIGH while you prepare the meatballs.

To prepare the meatballs: Place the ground beef in a large mixing bowl, breaking it up a bit with your fingers or a large fork. Add the bread crumbs, the eggs, the Parmesan, the salt and the pepper, the basil, the oregano, the parsley and the allspice. Gently but thoroughly blend the ingredients, using your hands or a large fork. Be careful not to compact the meat, which will make your meatballs tough. Gently shape the meat into 12 meatballs, each a bit bigger than a golf balls. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and brown them on all sides, turning them carefully as needed, about 6 to 10 minutes total.

Using a slotted spoon, add the meatballs to the tomato sauce in the crock. Pour off and discard any fat from the skillet. Place the skillet back on the stove and add the wine. Cook on high heat, stirring to dissolve any particles stuck to the pan. Add the wine to the meatballs and stir. If the meatballs are not covered by tomato sauce, carefully spoon some sauce over the meatballs.

Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. Serve the meatballs hot, over pasta, or as a meatball sandwich.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2005, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2014

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

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