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42 ratings, avg : 3.95

Beautiful, slow cooked beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. No browning involved, yet your meatballs will stay in one gorgeous piece; until you devour them that is.

I made many many meatballs before I got to the perfect one. At some point it seemed like it was all we ever had for dinner. The Mister loves them, but I was getting perilously close to the point where he was going to explode if he saw another meatball in front of him. My issues were getting the right balance of ingredients (sometimes too much wine, sometimes too many breadcrumbs etc) but the main problem I was facing was their falling apart before they even got to the plate. Tender meat is great, but mushy meatballs are not.

Then, finally, I came across the information that would change my slow-cooker-meatball-making life. The trick? The freezer. Just an hour’s time-out for the newly shaped meatballs to rest in the freezer, and then into the slow cooker they go. No faffing around with a frying pan. And it works. They turn out beautifully, whichever type of sauce you cook them in. And while you’re at it, why not make an extra batch to leave in the freezer for next time? Ready frozen meatballs make for amazingly quick preparation on a morning when you are running late/can’t be bothered but still fancy a decent dinner.

While doing all that internet research I did stumble on another trick, which would have been my plan B if the freezer tip didn’t work. The microwave. Yes, a bit of forehead slapping took place when I saw that. If the aim is to start the cooking process with a quick method, and then continue with slow cooking, then the microwave is ideal. I haven’t tried it myself yet, so if you do please let me know what you think! Apparently the meatballs need about 4-6 minutes. Apart from speedy prep, another perk with this trick is that the meat will probably render its fat while being zapped, so if you get rid of that before they go in the slow cooker, your end result is going to be somewhat lighter.

The below amounts made 12 meatballs and the sauce ingredients are for the full recipe. I used 6 meatballs for our dinner (with half the sauce amounts) and saved the rest in the freezer for another day. These babies are best enjoyed with pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes. Or you could go all healthy on me and serve them with quinoa. They’ll be lovely whatever they’re paired with.

Important: Do not use defrosted minced meat if you are using the freezer method. You must never re-freeze anything that has already been frozen once. You can only do that if you fully cook it before re-freezing.


For the meatballs

500 gr minced beef (only fresh for freezer method)

1 egg

3/4 cup parsley leaves (not packed) – about 2 Tbs very finely chopped

3 Tbs parmesan, finely grated

3 Tbs dried breadcrumbs (I used fine rusk crumbs)

2 Tbs red wine

2 tsp dried onion flakes

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1/3 cup flour (for coating meatballs)

For the sauce

2 tins (800 gr) chopped tomatoes

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Show me more ideas and suggestions

Mine were rye rusks, which look like this, but you can use any dry crumbs.

Step 1

Put all the meatball ingredients (except flour) in a large bowl. Mix with your hands and shape into golf sized balls. Press firmly on all sides so they are sealed well. Toss them in the flour, shake off the excess and place them on a tray or plate in the freezer, so that they aren’t touching. I put a piece of greeseproof paper in my icecube draw (which is shallow) and popped them direcly onto that. Leave for an hour till fully frozen. If keeping in the freezer for longer, tranfer them to a freezer bag.

Step 2

To cook the meatballs, place all the sauce ingredients in the slow cooker and stir. Pop the frozen meatballs on the sauce (stacking if necessary). Don’t stir, so the ones on top brown a bit. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-7 hours. You can check doneness by cutting one open or testing with a food thermometer.

Freezer method found on A Year of Slow Cooking and microwave method on Savory Simple.

42 ratings, avg : 3.95

So, what do you think? Leave me a comment!


  • Reply

    Hi – this looks wonderful. I do have a few questions…
    1) what is a IceCube draw? I’m from the states so this might be totally obvious do you mean IceCube trays or the bins ice cubes are stored in?
    2) what areRusks? Do you mean rolls? Is there another Gluten Free option I could use ?


    • Reply

      Hi Tina! Thanks for comment. Some freezers here in Greece have a very shallow drawer specifically to put ice cube trays on. Mine for example has two deep drawers and one extra at the top, one which only very short or flat items will fit. Keep in mind I am referring to a freezer that is part of a refrigerator, not a separate deep freeze appliance that is normally one large space with shelves and a door. I hope all that makes sense! If you have room just put the meatballs on a baking tray and freeze them on that. The point is to keep them separate so they don’t freeze into one big mess 🙂 Rusks are pieces of twice baked bread. Something like a plain savoury biscotti. You can substitute with panko breadcrumbs (if I am not mistaken they are dry, correct?) or just leave some fresh breadcrumbs spread out on a tray to dry out. It’s good if you can get them to be crunchy. Hope I have answered your questions. Let me know if I can be of further help! (And please let me know if you try the meatballs!!)

  • Reply

    Is the 800gr total for the tomatoes or is it does 2 tins mean 1600gr total?

  • Reply

    You said 500 grams of ground beef. Could u tell me how many pounds that is? Maybe 2. Or 1. 1/2 lbs?

    • Reply

      Hi Jeri! It’s just over one pound! (1lb = 450gr). Don’t forget this is a small slow cooker. If you have anything over a 6 liter (approx 6 quarts) I suggest you double the recipe! Good luck!