Crockpot Corner — Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

I’ve decided to start a new feature now that the cooler weather has arrived here in Chicago. It’s called Crockpot Corner and the first recipe to be featured are these wonderful Turkey Quinoa Meatballs.

The name Crockpot Corner sounds like it should be in a 1980s women’s magazine, I know, and if anybody has any better suggestions, I would appreciate it.

Anyway, who doesn’t love meatballs? They are so veratile. You can serve them over pasta, offer them as an appetizer, or — my favorite — put them on a hinged roll and melt some cheese over them for a meatball grinder.

When I was growing up, my older brother, Michael, introduced me to many of the more counter-cultural happenings that were going on in the mid-1970s, one of which was the “underground comics” of R. Crumb.

The one I remember most clearly was called “Meatball” and as far as I can recall it comprised mostly of ordinary people getting hit in the head with meatballs that were thrown at them from somewhere off-panel.

Ever since then, meatballs have always struck me as funny and I can’t eat them without remembering that R. Crumb comic.

Like all crockpot recipes, this delicious meatball recipe is simple to make and cooks all day at low temperature, filling the house with a rich, lush aroma.

It’s based on one I found it at the amazing blog How Sweet It Is, which is written by a wonderfully fearless madwoman named Jessica who consistently provides great recipes and generously shares details of her life with her readers.

Most weeks, I find at least one or two recipes on Jessica’s blog that I end up making  (I’m planning to make one tonight, in fact). And her incredible food photography always inspires me to improve my own.

Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

2 lb Ground Turkey

2/3 cup Cooked Quinoa

3 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1 Egg, lightly beaten

2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 TBS Grated Parmesan

2 tsp Dried Basil

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1/2 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp Sea Salt

1/2 tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

1 White Onion, cut into thin rings

28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes

10 oz can  Whole Peeled Tomatoes

6 oz can Tomato Paste

1. In a mixing bowl, combine turkey, quinoa, egg, olive oil, parmesan, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix together just until all the ingredients are combined, but be careful not to overmix because this can make the meatballs tough. With your hands, roll into meatballs about the size of golf ball. This should make about 24 meatballs.

2. In a crockpot, pour the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and stir around until blended. Then lay the sliced onion on top.

3. Put a cast iron pan over a medium heat. When hot, drizzle in a little EVOO and wait until it starts to smoke. Then place about half the meatballs in the pan, being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Turn until all sides are browned, then place in the crock pot on top of the onions. Cook the remaining meatballs the same way and add them to the crockpot.

4. Pour the juice from the whole peeled tomatoes on top of the meatballs, then hand crush the tomatoes. I enjoy the tactile experience of hand-crushing my tomatoes, but it also allows the tomatoes to maintain some of their shape the sauce cooks down, adding texture. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.

I served these on hinged rolls smothered in tomato sauce and then covered with a slice of provalone cheese. Then I put it under the broiler for just a minute to melt the cheese a little.

This makes a lot of meatballs, so I ended up having these for lunch for a few days afterwards. I eventually sliced up the remaining meatballs and put them on a homemade pizza.

I hope you like the new feature and watch out for flying meatballs!

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Crock Pot Italian Meatballs

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.

So I’m always excited when I find a new recipe to try in my crock pot. In this case, it’s a very old recipe cooked in a new way: Italian meatballs cooked all day in the crock pot!

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!