We've been having some pretty wacky weather here for Southern California. Back east, my mom and the weather man used to call it HHH: hazy, hot, and humid. Definitely not a day that you want to spark up the oven and add any extra heat and moisture to your kitchen. It's summer days like these when recipes like my slow cooker meatballs with garden veggie sauce are a lifesaver.
With a bit of planning, I can prepare the sauce and meatballs in the morning, add the meatballs to the sauce in the slow cooker around lunchtime, and have a delicious dinner ready by the end of the day.
Because of all the extra veggies, the sauce is light but savory, with just enough cream (or coconut cream) to make it extra satisfying. You could serve these on their own, with rice, or pasta. But I love to spoon these slow cooker meatballs over simple zucchini noodles (learn how to make zoodles here), using up the abundance of summer squash and adding some extra lightness to this dish on a hot day.
How to make slow cooker meatballs with garden veggie sauce
For the slow cooker meatballs
- 1/2 pound ground beef – find pasture-raised meats online here
- 1/2 pound ground pork (or use all beef)
- 1/4 pound beef liver
- 2 eggs, preferably from pasture-raised hens
- 1/2 onion
- 1/2 cup tomato paste – this is my favorite brand
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T. fresh parsley
- 2 tsp sea salt – this is the sea salt I buy in bulk
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs or almond meal
- Place the liver in your food processor with the s-blade. Pulse until liver is smooth.
- Beat the eggs. Mince the onion, garlic and parsley finely. If making breadcrumbs, pulse sourdough or sprouted toast in the food processor.
- Combine the ground meat and liver in a large mixing bowl and mix together evenly. Add beaten egg, onion, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs or almond meal to meat and combine well.
- Using clean hands roll the mixture into ping pong ball sized balls. Set aside until sauce is ready.
For the garden veggie sauce
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1/4 cup olive oil – this is my favorite California olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 cups diced tomatoes (canned or use this tutorial to learn how to peel and deseed summer tomatoes)
- 1 cup chicken stock – learn how to make chicken stock here
- 1 tsp. raw honey – get raw honey here
- 1 cup raw cream or coconut milk
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 oz. parmesan cheese, optional
- 1 small bunch fresh basil
- Coarsely chop the onions, carrots, zucchini, and celery. Mince the garlic. Zest the lemon.
- In your food processor with the s-blade, combine onion, carrots, zucchini, and celery. Process until minced. Transfer to saucepan or slow cooker (see options below)
- Place tomatoes in the food processor and pulse until smooth.
- If you don't mind sparking up the stove during the summer, save time by preparing the sauce on the stove. Sauté the veggies in the olive oil until onion is translucent. Add the lemon zest, garlic, tomatoes, and stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, then transfer sauce to the slow cooker.
– OR –
Add the minced veggies to the slow cooker with olive oil, lemon zest, and garlic. Add tomatoes and stock. Cook on high for 2-3 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. Reduce heat to low before adding meatballs.
- Place the raw meatballs in the tomato sauce in the slow cooker gently without stirring. Cook on low for 4-6 hours until meatballs are cooked through.
- Stir in the raw cream or coconut milk and honey. Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground pepper. Turn to warm until ready to serve.
- Grate parmesan cheese and chop basil, if using.
- Serve slow cooker meatballs with garden veggie sauce atop zoodles, rice, or noodles of your choice and garnish with optional parmesan cheese and fresh basil.