I have often wondered whether the slow cooker is the answer to nearly every food-related question I have in life.
How can I walk in the door from work and have dinner waiting patiently to be plated?
How on Earth can I transform an inexpensive cut meat into something fall-apart-tender and juicy?
How can I avoid twelve dirty pans, pots, and mixing bowls? Who can I pay to clean them?
Can chocolate be slow cooked?
Why don’t all meals cook themselves?
No, really, can we slow cook chocolate?
And…well…I was mostly right. The slow cooker is the answer to nearly every food-related question I have, though, I have yet to work out the logistics on slow-cooked chocolate.
My most recent questions have been related to one of my top ten favorite foods: The Meatball.
Admittedly, I don’t think meatballs require too much tender loving care. They’re fairly self-sufficient. They’re dependable enough that just about any recipe, any variation, any ol’ thang will make my heart sing. Because I believe it’s the sauce that matters most. No meatball that’s worth a damn is without a marinara to match. (And the absolute best sauce, the far-and-wide find of my entire existence, the only sauce I can say is perfect with one hundred percent certainty and without batting one eye at all of my months spent living in Italy, is the sauce made by my stepfather, my dad, Paul.)
What I crave, at least once a week, are those rich, vibrant Italian flavors. The intoxicating smell of garlic and onions when they spit and sputter in a hot pan with olive oil. Basil and oregano. Sharp and salty parmesan. Sweet, sweet, sauced tomatoes.
It’s understood that the longer your sauce simmers, the more robust its flavor. The better and stronger the marriage of spices to tomatoes. And since we both know that the slow cooker is sure-fire succulence when it comes to meat, well…meatballs in the slow cooker just make sense.
Slowly simmered and cooked directly in your favorite marinara, these meatballs are simple. They’re perfectly moist and tender, while still holding on dearly to their cute round figure.
So friends, it’s not going to get much easier than this. It might not even get any better (until we figure out those logistics on slow cooking chocolate).
Slow Cooked Meatballs
This time, I used ground turkey because it was on sale at the market. Ground beef works just as well, if not better flavor-wise. Combine the meat with fresh bread crumbs, parmesan, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and milk. Use your hands to mix everything well. Be careful not to overwork your meat though, as that can lead to really tough, firm meatballs.
Form the mix into balls that are roughly 1 1/2″ in diameter. Any size will do.
Scatter your onion over the base of your slow cooker. These will soften and enhance the sauce as they cook.
Place the meatballs over the onions. Then pour two cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce evenly over everything. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the meatballs are tender and cooked through.
Slow Cooked Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (1 slice of your favorite bread ground in a food processor)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons fresh minced basil
¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ cup milk
½ large onion, chopped
16 oz (2 cups) of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl using your hands. Do not overmix. Roll the mixture into balls roughly 1 1/2″ in diameter.
Scatter the onion over the base of your slow cooker, followed by the meatballs. Pour the sauce evenly over the top, making sure to coat everything.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.