WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
Since we were preparing a slow-cooker recipe, we needed a way to infuse the sauce for our Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Marinara with the depth it usually gets from an hour-long simmer on the stove. Sautéing tomato paste, onions, and garlic before adding them to the slow cooker bloomed their… read more
Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Marinara
The meatballs crumbled. The sauce lost its savor. A favorite dinner fell very short. Aren't slow cookers supposed to simplify things?
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Microwave the meatballs on a large plate or in a casserole dish to contain the rendering fat. You will need two 4.5-ounce tubes or one 6-ounce can of tomato paste. This recipe makes enough sauce to coat 1½ pounds of pasta. Use a garlic press to mince the 8 cloves quickly.
tablespoons olive oil
onions, chopped fine
cup tomato paste (see note)
cloves minced garlic (see note)
tablespoon dried oregano
teaspoon red pepper flakes
cup red wine
(28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
cup grated Parmesan cheese
cup shredded mozzarella cheese
pound Italian sausage, casings removed
pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
tablespoons heavy cream
tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1. COOK AROMATICS Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, 6 garlic cloves, oregano, pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. 2. MAKE SAUCE Transfer half of onion mixture to large bowl; set aside. Add wine to pot with remaining onion mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to slow cooker. 3. FORM MEATBALLS Add ½ cup Parmesan, mozzarella, sausage, eggs, ¾ teaspoon salt, and remaining garlic to bowl with reserved onion mixture. Mash with potato masher until smooth. Add beef and cream to bowl and knead with hands until well combined. Form mixture into twelve 2-inch meatballs. 4. COOK MEATBALLS Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes. Nestle meatballs in slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt. Serve over pasta. MAKE AHEAD Raw meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated separately up to 24 hours in advance. When ready to cook, add sauce to slow cooker and microwave meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker. Continue with recipe as directed. MICROWAVING MEATBALLS Most recipes recommend browning the meatballs in the oven or on the stovetop. Microwaving the meatballs for just five minutes set the exterior, which kept them from falling apart in the slow cooker. The precooking also rendered some of the fat, minimizing the grease in our marinara sauce.