The name doesn’t lie. This may be the easiest meatball recipe I’ve ever tried, and it’s also one of the tastiest!
I was honestly shocked at how tasty these little guys were. It’s so nice when simple preparation works out to be delicious too.
I started by mixing up my meatball mixture. Go for whichever type of ground meat you like. The recipe called for ground beef or turkey. I looked for turkey, but my grocery store only had ground chicken, so I used that instead.
The ground chicken was mixed up with some Parmesan cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs, a hefty dose of pesto (I used refrigerated because my basil plant hadn’t grown in yet, but if you’d like to make it from scratch, here’s a recipe for you.), and an egg yolk.
The best way to go about it is to just dive in with your hands. It’s messy, but it’s the best way to distribute the ingredients evenly and gently.
Once the mixture was together and my hands were a mess, I started rolling my meatballs. Each one was about 1 1/2 inches wide. I placed them in a glass baking dish.
Once all of the meatballs were made, they went into the microwave for about five minutes. This time in the microwave cooks them just a bit, and helps to render off some of the fat from the meat so it won’t end up in your finished product.
As the meatballs were in the micro, I poured two jars of bottled spaghetti sauce (I used Bertolli Tomato and Basil sauce) and a half cup of water into my 4 quart slow cooker.
I nestled the meatballs into the sauce and set my slow cooker to low. Then, I stepped back and let them cook for about five hours.
Before we were ready to eat, I turned the heat off, removed the top of the slow cooker and let the meatballs and sauce settle for about five minutes. Then, I used a large spoon and skimmed off any fat that had accumulated on the top. I gave the meatballs and sauce a good stir, and they were ready to go.
I went the classic route and used them to top spaghetti, but they’d make great meatball sandwiches too. We had enough left over after dinner to freeze for another meal, and I’m happy to report that they freeze and reheat really well.
The pesto adds so much flavor to the meatballs, and the sauce ends up so hearty, that you’d swear a sweet little Italian grandmother had been tending to the pot on the stove all day. Reality will be our little secret.
EASY SLOW COOKER PESTO MEATBALLS
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
- 1 lb. lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken
- 2/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 2/3 cup basil pesto (fresh or refrigerated)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 (24 oz.) jars spaghetti sauce (5 cups total. I used Bertolli Tomato and Basil)
- 1/2 cup water
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooked pasta for serving
- With your hands, mix together the ground meat, bread crumbs, pesto, Parmesan and egg yolk. Pinch off and roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch meatballs (12-15 meatballs total) and place them in a glass baking dish.
- Microwave the meatballs until the fat renders a bit and the meatballs have firmed up, 5-7 minutes total.
- Stir the tomato sauce and water together in a 4 quart slow cooker. Nestle the meatballs into the slow cooker, discarding the fat from the baking dish.
- Cover and cook until the meatballs are tender, 4-6 hours on low.
- Let the meatballs and sauce settle for 5 minutes, then remove the fat from the top with a large spoon. Stir the sauce and meatballs before serving and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve over pasta or in meatball sandwiches.
- The sauce and meatballs freeze and reheat well!