Slow Cooker Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce

These slow cooker meatballs are absolutely amazing and are great if you need to feed a crowd.

Slow Cooker Meatballs

When you remove the lid from the slow cooker, you will be greeted with a delicious tomato sauce and juicy meatballs. The dish smells so good it is very hard to stop yourself from eating it right out of the slow cooker.

This dish is a little more labor-intensive than most slow cooker recipes but is well worth the time and effort. Once you have the meatballs made and fried off, it is just a matter of mixing the sauce and letting it cook.

You will get roughly four to six serves out of a single batch of this recipe. The number you can feed heavily depends on the side dishes you make and how hungry people are. If you are unsure, you can always double or triple the recipe.

These meatballs reheat nicely, so make sure you keep the leftovers. They make for a rather good lunch that you can heat in the microwave the next day. You could even make your own meatball sub using the leftovers.

What to Serve with these Meatballs

You can have this dish by itself, or you can cook something extra to go with it.

The most obvious side dish to serve with the meatballs is some delicious pasta. Spirals, tubes, or even linguine will work nicely with this dish. Pick whatever pasta you like the most.

A side dish that always matches extremely well with a bowl of pasta is garlic bread. I love to make it from scratch, but the store-bought garlic bread is pretty decent and easier to prepare.

Slow Cooker Meatballs and Pasta

Steamed rice is an easy side dish that works perfectly with the meatballs. I love to cook it in the rice cooker rather than over the stove. I do not recommend cooking it in the slow cooker.

For something a little different, you can make some polenta to have with this dish. Alternatively, mashed potatoes are another option that will work nicely with the flavors of the meatballs and sauce.

You can try anything that you think would match nicely with the meatballs and tomato sauce. I do recommend topping the dish with some parmesan cheese no matter what you end up doing.

Perfecting the Recipe

I use ground beef in this recipe, but you can use any type of meat. For example, ground pork also works really well or even a mixture of both beef and pork.

For a bit more flavor in the sauce, add a splash of red wine. Add this at the same time as the diced tomatoes. It is a simple adjustment but can make a huge difference.

Italian Inspired Slow Cooker Meatballs

You can use frozen meatballs if you do not have the time to make them from scratch. It will save you a lot of time, and the dish still turns out to be delicious. However, I find homemade meatballs taste the best.

If you want to see a video on how to make these delicious meatballs in the slow cooker, then be sure to check out the video below. It is short, snappy, and straight to the point.

Slow Cooker Meatballs Recipe

4.5/5 (90%) 2 votes
Prep Time20 Minutes
Cook Time8 Hours & 20 Minutes
Total Time8 Hours & 40 Minutes



  • 500 g (1.1 lb) ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 800 g (1.8 lb) diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper


  1. In a bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  2. Once mixed, form the mixture into meatballs. I use roughly two tablespoons of the mix for each meatball.
  3. In a pan over high heat, fry the meatballs, so they are lightly browned. Once done, put to the side.
  4. In the slow cooker, mix together the onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
  5. Lastly, add the meatballs into the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  7. Serve & Enjoy.

Recipe Tips

  • You can add the meatballs straight into the slow cooker without frying them. However, you will likely notice better results if you do fry them beforehand. Either way, just add them after you have mixed the sauce.
  • Do not worry about there not being enough sauce as after a few hours of cooking, there will be a lot more sauce. If you add too much liquid to the sauce, it will turn very soup-like after just a few hours of cooking.
  • If you do not have bay leaves, you can leave them out without them affecting the overall dish too much.

Note: I use a 5.5L (6 Quart) slow cooker for all the recipes that I have on this website unless specified. If you have a smaller or larger slow cooker, then you might need to adjust the ingredients.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size: 224g (7.9 oz)
Servings Per Recipe: 6
Calories Per Serving: 282
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat: 7g
Saturated Fat: 2.4g
Trans Fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrate: 23.7g
Dietary Fiber: 4.2g
Sugars: 7.3g
Cholesterol: 102mg
Sodium: 726mg
Protein: 31.1g

The information above is an estimate generated by an online nutrition calculator.

More Slow Cooker Beef Recipes

There are plenty more recipes that you can do in the slow cooker. Below are a couple of my favorites.

If you love this dish, then you may also like the beef goulash. It is basically tender beef with vegetables cooked in a rich paprika and tomato sauce. Well worth checking out if you love tomato dishes.

Another slow cooker meatball dish that you need to try is the Swedish meatballs. Compared to this dish, they are entirely different as they cook in a delicious creamy sauce. The meatballs are made with both ground pork and beef.

I hope you enjoy these slow cooker meatballs. If you have a variation or feedback, then be sure to leave a comment below.


  1. Avatar for Ruth Geraghty
    Ruth Geraghty on

    I have the dish in the slow cooker but may be short on time. Would it be ok to turn to high for shorter time?

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on

      Hi Ruth,

      Yes that should be fine!

  2. Avatar for Allison DeBlonde
    Allison DeBlonde on

    I used to fry meatballs then put them in the oven to precook. Now I just put them straight into the tomato gravy to cook.
    I make them much like in this recipe then into the tomato gravy straight away. They cook for 6-8 hrs on low and are juicy, moist and tender.
    I learned this from several chefs that do this in their restaurants. I figure if it’s good enough for them it’s certainly good enough for me (and my family).
    It saves on time and less dirty dishes.

  3. Avatar for Moe Moe
    Moe Moe on

    My family makes great meatballs…try adding a little Jimmy Dean Sausage and a splash of evaporated milk…the sausage adds flavor and the evaporated milk adds moisture and tenderness to end result

  4. Avatar for Elaine
    Elaine on

    I think If I make this I’ll double the sauce.

    1. Avatar for Richard Nicoletti
      Richard Nicoletti on

      I use a combination of pork and veal instead of beef. It adds more flavor. I also toss in some parmesan cheese and only half of the crumbs.

  5. Avatar for Chef Cosmo
    Chef Cosmo on

    My only comment would be to bake instead of fry. Do not put raw meat in the sauce. Veal and pork are excellent choices. Bob Appetit, Chef Cosmo

  6. Avatar for Paul Begick
    Paul Begick on

    Are the diced tomatoes drained or undrained?

    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on


  7. Avatar for Christine Warren
    Christine Warren on

    I do not own a slow cooker. Can I make this recipe in a regular pot on low for fewer hours? Please advise


    1. Avatar for Gus
      Gus on

      Yes, that will work fine.

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