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.

Carolyn Malcoun
Source: EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2012


Recipe Summary

4 hrs


Sauce & Spaghetti


Instructions Checklist
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours.

  • 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.

  • 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 Facts

447 calories; protein 25.5g; carbohydrates 61.3g; dietary fiber 10.7g; sugars 9.4g; fat 10.8g; saturated fat 3.7g; cholesterol 81.1mg; vitamin a iu 687.2IU; vitamin c 21.1mg; folate 61.2mcg; calcium 148.4mg; iron 4.7mg; magnesium 125.3mg; potassium 765.5mg; sodium 765.4mg; thiamin 0.4mg.

Reviews (5)

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10 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 7
  • 4 star values: 2
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 1
Rating: 4 stars
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 Read More
Rating: 4 stars
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. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
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 Read More
Rating: 5 stars
# 1. Always use San Marzano tomatoes. They are so sweet. No need to add sugar and calories. This is not a brand name. It s a type of tomato. Be careful read your labels. Companies know these are the best tomatoes. So they might use a standard tomato and mis-label the can to confuse us. 2. It s not sauce. It s gravy! I m not Italian and know that. Yum! Eat Well!!! Read More
Rating: 5 stars
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 Read More
Rating: 5 stars
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. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
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! Read More
Rating: 1 stars
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 Read More
Rating: 5 stars
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 Read More