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Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs
“The meatballs and sauce are cooked in the slow cooker for this traditional Italian spaghetti and meatballs recipe. You could also serve the meatballs over creamy polenta or on a sandwich with melted provolone.”
2 large eggs
½ cup dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip)
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces lean (90% or leaner) ground beef
8 ounces ground pork or Italian pork sausage
8 ounces ground veal
Sauce & Spaghetti
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1To prepare meatballs: Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, ½ cup onion, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Add beef, pork (or sausage) and veal; gently mix until combined (do not overmix). Using ¼ cup for each, make 16 meatballs and place in a 6-quart slow cooker.
2To prepare sauce & spaghetti: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add wine and boil for 1 minute. Add crushed and diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Pour the sauce over the meatballs.
3Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours.
430 minutes before you're ready to eat, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions.
5Spoon any fat off the sauce; add oregano. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the spaghetti with extra Parmesan, if desired.
Make Ahead Tip: To prep ahead: Make meatballs and sauce (Steps 1 & 2); cover and refrigerate separately for up to 1 day. Reheat sauce to a simmer before adding to slow cooker. To make ahead: Freeze cooked meatballs in sauce airtight for up to 3 months. Defrost before reh
Equipment: 6-quart slow cooker
Tip: To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, trim crusts from whole-wheat bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. To make fine breadcrumbs, process until very fine. To make dry breadcrumbs, spread coarse or fine breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F until dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. One slice of bread makes about ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs or about ⅓ cup dry breadcrumbs. For store-bought coarse dry breadcrumbs we like Ian's brand, labeled “Panko breadcrumbs.” Find them at well-stocked supermarkets.
Stovetop Variation: Make the sauce (Step 2) in a large Dutch oven instead of a skillet, then gently add the meatballs to the simmering sauce. Cover and gently simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 1 hour.
For easy cleanup, try a slow-cooker liner. These heat-resistant, disposable liners fit neatly inside the insert and help prevent food from sticking to the bottom and sides of your slow cooker.