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Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs

  • 45 m
  • 4 h
Carolyn Malcoun
“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.”


    • Meatballs
    • 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


  • 1 To 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.
  • 2 To 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.
  • 3 Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours.
  • 4 30 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.
  • 5 Spoon 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.
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