Meatballs in sauce cooked in the Slow Cooker are tender, juicy and easy. This recipe teaches you how to cook pork meatballs in an easy meatball sauce. They will make all of your dinner and pasta dreams come true!
Our Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken taught us how good slow cooker meals can be. Delicious and so tender! Our Instant Pot Spaghetti Bolognese and Meatballs in Sauce allowed us to combine Italian flavours with easy ideas.
These meatballs in sauce are going to become one of your 'go-to' weekly dinners because they are tasty and family friendly.
For Oven Baked Meatballs, try the baked Meatballs in sauce recipe!
If you have been walking around your whole life wondering how to cook meatballs in sauce then keep reading my friend as herein lies the answer!
Easy slow cooked meatballs
There is no hard work in making this recipe. It is a simple and basic combination. There is also minimal washing up as the meatballs are dropped into the slow cooker straight after being rolled. This means you can set and forget then in a few hours, tender juicy meatballs will be ready to devour!
The key steps with this recipe are keeping the sauce simple and the meatball cooking process easy.
What type of meatballs in sauce to cook
For this recipe we are cooking pork meatballs. There is obviously a lot of variety when cooking meatballs, you could use any ground mince and season to create sensational flavours. Options for the meat are:
Seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper, the meatballs will be delicious in the sauce and a perfect accompaniment to cooked spaghetti.
This photo shows you the meatball ingredients all together in the one bowl. It is easy to make these as you literally mix all of these ingredients, scoop out enough to roll into a ball, then repeat until finished. These really are easy slow cooker meatballs!
The ingredients we use for the meatballs are:
- minced pork
- an egg
- dried onion (no tears with these!)
- fennel seeds
With all of the above the only thing we are missing is a rich tomato sauce for meatballs!
How to cook meatballs in sauce
Cooking meatballs in sauce is easy. All you need to do is:
- make your sauce
- roll your meatballs
- pour ½ your sauce into the base of the slow cooker
- add your meatballs on top of the sauce
- cover the meatballs in sauce
- cook for 4 hrs (low), 2 hrs (high)
For this recipe we add the raw meatballs straight into the slow cooker. Some recipes for different cooking methods may suggest frying the meatballs in a shallow saucepan before cooking in sauce, but that means extra work and extra oil.
You can see from the image below that ½ of the sauce has been poured into the slow cooker to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom. Then each meatball is rolled and plopped in. Then the remaining sauce is poured over to cover.
These meatballs are cooked in the sauce from raw to fully cooked and they taste delicious!
The sauce to go with meatballs needs to be enough so that it will cover the meatballs as this is how they get cooked. My slow cooker is 5l and this meatball sauce works perfectly to cover each meatball. In fact, in the photo below all of the meatballs are actually in the slow cooker, you just can't see them as they are covered by the sauce! (Trust me, they are all in there!)
Why cook meatballs in sauce
To achieve juicy, tender soft meatballs, we cook them in sauce as opposed to oven baking them or frying. We don't use any oil in cooking the meatballs like this so the bonus is that we are cooking meatballs in sauce without browning and therefore reducing the overall calorie count of each meatball.
For the best healthy meatballs crockpot cooked, there is no need to add oil to the ingredients or to the base of the crockpot (the sauce will stop them sticking).
This process is also super easy!
When cooking meatballs in the oven or the stove top you have to keep an eye on them and it can be hard to tell when they are fully cooked through. You also use a bit of oil and the edges get crispy and hard.
For these easy slow cooker meatballs the cook time is enough to reassure you that when the time is up they will be done! They will also be oh so soft and tender! Each mouthful will be savoured with delight.
Easy Meatball Sauce
The key to making an easy meatball sauce starts with the ingredients. For the best sauce to go with meatballs, think tomato and garlic.
You can even use these ingredients to make a slow cooker spaghetti sauce from scratch. The key is to make the sauce a few times to work out your garlic preference and then always have the basic ingredients to make it in the pantry for a rainy day!
Use a large jug if you have one and simply stir to combine. Or you can use a large bowl like I do, sauce is pictured here right before combining all of the ingredients.
I encourage you to get tomatoes that don't come with herbs as then you can add your own and know exactly what goes into what you are eating!
How long to cook meatballs in sauce
The best thing about using the slow cooker for this recipe is you have cooking options. These will cook in 2 hours on high. But, if you like, you can also cook your meatballs for 4 hrs on low.
Pick which ever cook time works with whatever activities you have on at the time.
It is not wise to leave them in the slow cooker for much longer than that. Cooked too long they will start to go rubbery which is not going to make our ultimate meatballs taste like the bomb diggity of meatballs!
Is there anything better than a piping hot bowl of meatballs in sauce with spaghetti, cracked pepper, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley? Nope, I don't think so either. This is seriously the best ever slow cooker meatballs in tomato sauce you will come across!
They will stick together and won't fall apart, they will also keep well in the fridge for a few days, so they are perfect to meal prep!
The ultimate meatballs to make in the slow cooker are the ones that you can stick your fork into like the photo below and they won't fall apart. This is achieved without even browning them off on the stove 1st.
You will savour every bite of your juicy, tender meatballs. The combination of pork and fennel always work and that little hint of flavour comes through with each bite. This might be seriously the most tasty meatball recipe you will ever try!
Meatballs in sauce questions answered:
About the recipe:
- This recipe quick and easy
- We use pork mince
- Season the meatball mix with dried onion, no tears that way!
- The meatballs take about 10 mins to roll
- Pop them into the slow cooker raw
- Sauce above and below the meatballs to cook them
Your quick questions answered:
- There is no cheese or oil in the meatballs
- These freeze really well
- There are no breadcrumbs in the meatballs
- This is an easy meatball sauce
- Recipe will make approx 20 meatballs
- This is an EASY recipe
For further tips and tricks on slow cooker recipes, check out these 2 recipes:
- Chicken Thighs in Creamy Garlic Wine Sauce (one pot recipe)
- Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese (also a vegetarian recipe)
- Beef Bean Pasta Bake (family favourite)
- Minestrone Soup (packed with veggies)
- Meatball Tomato Soup (one of my favourites)
- Zucchini Grilled Cheese (vegetarian recipe)
Meatballs in Sauce (Slow Cooker)
- Slow Cooker
Meatballs in Sauce
- 500 grams pork mince
- 1 egg free range
- 2 tsp dried onion
- 1 tsp fennel seeds dried
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 700 ml passata
- 400 ml tomato soup
- 400 grams crushed tomatoes Note 1
- 1 tsp Italian herbs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced Note 3
- ½ tbsp parsley to garnish
- ¼ tsp pepper to garnish
- ¼ tsp parmesan cheese to garnish
Meatballs in Sauce (Slow Cooker)
- Start by making your meatball sauce. In a large jug or bowl combine passata, crushed tomatoes, tomato soup, garlic, italian herbs, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine
- Turn the slow cooker on to a low heat and pour ½ of the sauce in
- In a medium sized mixing bowl add pork mince, egg, fennel, salt, pepper. Use your hands to combine the meatball mix together. Take a spoon and start to scoop out portions to roll into meatballs. As each ball is rolled, place directly into the slow cooker
- Pour the remaining sauce on top of the meatballs Note 2, cook for 4 hrs on low or 2 hrs on high
- Serve meatballs with pasta, cracked pepper, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley
- Note 1 grab the tomatoes that are plain with no additional herbs. This will mean you can add your own and you know exactly what is going into the meatball sauce
- Note 2 my 5l slow cooker works perfectly for this recipe. All of the meatballs are covered in sauce to cook. If you have a bigger slow cooker (ie 5.5l or more, make sure that the meatballs are still covered by pouring ¼ of the sauce in underneath them and ¾ on top of them).
- Note 3 for this recipe, I really like using big chunks of garlic. I much prefer it (not always) but in this one to minced garlic. As much as some people find the taste very strong, you will find that after it has been cooked in the sauce for a long period, it too becomes soft and tender. If you have never tried garlic like this, I encourage you to give it a go. Cooking it, really does change the texture dilutes the astringent quality and you will come to want to use it more often and love it.
- Note 4 if freezing the meatballs, let them defrost in the fridge overnight before reheating.
What goes well with meatballs?
The best thing to eat with meatballs is pasta!! We all know that.
Sticking your fork into aldente pasta and twirling it around before piercing the top of a juicy tender meatball needs to be high on everyone's priority list. Especially if the meatball makes you look twice at it before you bite it as you are not sure if your mouth will be big enough to devour it!
Otherwise, serve them inside a cut zucchini which has been roasted for 15 mins and then scoop the inside out and replace with the meatballs. This is another favourite way to serve them!
If you are worried about carb loading, or over loading, switch out the pasta and use long shredded zucchini strips instead. This really is the best of both words - juicy meatballs and multiple serving options.
Sauce goes well with meatballs, pasta does well, zucchini has its place with them and red wine go well with meatballs. Why, red wine goes well with anything, doesn't it!
I am off to eat 30 meatballs now 🙂 🙂 🙂 !! No, I am joking, I ate about 4 when they were cooked, so I only have about 16 to eat now, haha!
Should out if you have questions, I love to hear from you and am happy to answer.
Please make yourself the bomb diggity of meatballs and come back to let me know what you thought of them!
P.S. Garnish with cracked pepper, fresh parsley and parmesan for the ultimate meatballs. They really are the bomb diggity.