Crockpot Meatballs (and Spaghetti)

4 Nov

Somewhere along the line, my kids feel in hard love with meatballs. Which is odd, because DH and I don’t really eat them–I don’t do beef much, and he doesn’t like ground meat mixed with other things and cooked. But the kids begged and the husband went on a business trip, and I started messing around with food, and then shrugged and tossed it all into the slow cooker when time ran out.

Dinnertime came. And you’d have thought I imported Michel Richard to the house for a six-course gourmet meal. There were hugs and high-fives and whoops of joy and lots of “best Mommy ever!”s.

(They were pretty awesome, I have to admit. Tasty and the perfect texture and really comforting).

I mixed up the meat and formed the meatballs on Tuesday night, knowing I had a crazy-busy day Wednesday. My plan was to cook them on the stove the next day. But life intervened–the field trip I chaperoned ran long and a new work project fell from the sky (thank you, sky!) and I remembered ballet class, and realized there would be no time for simmering in a pot. So I did what any harried mom does.

I said a little prayer and tossed them into the crockpot. Raw. With sauce. And then I boiled up some spaghetti and ran around being all crazy until dinnertime.

It worked. It worked really well. It worked so well, in fact, that you’ll never catch me browning meatballs again. Because they were delicious. We had some last night and we’ll have more tonight, and the rest will be frozen in individual portions to be thawed and chucked atop pasta or thrown into rolls on future Hurricane Days.

I used ground turkey and this recipe made three dozen meatballs for me. You can use beef. But since you’re not browning these first, using anything but the very leanest beef you can find will result in an oil slick atop the sauce when all’s said and done. Nobody likes that. So get the least-fat ground beef you can. Because you’re slow cooking these, it won’t matter in the taste and texture departments.

I know these are going to seem heavily-spiced as you’re forming them. The house smells of garlic. Trust me. Slow cooking spices tones them down quite a bit. They will not be strongly flavored when they’re finished, but they will be deliciously Italian.

I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did–you only get to be best mom ever occasionally, and we all need to hear it every so often. To make these, you’ll need:

1 pound (ish) ground turkey or very lean ground beef (I used 1.33 pounds)

1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs

2 tbsp dried onion flakes or finely diced fresh onion

1 tsp garlic powder, or 1 clove garlic, finely (FINELY!) diced

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1 large jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce or a quart or so of homemade

In a large bowl, beat the egg. Dump in the ground meat, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic and salt. With your fingers, gently fold it all together until it’s blended (using a spoon or fork will give you tough meatballs–keep your movements very light and don’t smash the meat together).

Form into meatballs–mine were about ping-pong ball size. Either wrap and store in the fridge overnight, or keep moving along.

Spray your slow cooker with cooking spray or olive oil. Pour enough sauce in the cooker to completely cover the bottom. Layer meatballs with sauce, giving the meatballs a little room to groove so they won’t stick together. Finish with sauce so all the meatballs are covered.

Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, or some combination of that (each hour on high equals two hours on low). Serve over spaghetti, on rolls, or however you’d like.

2 Responses to “Crockpot Meatballs (and Spaghetti)”

  1. Tracey November 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    Ah, see? Had I known you were browning them ahead of time, the Italian in me would have scolded you. I always cook my meatballs in the sauce. Same for sausage (which I don’t ever see you eating, but just in case…=D). You can always crush a few in the sauce when they are done to make meat sauce, too.

  2. Sarah November 8, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    I just dusted off my crock pot. I think even I could do this. Thanks, Kim.

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