Cooktop Cove: How to make slow cooker pasta and meatballs (video)
Meatballs have a more impressive movie count than most dishes. From an early yet iconic appearance in the 'restaurant' scene in Lady and The Tramp, to Clemenza showing Michael Corleone how to prepare them in the Godfather, and finally getting top billing in Cloudy With A Chance Of…, meatballs are so darn good, they even conquered Hollywood. This recipe strikes the perfect balance between being authentic, accessible and a real treat to come home to.
A key step here is the frying of the onions, carrots, and celery, in a classic 'sofrito' which creates the aromatic base for the rich and delicious sauce. Cooking the sofrito down in the same oil used to brown the meatballs is a great way of cranking up the flavor, so don't be tempted to wipe out the pan.
Slow cooker pasta and meatballs
1/2-lb ground beef
1/2-lb ground pork
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine (or water)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 28-oz can of whole tomato, juices reserved, tomatoes crushed
16-oz rigatoni pasta
grated parmesan cheese and parsley to serve
1. In a medium sized bowl, add ground beef and ground pork and season with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add grated parmesan, half the chopped garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs and eggs. Using your hands, mix the meatball mixture until well blended. With slightly damp hands, form meatballs (about 1.5 inches in diameter).
2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil. Brown the meatballs, but do not cook through. Once browned, remove and set aside.
3. In the same pan, add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until they being to soften. Add the remaining garlic and cook for and additional 30 seconds, stirring continuously. Add in the tomato paste, red wine (or water), remaining salt, thyme, oregano and nutmeg. Cook together for another minute.
4. Into a 6-quart slow cooker, add in the tomato paste mixture and crushed tomatoes. The tomatoes can be crushed inside the slow cooker by smashing them against the walls of the insert. Add browned meatballs. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.
5. During the last 30 minutes of cook time, stir in the uncooked pasta. If the sauce looks too thick, you can add the reserved juices from the canned tomato, and 1/2 cup of water if necessary. Cover and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes to 1 hour. After the initial 30 minutes, check the pasta. Add more liquid if needed. Continue to cook only as long as necessary to cook the pasta. (If the sauce is too soupy, you can cook with the lid off to allow some of the water to evaporate.)
Serve with grated parmesan and parsley.
Pro tip: Feel free to use your favorite pasta shape in this dish if you want to ring the changes. Pappardelle and bucatini are a good match for meatballs, but frankly, any pasta shape will taste good.
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