Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Marinara

From Cook's Country August/September 2009 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 flavors and gave the sauce a meaty base. Microwaving the meatballs before adding them to the slow cooker rendered just enough fat (which we discarded) to ensure the sauce wouldn’t be greasy. Thickening the meatballs with a panade—a paste of milk and bread—caused them to break apart. The bread absorbed too much liquid, becoming slimy and losing its binding power. We replaced the milk with cream, which added moisture and richness, and swapped out the bread for mozzarella cheese, which enriched the meatballs. It was important to use the proper amount of cheese in our Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Marinara so the meatballs didn’t taste more like mozzarella than meat. Serves 6

Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Marinara

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  • Prep Time

    minutes

  • Total Time

    minutes

  • Servings

    servings


Ingredients

  • 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.

  • 2

    tablespoons olive oil

  • 2

    onions, chopped fine

  • cup tomato paste (see note)

  • 8

    cloves minced garlic (see note)

  • 1

    tablespoon dried oregano

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • Salt

  • ½

    cup red wine

  • 2

    (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

  • 1

    cup grated Parmesan cheese

  • ½

    cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • ¼

    pound Italian sausage, casings removed

  • 2

    large eggs

  • pounds 85 percent lean ground beef

  • 3

    tablespoons heavy cream

  • 2

    tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Directions

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.


Nutrition

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