These slow cooker meatballs are the easiest meatballs you’ll ever make. Slow cooked to perfection in the instant pot in a deep red wine sauce, making it the perfect midweek or Sunday Dinner.
These hearty slow cooker meatballs are a hit every single time. Slow cooked in a rich marinara sauce right in your crock pot or instant pot, leaving you with delicious meatballs to top over your noodles or in subs.
When it comes to Sunday dinners and or slow cooked meals, they should be fuss free but have the illusion that you have been standing on top of a hot stove all day.
There are only a few ingredients that truly make a difference in the overall texture of these meatballs. These ingredients are soaked bread and the red wine.
Let’s start with the bread. I grew up watching my family add soaked bread to meatballs as a binding agent. However, another reason is that the bread will keep the meat soft. Using real bread instead of breadcrumbs makes a whole world of difference in the texture of the meat, as it will make the meatballs tough.
You do not need a lot of liquid to soak or breakdown the bread. About ½ cup of water for every two slices of bread will do the trick.
Next, is the wine. Good quality wine is key. It is highly recommended that you use red wine. If you are worried about the alcohol in the wine, don’t worry. It will evaporate.
The key to making the best slow cooked meatballs in a deep red wine pasta sauce, is to use good quality ingredients; this also include the wine.
Purchase high-quality crushed tomatoes if you decide to add crushed tomatoes to the sauce, use fresh parsley instead of dried parsley flaked, and more importantly use a red wine that you actually DO enjoy drinking.
If budget is a concern, you can opt in for a lower cost red wine, but the intensity and the flavor of the wine will make a difference in the sauce as it will help provide that red dark burgundy color.
What Red Wine Is Best For Pasta?
When it comes to choosing the best red wine for your pasta you have some choices.
Some people like dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, La Mancha Temranillo from Marques De Alera or any of their red wine (varies from $11.00 to $40), Merlot, or even Côtes du Rhône.
These wines will add a bold flavor to the sauce or stew and will also intensify the other flavors that are added to this dish.
As stated, we like to cook with wine we actually do enjoy. For example, this pasta was prepared with the Cabernet Sauvignon by Winking Owl. The good news is you do not have to spend an arm and a leg to purchase this wine. This brand is available at Aldi.
Intensify Your Slow Cooker Spaghetti And Meatballs Flavor
Slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs should be anything but boring. The full recipe is listed below with the exact measurements but for now, here’s the list of ingredients we used to intensify the flavors in this dish.
Ground beef: 1 pound of ground beef will provide about 6 servings. Best to use a leaner version because it has less fat. Our ground beef was 90% lean ad 10% fat.
Egg and Soaked Bread: Bread is explained above. Make the meat soft and is also
Garlic, Onion & Chopped Parsley: Use fresh parsley and whole onion instead of onion powder for fresh flavor.
Salt, Pepper, Bay Leaves: Are used to season the sauce.
If you are not a fan of diced onions that’s perfectly fine. You can grate the onions.
We do this all the time as I am not really a fan of eating onions but do enjoy the flavor.
Here’s why I like to grate onions when I’m cooking for myself or my family.
I don’t particularly care for diced, chopped, or minced onions. But as stated, I enjoy the flavor. Often AJ or I will grate the onions because we still the get the same flavors, but more intense (in my opinion).
We don’t have to worry about always cooking the onions first and no need to shed tears over mincing or dicing the onions.
Preparing Your Meatballs
Once you’ve gathered the ingredients, it’s time to prepare the meatballs and get them ready to be slow cooked.
Your hands to mix the ingredients well. Do not use a food processor. This will make the meat too mushy. We recommend you use your hands instead.
We highly recommend using gloves as it will be easier for you to wash your hands once you are done mixing.
Use an ice cream scoop or a spoon to help you keep the meatballs the same or similar size.
Once you are done with rolling the meatballs, place them in a cookie tray and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Set the meatballs aside and begin to assemble the ingredients you need to prepare the sauce.
We personally do not have a crockpot, but our instant pot works just as fine. So, we added the sauce first, then the meatballs, and the remaining ingredients.
Select slow cook and allow the instant pot to do its job for 3 hours. That’s it. Once it’s done, the meatballs are ready to be served with your cooked pasta.
You can top your meatballs with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Ricotta, or Mozzarella cheese and enjoy.
Tips For Making The Best Slow Cooker Meatballs
These Slow Cooker Meatballs are made with ease and is very comforting. The meat is very tender, and we have some tips to keep in mind when making this dish.
After you have added the ingredients, carefully stir the ingredients to make sure that everything is well incorporated. The purpose of slow cooking is to allow the food to cook evenly at a low temperature.
Browning your meatballs first will help them stay intact. That way, the meat does not fall apart as they slowly cook. Browning the meat first will also provide texture and color. You can do this in the oven as we have done in this recipe or on the stovetop.
Grate your onions if you do not want to dice or mince your onions.
Use fresh ingredients as much as possible.
Absolutely no peeking. Allow the instant pot or the crockpot to do the job for you. If you stop the crock pot or instant pot, this will bring down the temperature plus you’ll have to start all over again. Which means, more time will be needed for the meatballs to cook.
Should I Brown Meatballs Before Putting In Slow Cooker?
To risk your meatballs not falling apart while they cook, we recommend you brown the meatballs before putting them in the slow cooker.
If you do not brown the meatballs first, the meat will still be tender and very soft, but you may run into some issues when serving.
Can You Overcook Meatballs In A Slow Cooker?
Yes and no. Each meat is different. We find that we can overcook meatballs that are high in fat in a slow cooker. Hence the reason as to why we opt in for a leaner meat.
The meatballs only require 3 hours to cook on high and about up to 6 hours to fully cook on low temperature.
Can You Put Frozen Meatballs In Slow Cooker?
Absolutely. Be mindful frozen meatballs are usually seasoned. Therefore, you have less control to the amount of spices that are added.
If you decide to put frozen meatballs in the slow cooker, simply top the meatballs with the sauce and ingredients and allow it to cook for about 6 hours as frozen meatballs require a little more time to cook.
Do You Thaw Meatballs Before Putting In Crockpot?
It depends. If you have time, you can thaw the meatballs in the refrigerator overnight, if not, you are perfectly fine to add them to the crockpot or instant pot without thawing them.
How Long Do You Heat Meatballs In Crockpot?
You can cook meatballs in a crockpot up to 6 hours (8 hours maximum). If you happen to go over the time, don’t worry, your dish will still be enjoyable. Do not exceed 8 hours.
Why Do My Meatballs Fall Apart While Cooking?
There are a variety of reasons as to why your meatballs fall apart while cooking. If you do not add enough binding agent to the meat, this will cause the meat to fall apart.
We also find that meat that has more fat also tend to fall apart if the correct amount of binding ingredients is not added.
How Do You Keep Meatballs From Falling Apart In A Slow Cooker?
To keep your meatballs from falling apart in a slow cooker is properly bind the meat by using bread, breadcrumbs, or eggs.
Browning the meat will also help the meat from falling apart as it will provide some texture and will also seal in the natural juices.
How Do You Know When Meatballs Are Done In The Crockpot?
You know your meatballs are done in the crockpot when the timer goes off and also when there is no pink in the middle of the meat. You want to make sure to cook them until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
Is It Okay To Leave Slow Cooker On Overnight?
As mentioned above, you can cook your meat for up to 8 hours maximum. If it is safe for you to cook the meatballs overnight, then yes. We recommend cooking the meatballs while you are home for safety reasons.
What Is The Best Way To Brown Meatballs?
You can brown meatballs in the oven for less mess or on the stovetop.
Are Meatballs OK If Left Out Overnight?
We do not recommend leaving the meatballs out overnight as bacteria will grow rapidly. Cooked meat should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Can You Cook Pasta In The Slow Cooker With Meatballs?
Yes, you sure can! Simply add the pasta over the meat and cover with more sauce and liquid as this will allow the noodles to cook.
What Goes Well With Meatballs?
Meatballs are delicious with noodles. Here are some more ways to enjoy your meatballs.
Serve with cauliflower mashed potatoes
Serve as a sub
Serve with Ratatouille
Serve with egg noodles
They are even great with corn.
Do You Freeze Meatballs Before Or After Cooking?
It depends. If you are meal prepping and would like to have a certain amount a time, it is best to prepare the meatballs with all the ingredients, align them in a cookie sheet then transfer them in a freezer safe bag.
If you want to eliminate additional cooking, cook the meatballs first, then transfer the meat in a freezer safe container after they are cooked, and thaw out when needed.
How Many Meatballs Are A Serving?
About four (4) medium size meatballs is recommended per serving.
Why Do You Put Milk In Meatballs?
Adding milk to meatballs will provide moisture. This is very common in Italian cooking. The milk is not used a binding agent. To bind your meatballs, use bread, breadcrumbs, or cheese.
Do More Eggs Make Meatballs Soft?
NO. Eggs do not make the meatballs soft. They are only used as a binding agent. In fact, eggs can make your meatballs dense. Soaked bread and milk will not only make the meatballs soft, but they will also add moisture to the meat.
Do You Need Egg To Make Meatballs?
No, you do not need eggs to make meatballs. The eggs are used to bind the meat. You can also use breadcrumbs, bread, or cheese.
What Can I Use To Bind Meatballs Instead Of Breadcrumbs?
Instead of using breadcrumbs to bind your meat, consider using cereal, crackers, pretzels, fine oats, cheese, eggs, flax seed will also work.
Are Pink Meatballs OK?
We recommend that you cook your meatballs thoroughly. Be sure to cook the meatballs until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F throughout.
Why Are My Meatballs Tough?
Over or under processing the meat can make the meatballs dense. Mix the meat and the ingredients until just combined. Adding too many eggs can also toughen up the meatballs as they cook.
We would love to know if you tried this recipe, and if you loved these slow cooker meatballs, try the Haitian Meatballsnext.
Please tag us on Instagram or Facebook so we can see your beautiful dish.
We would also appreciate a star rating below.
Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Instant Pot
- 1 Lb. Ground Beef 90% Lean – 10% Fat
- 2 Slices Bread Bread of your choice
- ¼ Cup Water
- ¼ Cup Fresh Chopped Parsley Divided
- 2 Garlic Cloves Minced; divided
- 1 Egg
- ¼ Cup Onions Diced; divided
- 1 ½ Tsp. Kosher Salt Or To Taste; divided
- 1 ½ Tsp. Black Pepper Or To Taste; divided
- 2 Tsp. Paprika Divided
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 1 Cup Red Wine See notes
- 32 Oz. Spaghetti Sauce
- In a small bowl, add ¼ cup of water to the bread. Use your hands to break the bread apart. In a separate bowl, add the meat, then 1 tbsp. of the fresh parsley, 1 tsp. of the minced garlic, 1 tbsp. of the diced onions, 1 tsp. of Kosher salt and ½ tsp. of the black pepper, and 1 tsp. of paprika. Lightly mix the meat and the ingredients, then add the eggs. Use an ice cream scoop to help keep the meatballs in similar size. Then roll the meatballs in a circular motion with your hands.
- Place the meatballs on a cookie sheet or tray and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. remove the meatballs from the oven and set aside. In the instant pot or crockpot, add the Spaghetti sauce, then the meatballs, then the remaining seasoning (parsley, garlic, onions, salt and pepper paprika), then add the red wine. Lightly stir to combine. Cover with the lid and slow cook for 3 hours. Cook the pasta in accordance to the directions on the box. Serve the meatballs warm with pasta or sub. Enjoy!
Can I use tomato sauce in place of spaghetti sauce or will it drastically change the flavor?
Yes, you can use tomato sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. No, it will not drastically change the flavor. However, the tomato sauce will have a richer tomato taste which can make the dish a little acidic (depending on the amount you use).
Those meatballs look absolutely amazing. I could eat a bowl of this right now! I do love using my slow cooker!
I agree that meatballs should be anything but boring, and these tasty slow cooker meatballs are definitely not boring. I love the combination of spices and flavors you use. Thanks for a great recipe.
Love these meatballs! Making them in the slow cooker keeps them super moist and juicy. Perfect simple recipe. Thanks so much for sharing.
Love a comforting meatball recipe that I don’t have to deal with on the stove all day. Perfect for this weather which is making me crave all the savory cozy meals!
Thank you so much!
These meatballs were extremely tender, flavorful and made an amazing dinner! Served them over pasta and we all loved it. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
Thank you so much
These look like the perfect meatballs! Great comfort food!