Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs in the Slow Cooker

There are probably thousands of recipes you can find on-line for homemade marinara sauce and meatballs. I am on a continual search for a go-to recipe.  The December 2010 edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine takes up the challenge of a "better" spaghetti and meatballs. I gave the recipes a go, making my own changes to make the recipe a bit more pantry friendly.  For example, the Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for Knox Gelatin for the meatballs. While I agree it probably plumps them up nicely, Knox Gelatin is expensive and I never have it on hand so I skipped it.I also cooked my sauce in my Crock Pot instead of the oven.

I was really pleased with how this turned out. I made the meatballs two days before I made the marinara. It was nice to make the marinara in the morning and just let it simmer in the Crock Pot all day long until we were ready to eat! This will easily feed 6-7 adults -- with meatballs left over for the freezer.

Homemade Meatballs
1 1/2 cups finely ground bread crumbs (preferably panko)
Just over 1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
3 pounds 85% lean ground beef (or 2 lbs beef/1lb pork or turkey)
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley (or fresh, if you have it)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in a large bowl (this is a panade). Let sit, mashing with fork every once and a while, until a smooth paste forms.  Add eggs, meat, parsley, garlic, Parmesan and salt and pepper. Using hands, knead the mixture until it is uniform making sure that the panade is fully integrated and mashed up (or you end up with mini-bread balls in your meat!)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Roll meat mixture in to 2 inch balls. Place meatballs on prepared pan. I put any extras in a glass baking dish and bake them in there. Roast until browned.

Homemade Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 onions grated
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 Tablespoons dry white wine
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
10-12 cups of tomato sauce (mine was homemade from cooking down tomatoes)

Heat olive oil in pot or pan. Add onion and cook until soften and golden around edges, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in wine and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Once simmering transfer sauce in to the crock of slow cooker.  Add in about 20 meatballs if desired. Cook on low for as long as desired, but at least a few hours, I like 4 hours. Add in salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. I use about 3/4 Tablespoon of sugar. I also added in chopped fresh basil at the end.

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