Slow Cooker Meatballs are a comforting meal made with ease! Tender meatballs simmered in a delicious Italian tomato sauce and served with spiralized noodles.
What is your ULTIMATE comfort food? At our house, it’s hands down spaghetti and meatballs! In fact, as part of my wedding vows, I promised to make it for my hubby at least once a month. Seriously, I did. I’ll admit, though. It’s been a challenge to keep up the pace of meatball production. I knew that I had to figure out a solution that didn’t require me to check the stove so often.
I finally figured out how to make the most tender meatballs without all of the work, and the secret is all in the magic of the Crock-Pot. This slow cooker Italian meatball recipe doesn’t get any easier than this, and I am super excited to share with you! I’ve added a few tricks to make this dish healthier so you can satisfy your craving and get a healthy serving of vegetables at the same time!
Jason’s grandma is the queen of meatballs. I’m so lucky that she shared her traditional spaghetti and meatball recipe with me! I’ve been making her recipe for years, but I wanted to see if I could transform it into a slow cooker meal. I can confidently say that I had success!
Oh boy, I LOVE my Crock-Pot. It was so easy to make the tomato sauce and slowly simmer the meatballs at the same time. I just added everything to the pot, after a few prep steps, covered for 2 hours and bam, dinner was ready!
To make a moist and tender meatball that has the right balance of chew and softness, I use a ratio of 1 pound meat, to 1 large egg and 1 cup of breadcrumbs. I used whole wheat panko breadcrumbs to add some whole grains.
You can adjust seasonings to just the way you like it, and even add different flavor combinations like my Thai coconut curry meatballs. I still brown the meatballs under the broiler before adding to the slow cooker, so it had a beautiful color and is mostly cooked.
We love pasta noodles. However, sometimes I’m craving protein without all of the extra carbs that leaves you wanting just to lay out on the couch after dinner. I’ve been using my handheld Spiralizer for tons of meals to add some extra vegetables to each dish.
I used zucchini and yellow squash in this recipe, but you can use whatever kind you like. I saute the zucchini noodles until just crisp-tender, so it can hold up to the sauce and not be super soggy.
Oh man, I couldn’t wait to dig in! We always find ourselves circling the slow cooker pot in anticipation as it gets closer to being ready. Once the noodles and meatballs hit the table all is quiet, and they are gone in an instant. I was happy to see my toddler James even enjoy his own serving, and even dipped it in the extra sauce just like his DaDa!
The best thing about making these Italian meatballs in the slow cooker was able not to have to stir and check in every so often. I’ve found that to ensure I don’t get hot spots on the stove or burnt meatballs or sauce. I have to peak, stir and repeat. Not with a Crock-Pot!
The even and consistent cooking temperature allows you to set it and forget it, and mine even shuts off once the time is done. Ah, the perfect no-stress meal for any parent! I even got the chance to take James to the park and enjoy the afternoon instead of hanging out in the kitchen all day. I promise you are going to love this classic and comforting recipe!
Tips for making Slow Cooker Meatballs
Slow cooking allows the food to be heated at a consistent temperature over a longer period. To make meatballs similar in taste to traditional stovetop cooking, I do a few key things. 1) Always brown the meatballs in the oven on broil to add texture, color, and flavor to the exterior of the meatball. 2) Instead of sauteing the onions and garlic for the tomato sauce, I add them with olive oil and tomato paste in a microwave-safe bowl to make the onions tender and develop flavor. 3) No peeking under the lid! Once you put the lid on, do not remove it. Once you let the steam and heat out it needs more time to get hot again, which means longer wait for the meatballs.
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Slow Cooker Meatballs with Spiralized Noodles
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs, traditional or panko
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- ⅔ cups yellow onions, minced, divided
- ¼ cup Italian parsley leaves, minced
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon oregano, dried
- 5 garlic, cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 56 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned San Marzano recommended
- 6 ounces tomato paste
- 3 pounds zucchini, about 8 cups spiralized
- Preheat oven to broil. Line a large sheet pan with foil and grease with cooking spray or olive oil. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl combine ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons minced onion, minced parsley, onion powder, oregano, 1 teaspoon minced garlic (use the rest for the sauce), ½ teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Roll meatball mixture into 2 tablespoon-sized balls, about 12 to 13 meatballs. Evenly place onto the greased sheet pan. Broil in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce.
- In a microwave-safe bowl add ½ cup minced onions, ¼ cup olive oil, remaining minced garlic, and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Microwave for 2 minutes. Stir and microwave another 1 minute. Add mixture to the slow cooker.
- Add a 56-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and 2 teaspoon salt to slow cooker. Stir to combine.
- Turn slow cooker to HIGH setting and set for 2 hours. Add broiled meatballs and submerge into the sauce. Cover and do not remove the lid until cooking is complete. You can also cook on LOW setting for 4 to 5 hours.
- Once the meatballs are done cooking, taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Meanwhile, prepare the zucchini and squash noodles.
- Spiralize zucchini until you yield about 8 cups of cut noodles. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, cook the vegetables.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and allow to heat. Add zucchini and saute for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until crisp-tender, not soggy. You want the noodles to hold some shape. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve vegetable noodles into bowls. Top with meatballs, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and basil if desired.
- You can substitute ground turkey or chicken for the beef. You can use any kind of finely ground breadcrumbs, I used whole wheat panko bread crumbs.
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