This Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs recipe makes a family favorite Italian-American main dish even easier by making it in the slow cooker.
This Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs recipe features:
- A short history on Spaghetti and Meatballs in America;
- A description of the difference between Spaghetti and Meatballs and meatballs or “polpettes” found in Italy;
- An easy main dish recipe that can be made in the slow cooker;
- A recipe that is a family favorite in many American households;
- A meatball recipe that can be served over pasta, or in a submarine sandwich, or as an appetizer.
I call these Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs to distinguish them from my Slow Cooker Asian Sesame Meatballs. However, technically they are not from Italy. Spaghetti and meatballs is widely believed to be a creation of Italian-American immigrants who came to America from the 1880s to the 1920s. In Italy meat was a rare luxury. However, in the US the immigrants could afford to buy meat, and canned tomatoes were readily available.
In Italy, meatballs or “polpettes” are much different than the meatballs that we often eat in America with pasta and marinara sauce. The polpettes in Italy may include ingredients such as garlic, parsley, eggs, parmesan cheese, or bechamel sauce to the ground beef. However, they are rarely eaten with tomato sauce or a pasta. They are often fried and served without a sauce or pasta.
In my version of spaghetti and meatballs, I make these Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs in the slow cooker to really allow the flavors to develop, and make this dish even easier to make.
How will you serve these Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs?
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Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small onion diced
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 28 ounces marinara sauce
- In a large bowl, add ground beef and all ingredients (except marinara sauce). Combine all ingredients until the meat mixture has all ingredients evenly distributed.
- Heat broiler to high. Move rack to 4 or 5 inches from broiler. Cover baking sheet with foil, and spray with cooking spray.
- Using your hands, shape the meat into about 1 to 2-inch sized meatballs, and place onto foil-covered baking sheet.
- Broil meatballs for 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn them and broil for about another 3 minutes, until browned.
- Spray a slow cooker with cooking spray. Place meatballs in the bottom of a slow cooker. Spoon marinara sauce over the top of the meatballs.
- Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours.
- Serve meatballs hot on top of pasta, or on a submarine sandwich, or by itself as an appetizer.