One of the few things I actually look forward to during Chicago winters is using my crock pot more frequently.
I’ve written before about how the crock pot is a central element of winter cooking in my house, but usually by this point in the winter I’ve already cycled through most of my slow cooking repertoire: chili, pulled pork, red beans and rice, chicken stew, etc.
I was pleasantly surprised with how flavorful they turned out. Not only did they not fall apart — something I was worried about given the seven hours they cooked — but the flavors of the meatballs leached into the sauce, giving it a complexity and depth of flavor it ordinarily wouldn’t have.
Plus the sauce naturally reduced over time, concentrating the tomato flavor in a very interesting and delicious way. It started to have that intensity that tomato paste has, without the over the top acidity.
I served it over whole wheat spaghetti, but you could use any pasta you like. A quick note: A few years ago when whole wheat pasta first started to appear on the shelves, a lot of it tasted like wet cardboard when it was cooked. Recently, however, the manufacturers must have figured out how to make it more appealing because it now tastes every bit as good as pasta made with white flour, but with much more nutritional value.
Crock Pot Italian Meatballs
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
1 small white onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Italian-style dry bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 28-oz jar marinara sauce
1 box whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line sheet pan with foil and spray foil with pan spray. In large mixing bowl, combine the beef, pork, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, bread crumbs and egg and mix well with your hands. Shape into 24 1-1/2 inch balls. Place on sheet pan and bake 35 minutes.
2. Place meatballs in crock pot. Cover with marinara sauce and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and return to pot with a little EVOO. To plate, place a heaping pile of pasta in the center of a pasta bowl, then use a kitchen spoon to arrange meatballs and sauce on top. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
Do you make any unusual recipes in your crock pot? Why not share your ideas in the comments section below? And thanks for looking at my blog!