Friday, November 20, 2009

Slow Cooker Sausage Ricotta Meatballs

I was first inspired to make these meatballs a couple of months ago, when Jessie mentioned them in one of her meal planning posts. They sounded absolutely delicious, so I immediately put them on our menu and gave them a shot. They were definitely good, but I wanted to play with the recipe a little bit and come up with something that fit our tastes perfectly. I've learned that I don't like milk-soaked pieces of bread in my meatballs; it makes the meatballs moist, yes, but the texture seems almost slimy to me. And I knew that I had to add garlic and onion -- two of my staple ingredients for meatballs.

So I made them again, modifying the recipe quite extensively, and the end result was heavenly. I have officially found my perfect go-to meatball. And you can adapt them to your tastes just like I adapted them to ours: Cook them in the Crock pot, on the stovetop, or in the oven; serve them over spaghetti, on their own, or topped with provolone or mozzarella cheese on toasted hoagie rolls slathered with garlic butter. This recipe makes a ton, so I froze half for a later meal. You can't beat a two-fer, especially one as delicious as this!

Slow Cooker Sausage Ricotta Meatballs
source: inspired by Simply Recipes

1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 slices white bread, torn into pieces
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 jars tomato basil spaghetti sauce

1. In a medium saucepan, cook pancetta or bacon over medium heat until softened but not quite crispy. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You probably won't need a lot of salt since the pancetta is already so salty.) Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, pulse pieces of bread into fine crumbs in a food processor.

3. Combine sausage, parsley, fresh bread crumbs, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Add pancetta, onion, and garlic mixture. In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, egg, and milk; add to meat mixture.

4. Shape meat into balls. (I made mine about the size of golf balls, maybe a little smaller, and got 34 meatballs out of the mixture.) Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry meatballs in batches until browned but not necessarily cooked through.

5. Place about half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker; layer in meatballs and remaining sauce. Cover and cook on low until sauce is bubbly, about 3 hours.


Katie said...

Meatballs are my favorite go to item to get multiple meals out of. I must admit though mine come straight from the frozen foods section. One night is meatball subs the next is spaghetti and meatballs. That still usually leaves us with enough to munch on. Yours look really tasty!

Courtney said...

oh yummy these sound great! I am going to have to try these!