Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs

Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs

8 Reviews
From: EatingWell Magazine March/April 2012

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.

Ingredients 8 servings

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Original recipe yields 8 servings
Nutrition per serving may change if servings are adjusted.
  • Meatballs
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tip)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/4 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


  • Active

  • Ready In

  1. To prepare meatballs: Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup onion, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Add beef, pork (or sausage) and veal; gently mix until combined (do not overmix). Using 1/4 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 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs or about 1/3 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.

Nutrition information

  • Serving size: 1 cup pasta, 3/4 cup sauce & 2 meatballs
  • Per serving: 447 calories; 11 g fat(4 g sat); 11 g fiber; 61 g carbohydrates; 26 g protein; 61 mcg folate; 81 mg cholesterol; 9 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 687 IU vitamin A; 21 mg vitamin C; 148 mg calcium; 5 mg iron; 765 mg sodium; 765 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (35% daily value), Magnesium & Zinc (32% dv), Iron (29% dv), Potassium (25% dv), Vitamin A (24% dv).
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 4
  • Exchanges: 3 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 lean meat

Reviews 8

December 12, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Delicious! My dad recently had a stroke and wasn't eating well. I asked him what he would eat if I cooked something and brought it to him in rehab and he said spaghetti and meatballs. Being a dietitian, I wanted to give him the yummy food he craves, but in a healthier execution. I found this recipe and it was awesome! I didn't change anything about it although I could not find veal; I mixed half 90% ground sirloin with Italian sausage instead... this recipe was super delicious! He ate every bit which in my mind was a huge success. The sauce is also really flavorful. I'll be making this a staple for future family meals. Variation tip-- you could add chopped sauteed mushrooms to the meatballs if you want more veggies that are hidden. In fact, I love doing this with most recipes that have ground meat... you can't tell, it lowers the calories and fat, and adds a nutrient boost!
October 16, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Superb but easy I love the flavor of a meat based sauce and light soft meatballs. This is the best of both. I made the stove top version but like having the slow cooker version for busy days. Just prep the meatballs ahead of time. I mixed up the meatball mix first then put the sauce on to cook while I rolled the meatballs. The sauce was ready for the meatballs as soon as I was done. I like a bit thicker sauce so added a can of tomato paste but the sauce was delicious either way. Next time I may add a couple of sausage links too! Pros: Delicious, easy, quick
October 09, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Wonderful recipe I have made this many times. I make it in a dutch oven instead of a crock pot. However making it in dutch oven, reduces the sauce so I double it and cook it at 350 for 2.5 hours. Comes out great Pros: taste great Cons: double the sauce
August 27, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
Traditional Italian? I'm italian and I NEVER see this recipe in my Country! Pros: NONE Cons: I'm italian and I NEVER see this recipe in my Country
May 29, 2014
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By: Megamuffin
Very Impressive I used this recipe for my very first time ever making homemade spaghetti and meatballs and it turned out really yummy! My husband inhaled it and couldn't stop talking about how high quality the meal was. I used all ground turkey, half plain and half Italian sausage. I left the can of diced tomatoes out of the sauce and I didn't have any trouble with thin or runny sauce like one of the comments mentioned. I did add an 8 oz can of tomato sauce in at the end, because I wanted more sauce for the amount of meat. The flavors and level of seasoning were just perfect! Pros: Delicious, works great in a crock pot Cons: Prep is somewhat labor intensive
February 17, 2014
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By: EatingWell User
These are amazing! My husband made these for dinner tonight and they were great! We used ground chicken, sweet sausage and some hot sausage (all pork sausage). Highly recommend this!! Pros: Delicious, light, flavorful. Cons: None
March 04, 2012
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By: EatingWell User
Amazeballs! This tastes like it came from the best Italian restaurant in town. I used 8 oz. ground beef and 1lb Italian sausage because that's what I had. I did the stovetop method and it was really easy, fairly simple prep, only used one pan (two if you count the spaghetti pan). This one is going in the recipe box.
March 02, 2012
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By: rayraymiester
Delicious! Very easy and very yummy! We made the recipe in 4 hours because we were crunched for time and the meatballs still came out extremely tender. This one is definitely a keeper.