Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs

by Kate on September 20, 2012

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

When I started working at my current job 7 years ago, I was a spring chicken at the ripe old age of 23, which back then I thought was ancient. During my interview, I wore my ‘I’ll-only-be-caught-dead-in-this-at-job-interviews’ black business suit, ready to impress.  And while I was pretty sure I had the job in the bag, being that my future ‘boss’ was a family friend, I still wanted to come across as very professional and ‘adult’, even though I was only a year and change out of college, and still considered Thursdays to be the start of the weekend. But all you need to be a professional adult is a business suit and a fancy leather folder for your resumes right? Right!

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

Off the clock, after a few cocktails

I met Suzanne – she was sweet and inviting, putting me at ease – I could tell that she’d much rather chat about what had happened on last night’s episode of the Bachelor than my credentials, which I loved!  Then this other woman charged in the door – wide eyed and guns blazing – and she didn’t even have to utter a word for me to know that she meant business – “Hi , I’m Paula, the Exhibit Sales Manager – you’ll be working with me.”  She asked me everything about myself but my blood type and social security number – and the room started to feel smaller and darker, like I was in the middle of an interrogation vs. a job interview.  I left feeling good, like I nailed it, but at the same time thinking to myself “I’m kind scared to work with that Paula-woman!”.

And now, 7 years later, Paula is someone who has influenced my life in Paula's Crockpot Meatballsmore ways than I could ever describe.  She became a not only a mentor, but a friend, teaching me everything from how to count booths on a floor plan, how to make the best homemade pie crust and how in life, shit happens, and sometimes you just have to ‘let it go’.  The life lessons and stories that she’s passed on and her ‘Paula-isms’ like “He’s as old as Jerusalem” or use of the word “Boink“, which still makes me blush.  And every time one of them slips past my lips, I chuckle about how much she has rubbed off on me.

Today is her last day with the company – she’s pursuing her lifelong love of writing, hoping to inspire people all over the world with the ‘power of the pen’ and inspirational magnets – and if she can do for them 1/2 of what she’s done for me over the years, than the world will be a much better place.

In the midst of wisdom, she’s passed on some damn good recipes.  As a self-proclaimed ‘guinea’, her cooking is beyond incredible – and her recipe for crockpot meatballs is a perfect fall dinner.  Takes a little bit of time, but is well worth the wait if you can be patient – and the smell that will fill your house while they’re cooking is better than any celebrity perfume out there.

So thank-you Paula, not only for these fantastic crock pot meatballs that I’ve made 39843958490 times, but for everything you’ve been to me over the last 7-years.  I’m sure that someday, I will be making these for my grandchildren, telling them about my “Good friend Paula who gave me the recipe.”

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs

Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs

Yield: about 1 dozen large meatballs or 2 dozen smaller sized ones


    For the Meatballs
  • ½ cup Progresso Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 lb ground beef 80/20 (more fat makes a softer better tasting meatball)
  • ½ lb ground pork
  • For the Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion cut in quarters
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 - 24oz jars of spaghetti sauce – whichever brand you prefer
  • 1 - 28oz can of crushed tomatoes – I use a Whole Foods organic Marzano tomatoes
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar – sugar cuts acidity and brings out the fullness of the tomato flavor
  • fresh basil – I use 3 leafs


To prepare the meatballs

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) Mix bread crumbs, egg, water, cheese, parsley and spices together to form a soft paste like consistency.

3) Fold in ground beef and pork, turning to mix paste into meat. Do not over mix as you’ll toughen the meat.

4) Shape into meatballs (small or large) and place on cookie sheet & bake in preheated oven for about 8 minutes - turn meatballs over and cook on other side for another 8 minutes. Remove to rack. No need to overcook as they’ll to in the crock pot.

*optional step recommended by Paula is to let the shaped meatballs chill overnight before cooking them. It can help to prevent them from breaking apart during the cooking process.

To prepare the sauce

1) In sauce pan melt butter and oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook until they're translucent, stirring frequently as to not letting them brown (about 3-5 minutes).

2) Add minced garlic and let cook until just fragrant, not letting it burn (about 1 minute).

3) Add the 2 jars of sauce, can of crushed tomatoes, beef broth and all spices except the fresh basil and bring to a slow boil over medium heat.

4) Layer sauce and meatballs by adding a couple spoons of sauce to crock pot bottom, then add 1/2 of the cooked meatballs, then more sauce and then the rest of the meatballs, covering with the remaining sauce.

5) Cook on low for 5 hours. About 1 hour before they're done, add fresh basil.

*another tip from Paula is to remove some of the onions during the cooking process as they have a tendency to make the sauce acidic.

Paula's Crockpot Meatballs


operationrestoration September 20, 2012 at 10:27 am

Seriously, the best meatballs I’ve ever had!

katie April 8, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I was thinking about trying this recipe but i i was wondering if you can specify large can of tomato sauce and large can of crushed tomato.

Kate April 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

No problem Katie! Sorry about that :) Large can of tomato sauce is the 24oz sized jar (like the standard size for tomato sauce) and for the crushed tomatoes, large can is the 28oz, so the big big one. Great question, I’ll be sure to add that to the recipe! It’s a great one – you’ll love it!

Amy August 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm

For further clarification, you don’t mean a 24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce, do you? I guess I didn’t know plain tomato sauce came in jars? I always buy tomato sauce in a can. Let me know! Thanks!!

Kate August 20, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Yes Amy, it’s 2 – 24oz jars of spaghetti sauce. I guess tomato sauce can be confusing!

Diana May 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hi Kate! This looks like an awesome recipe! My mother is asking me to make the “balls of meat” (as she calls them) for Mother’s Day dinner this weekend, and I plan to use this recipe. I just have 1 question – about how many balls does this recipe make? I like to describe using references (ie golf ball, ping pong, orange sized, etc), so if you could help a girl out, that would be great! Thanks again!


Kate May 6, 2013 at 8:08 pm

That is such a great question Diana! I should really add that to the recipe – DOH (I blame it on Paula for not putting it on the original email haha). Anyhow though, I haven’t made these in a while but I’m pretty sure they’d make about a dozen larger (golf ball) sized ‘balls of meat’ and about 1.5 – 2 dozen smaller/cocktail appetizer size ones (maybe ping pong ball size, or a hair smaller). I hope that helps and that they’re a hit for Mothers day! It’s truly one of my most favorite things in the world to make – just for the amazing smell alone!

Paula May 8, 2013 at 11:33 am

Hi Kate! I see a Cooking Show in your future :) Thanks for taking the Crock Pot Meatball recipe to the world. Aside from delectable little bundles bursting with flavor – my goombadies lap up the sauce with crusty Italian bread, yum! This recipe, a cherished favorite …just like our friendship… ya… cherished. Up for a “Pisano” tradition – go for it! Psst … secret ingredient, I use Himalayan Salt, oola-la! The Little Meatball maker “Paula.” 

danny russell May 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

I make really good sauce ill put da recipe on here and try it out

mary kollyropoulou plakas June 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH for that recipie !!!! i made it today andit was the greatest meatballs i’ve ever had! my husband loved them so much! you guys just made a familly very happy because as greeks that we are we love good food and that is one of our major things that we really enjoy!!! Thank yoou again! keep up thegood job and posting great recipies like this one!

Erica June 10, 2013 at 9:40 pm

The recipe sounds delicious! When you say to make the meatballs the night before, do you mean to form and cook them in the oven the night before or just form them the night before? Thanks for clarifying!

Kate June 11, 2013 at 1:02 am

That’s a great question Erica! If you just make the meatballs and refrigerate them overnight (not cooking them until the next day) it just helps them sit together in ball shape a little longer which will help them hold up in the sauce when they’re being cooked in the crock pot. I hope that helps! You will love these!!!

Louise Bader September 23, 2013 at 1:27 am

Hi Kate!

I found this on pinterest and made it today. I took your advice and made the meatballs last night. It smelled so good in here all day!! The sauce tastes good but when I went to try a meatball it fell apart like crazy and looked like ground beef on my plate. Any suggestions? I followed this to a t. Does that happen or should that happen? I have no idea lol. Still tastes delish:)


Kate October 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Sorry for the delay Louise! That’s very strange though. Usually if you refrigerate them overnight and then bake them the next day it helps them to not fall apart. My next suggestion would be to maybe freeze them the night before, follow the same baking instructions, since regardless, they will cook fully in the crockpot. I hope that tip helps!

Kate October 9, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Hi I am making this recipe right now . Will prego traditional sauce work as the spaghetti sauce? I just wasn’t sure what type of spaghetti sauce to use all I kept saying was tomato sauce.

Kate October 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

It will Kate! Really whatever your favorite tomato/spaghetti sauce is that you’d use with a classic pasta dish.

Misty December 31, 2014 at 10:03 am

I was wondering if I used ground turkey instead of pork &obeyed, how long I should cook them in the slow cooker? Also, last time I made this delicious recipe, my sauce seemed to get watery and thin. Any tips? I like a thick, robust sauce. Thanks so much!

Kate March 15, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Hi Misty! sorry for the delay. You can absolutely use ground turkey, I do it all the time! I let them cook in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours minimum up to 8 hours. And honestly, I think that cooking the meatballs in the sauce helps to create a thickness that you may not get by just cooking the sauce on it’s own. Give it a try!

alexa April 3, 2015 at 7:27 pm

I just have to say I absolutely love this recipe!! I’ve tried many different ways of making meatballs but this wins. The combination of the sauce, the meat balls with the pork, and everything coming together like a big happy family in the slow cooker you just can’t beat it! Making meatballs for subs for the 2nd time this month. This time I’m trying sausage instead of pork and added in some leftover meat sauce I made a few weeks ago. I always add crushed red pepper bc my hubby and i like things spicey!! Thanks so much for my now go-to meatball recipe!!

Kate April 10, 2015 at 6:41 pm

I’m so glad that you love it Alexa! I agree that the combination of everything makes for the most perfect meatball. The best recipes in the world are 1) those passed down for ages and 2) slowly cooked to perfection in the slow cooker! So glad you love them!

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