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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Crockpot Meatballs and Red Sauce (Ragu)

This recipe is perfect for hot summer days when you don't want to heat up your cucina simmering, sauteing, and frying! This recipe will not be as thick as regular sauce and the meatballs won't have that crispy skin BUT the ease of making these and moisture you can only obtain from crock pot cooking will make up for it..... I promise. Plus I have a little trick for thickening up this sauce pretty well even in a crock pot : )
All my ingredients ready for the crock pot!
Three 28 ounce cans crushed Italian Plum tomatoes (Marzano) *see note below
4.6 ounces tomato paste (1 can or tube)
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup minced onion
1/3 cup golden raisins soaked in 1/2 cup white or red dry wine (remove and reserve the raisins for the meatballs)
olive oil (enough to coat bottom of crockpot
1 teaspoon sea salt and a small amount of black pepper
a few fresh basil leaves
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 pounds ground meat (half pork half beef or half turkey etc...)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove minced
olive oil to moisten
1 teaspoon salt and a little black pepper
a pinch or more red pepper flakes (to your taste)
My secret for thickening sauce in crockpot
The reserved 1/3 cup golden raisins
1-2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 - 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley 
1/4 - 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (Or for GF replace with same amount of finely grated Parmesan cheese)
1 egg beaten
Important!: Add oil, garlic, and onion to the crock pot and heat on high with the lid while you prepare the meatballs.
Meanwhile,heat up the wine in microwave for 1 minute, add raisins and allow to soak.
Mix meat, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs,minced garlic, chopped parsley, pine nuts, fennel seeds, redpepper, salt and pepper and stir well.
Add egg, olive oil, and raisins mixing well with hands.
Now add tomatoes (see note below), wine, tomato paste, basil, and oregano to crock pot and stir.

I usually make the meatballs as I add them to the sauce one at  time. I like them bigger for this recipe because they seem to hold together better.
Now very very gently push the meat balls down to cover with the sauce.
Cover turn down to low and cook for several hours.
* If the tomatoes are whole you can crush them in the cans with an immersion blender or add to crock pot and use an immersion blender in the crock pot before adding meatballs or blend in a blender for a quick few seconds or crush by hand but try not too not over blend.
  *You can also add the rind of the Parmesan you used to add more flavor.

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