That’s a spicy meatball! Gluten free crockpot meatballs


I do love Italian food.   I have great memories of my mom making her spaghetti and meatballs with sausage in her famous tomato sauce.

There’s a story behind her wonderful sauce.   My mother was making her sauce one Sunday.  She sent me to the dry cleaners.  When I walked in, the lady behind the counter said, “what smells so good?”  For a second, I couldn’t understand what she was talking about.  Then I realized that I was permeated with the delicious smell of spaghetti sauce.  “My mom’s sauce”,  I said.  I can smell it even now.

It’s almost impossible to eat out at an Italian restaurant.  Between the breading, pasta and cheese, it’s just not worth it.  I haven’t tackled meatballs until now.  I really have missed them.  I found this great recipe at gluten free on a shoestring.  The recipe follows, with my suggestions and tips in red italics.


1 1/2 cups gluten free bread crumbs

There is way too much “bread” in this recipe.  I would cut down to 3/4 to one cup

1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) red table wine (or try replacing with an equal amount of beef stock + 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar)*

I did not have wine or red wine vinegar on hand so I just used chicken broth

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 egg (any size, really), beaten

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed to release oils

2 teaspoons dried basil

I used one tablespoon of Italian seasoning in place of the oregano and basil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

I omitted the onion powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated

I used Go Veggie Dairy free parmesan

Tomato Sauce
1 28-ounce can tomato puree (or 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed with their juices until smooth)

3 ounces (1/2 6-ounce can) tomato paste

1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed to release oils

I used one tablespoon of Italian seasoning and omitted the basil

2 teaspoons dried basil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

I did not use paprika or chili powder


  • First, begin the meatballs. In a small bowl, place the breadcrumbs and red wine (or stock mixture), and mix to combine. Allow the breadcrumbs to sit in the wine (or stock mixture) while you prepare the tomato sauce.

I did not allow the bread crumbs to sit in the liquid.  There really isn’t enough liquid to breadcrumb ratio.  I beat the egg into the 1/2 cup of broth in a measuring cup, then I added the bread crumbs and mixed them together as best as possible

  • Prepare the sauce. In the liner of a 6-quart slow cooker, place all of the tomato sauce ingredients and whisk to combine well. Set the liner aside and return your attention to the meatballs.

I got the sauce going on high while I made the meatballs

  • Form the meatballs. In a large bowl, place the ground pork and ground beef, and break up the meat gently with your fingers. Add the remaining meatball ingredients in the order listed, mixing gently to combine with your fingers. Do not overwork the meat or the meatballs will be tough. Add the breadcrumb mixture, and again mix until just combined with your fingers. Divide the meatball mixture into 12 to 14 pieces and roll each gently into a ball.
  • Cook the meatballs. Nestle each meatball into the tomato sauce in the slow cooker liner. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours or until the meatballs are cooked through. The cooked meatballs can remain on your slow cooker’s “warm” setting for up to 1 1/2 hours. Turn the cooked meatballs over in the sauce to coat completely before serving.

I cooked these for two hours on high then 2 hours on low.  Since there was not much sauce I didn’t want it to all boil away and burn

There was not enough sauce to immerse the meatballs in.  I would probably either use a jar  of sauce or double the recipe of the homemade sauce.  The recipe made 12 huge meatballs.  They tasted good, but were a bit “gluey” due to all the breadcrumbs.  They are also really filling.  I might make smaller meatballs, or cut the meat amount in half and then the breadcrumbs down to 1/2 cup.  Your experience may vary.

If you make these, please comment on your experience.

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