What’s better than a big steaming plate of pasta and meatballs with sauce? Paleo “pasta” with meatballs and sauce! And to make this recipe for Italian Meatballs even better, I use my slow cooker. The result is a full-bodied, rich sauce, with juicy, flavorful meatballs that make the perfect topping for zucchini noodles or mashed cauliflower (a good stand-in for polenta). Welcome to the story of my Slow-Cooker Italian Meatballs.
P.S. Click here to get a FREE jar of my new favorite Paleo-Friendly Tomato Sauce (while supplies last!)
I once dated an Italian-American guy who had a big Italian-American family. Their family’s traditions dictated that every Sunday, his grandmother and mom would cook a big pot of red sauce and a big batch of meatballs that would last the entire week. We would get sent back to the city on Sunday evening with large plastic containers full of the stuff that we would use to top pasta and polenta almost every day. This was, of course, my pre-Paleo days. I dated him for a little over a year and with all that pasta and sauce and meatballs, I gained – actually, let’s not talk about that. Let’s just say “I gained.”
But when we broke up, boy did I miss those meals. But I used the knowledge I had gained to try to occasionally replicate the sauce and meatballs. I pretty quickly decided that making sauce from scratch would be a once-a-year kind of thing instead of a once-a-week event. It just took too much time I didn’t have. But store bought sauces were simply no substitute.
Until I remembered one tip my ex’s grandmother had given me: sauce was never made with just one kind of meat. It was the mix of meats that helped the flavors really develop in the sauce. So I started buying ground pork and ground beef, browning it, and then pouring in the sauce and bringing it to a low simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
It was better, but I knew that I was missing a crucial element: time. That’s when a light went off in my head: the slow cooker! If you’ve read more than a couple of my posts, you’ve discovered how much I love my slow cooker already. Meat cooked in a slow cooker retains its moisture and gets infused with the flavors that are with it in the slow cooker. And as much as I love meat sauce, I love meatballs probably twice as much. So my recipe changed for the better again.
When I first started Paleo, I had an initial mini-heart attack thinking about never eating pasta or polenta ever again. Luckily, I discovered zucchini noodles pretty quickly, and mashed cauliflower not too long after. They made great substitutes for pasta and polenta.
But the first time after I started eating Paleo, I rolled my pork and beef meatballs and placed them in the slow cooker, picked up the jar of sauce I had bought at the store and – insert frowny face here – happened to see how much sugar was in my store bought sauce.
That set me on a mission: I was still unable to spend the time making sauce from scratch more than once or twice a year so I needed a viable sauce alternative. That’s when Thrive Market came to the rescue (as it has many times since) with a jarred tomato sauce that’s great for Paleo eaters. It’s super tasty on its own, but since I needed to add protein anyway, my meatballs (minus the breadcrumbs I used to use as a binder), were still the perfect addition. The meatballs made the flavor of the sauce richer and deeper and the sauce soaked into the meatballs, giving them a juicy, tomato-sauce hint throughout.
And that’s the full story of my Paleo Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs recipe. It came together, a piece at a time, until it reached its present state of – in my humble opinion – Paleo perfection. Eat up!
(Make this next: Whole Cauliflower Braised in Tomato Sauce)
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 jar (28 oz) Thrive Market Marinara sauce
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- salt, black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl add pork, beef, garlic, parsley, egg, salt and black pepper.
- Mix to combine.
- Shape into 1'' balls.
- Arrange meatballs in slow cooker.
- Pour Thrive Market marinara sauce over meatballs, cover with a lid and cook for 4 hours on low.
- Adjust taste with salt and black pepper, sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with zucchini noodles or over cauliflower mash.
Want more Paleo recipes? Take a look at the Paleo Grubs Book. With 470+ easy-to-prepare Paleo recipes in 17 comprehensive categories it is the only Paleo book you will ever need.
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