Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

This easy slow cooker meatball recipe uses a mix of beef and Italian turkey sausage for a lightened version that still makes a flavorful, juicy meatball. Perfect for a weeknight dinner served over pasta or with toothpicks at a tailgating party!

Meatballs should be two things: juicy and flavorful. This recipe ticks both the boxes, and the best part is that you make them in the slow cooker.

The sauce is made from pantry staples like mashed canned tomatoes with some crushed red pepper to add just a little spiciness. My kids are 8 and 10 and they didn’t find it too spicy. Of course, if you don’t want to live life on the spicy side, you can always skip it.

The best meat mix for slow cooker meatballs

I went lean for this recipe – 90/10 beef and turkey sausage. The meatballs stay juicy even after the long simmering in the sauce without the extra fat. The lower fat content still results in tender, flavorful meatballs because the fat that’s present doesn’t really cook off.

I can easily find 1 pound packets of ground Italian turkey sausage at my local supermarket. If that’s not available, try Italian turkey sausage in the casings and simply remove the casings by slicing them open with a knife.

If you can’t find either, just grab an Italian pork sausage. Once in the casings, simply remove them and mix the ground sausage with the beef.

What is the best cheese for meatballs?

I honestly just picked up pre-shredded Romano cheese from the deli, but you can also go for the real deal and buy a piece of Pecorino Romano cheese and grate it yourself. Make sure you use the small holes on your grater.

If you can’t find romano (or don’t like it), you can substitute mozzarella, parmesan, or asiago cheese.

Tips for forming meatballs

These meatballs are pretty gooey. Here are two tips to make the patties easier to shape:

  • If you wet your hands with water, it will be much easier to roll the meat into balls.
  • Alternatively, you can use a small size 40 cookie spoon. I like to make meatballs that are smaller than a golf ball.

How Long Should I Cook Meatballs in a Slow Cooker?

You can cook them on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Store and freeze meatballs

The cooked meatballs can be stored in the tomato sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Freeze, Place the cooked meatballs in a bowl, sauce and all, and place in the freezer. You’ll be glad to have something for later. When you’re planning dinner, just take them out and let them thaw in your fridge for 48 hours. Then heat them in a saucepan or skillet over medium-high heat.

I’ve also been known for tossing a frozen block of meatballs and gravy into a pan and heating them that way. What can I say? I’m human and sometimes I don’t think about taking food out of the freezer until hungry people are staring at me and asking for food.

More Meatball Recipes

  • Turkey Meatballs
  • Greek meatballs
  • italian meatballs
  • Sausage balls with ricotta in tomato sauce
  • Chipotle Meatballs

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

preparation time
30 minutes

cooking time
8 hours

total time
8 hrs 30 mins

40 meatballs


  • For the sauce:
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce

  • 3/4 medium onion, finely diced

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • For the meatballs:
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

  • 1/4 medium onion, finely diced

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 pound 90/10 ground beef

  • 1 pound ground Italian turkey sausage


  1. Make the sauce:

    Set your slow cooker to low, then add the mashed tomatoes, onions, bay leaves, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Give a quick stir to combine everything.

  2. Soak breadcrumbs:

    In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs and milk.

  3. Add the other meatball ingredients:

    In the same bowl with the breadcrumbs, combine the garlic, onion, parsley leaves, pepper, salt, oregano, cheese and egg. Mix everything together with a fork. Add the beef and turkey. Use your hands to mix everything together just enough to combine.

  4. Shape meatballs:

    These can be quite sticky. If you wet your hands with water, it will be much easier to roll the meat into balls. Alternatively, you can use a small size 40 cookie spoon. I like to make meatballs that are smaller than a golf ball.

    Pinch off about a tablespoon of meat, roll in your hands and add directly to the sauce. Repeat until all meatballs are done. Some of the meatballs are not dipped in the sauce. That’s okay. They fall into the sauce while cooking. No worries.

  5. Cover and cook:

    Attach the lid to your slow cooker and cook for just 5 hours on high or up to 8-10 hours on low.

  6. Surcharge:

    Serve these over spaghetti, on a hoagie bun for a meatball sandwich, or alone as a party appetizer.

    If you want to thicken the sauce, you can place it in a pan over medium-high heat and reduce until it reaches your desired consistency. If there’s some fat floating on top of the sauce, just stir it in.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!