Slow Cooker Paleo Italian Meatballs

By Jess

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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.


Get ready for a Paleo Italian feast with these slow cooker Italian Meatballs.

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.”

Italian Meatballs Ingredients

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.

Raw Meat balls

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.

Pouring Sauce

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.

Served with Spoon

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.

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(Make this next: Whole Cauliflower Braised in Tomato Sauce)


  • For meatballs
    • 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
  • Other ingredients
    • 1 jar paleo-friendly tomato sauce
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
    • salt, black pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl add pork, beef, garlic, parsley, egg, salt and black pepper.
  2. Mix to combine.
  3. Shape into 1'' balls.
  4. Arrange meatballs in slow cooker.
  5. Pour Thrive Market marinara sauce over meatballs, cover with a lid and cook for 4 hours on low.
  6. Adjust taste with salt and black pepper, sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with zucchini noodles or over cauliflower mash.


Serving Size





Total Time

250 minutes

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

240 minutes

Print Recipe


Ask a Question 

    • Hi Shelly,

      This recipe will work without pork, you can use ground chicken or turkey, or any ground meat. Just keep in mind that meats like lam, bison or game, may have a stronger flavor. let me know how yours turn out.

  1. Aldi also has a good brand of sauce at a price point I like! Simply Nature organic either marinara or Tomato Basil they really are simple there is no soybean oil and no added sugar! My husband does paleo but the kids and I don’t so I do like to boil and then puree some carrots and sometimes even zucchini into the sauce. I don’t miss the sweetness when I leave them out but I’m sure the carrots add a bit.

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