Slow Cooker Meatballs and Marinara

This slow cooker meatballs and marinara recipe is a great dinner than requires little prep time. If you’re looking for a delicious “set it and forget it” meal to throw in your crockpot, look no further! This slow cooker meatballs recipe is one of my husband’s absolute favorites.

Slow Cooker Meatballs and Marinara ~ Savory Simple

A few years ago while channel surfing I landed upon PBS, a station that up until that moment I only associated with shows from my youth such as Sesame Street and The Electric Company. That day I watched in awe as Julia Child and Jacques Pepin worked their magic with eggs.

An entire show that was dedicated to the simple beauty of eggs. I was enthralled. I think I lost the entire day as I watched shows hosted by Eric Ripert, Ming Tsai and Lidia Bastianich. At that very moment I became hooked on PBS, the other food network.

PBS has a lineup full of fantastic chefs demonstrating the kind of techniques I often find lacking on cooking shows. And it was while watching PBS that I first discovered America’s Test Kitchen.

It’s not just a clever name; America’s Test Kitchen is an actual 2500 square foot test kitchen with more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Each recipe is tested countless times until the best, foolproof results are created.

Their methods really do work. When I want a dependable fail-safe recipe I now turn to the experts who are also responsible for Cook’s Country and my favorite magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.

America’s Test Kitchen was kind enough to send me two of their cookbooks to review, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook and The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. I am so in awe of these books and all of the wonderful recipes.

Slow Cooker Meatballs and Marinara ~ Savory Simple

The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook is full of mouth-watering classic recipes and lovely photos. It was hard to pick just one recipe to start with but I settled on slow cooker meatballs and marinara.

Mr. Savory loves meatloaf and I’ve been eager to break out the slow cooker so it seemed like the right combination. How were they? We’re both still daydreaming about these meatballs.

They’re delicate, moist and the Italian sausage really gives them an intense flavor. And the sauce? It’s my new go-to marinara recipe.  Easy to make and perfectly awesome with pasta.

For this recipe I also made homemade mozzarella from The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook. You can find that recipe along with step-by-step photo instructions here. If that sounds daunting, let me reassure you: it’s surprisingly simple and fun to make homemade cheese.

The DIY Cookbook also has recipes for goat cheese, feta, ricotta, paneer and about a bazillion other things. It’s certainly not limited to cheese; there are also sections with step-by-step instructions for pantry stapes, preserves, pickled foods, cured meats, beverages, desserts and snacks.

I know you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I did. After the recipe you’ll find details about how to win copies of these fantastic cookbooks!

Slow Cooker Meatballs and Marinara ~ Savory Simple

Print Pin Recipe

Slow Cooker Meatballs and Marinara

5 from 1 vote
Slow cooker meatballs and marinara is a great dinner that requires little prep time.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 418
Author Jennifer Farley


Onion mixture:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes


  • 4 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • kosher salt


For the onion mixture:

  • Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer half of the onion mixture to a large bowl and set aside.

For the marinara:

  • Add wine to the remaining onion mixture in pot and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, then transfer to a slow cooker.

For the meatballs:

  • Add sausage, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, garlic and salt to bowl with reserved onion mixture. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add beef and cream to bowl and knead with hands until well combined. Lightly shape mixture into 2-inch round meatballs (about 12 total). Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes. Nestle meatballs into slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover and cook until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours on low. Let meatballs and sauce settle for 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface and stir in Parmesan and basil. Season with salt to taste. Serve.


Microwave the meatballs on a large plate or in a casserole dish to contain the rendering fat. This recipe makes enough to sauce 1 1/2 pounds of pasta.
Adapted from The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook


Calories: 418kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 164mg | Sodium: 576mg | Potassium: 430mg | Vitamin A: 9.2% | Vitamin C: 2.1% | Calcium: 19.5% | Iron: 15.8%

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About Jennifer Farley

Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and has worked professionally as a line cook, pastry chef, and cooking instructor. Her cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen, was published in 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

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