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Crock Pot Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

paleonewbie-com recipe slow cooked Italian meatballs in marinara sauce

You know how you hear that slow cooked marinara sauce is the best? It’s because it simmers on the stove for hours or sometimes all day…

Slow cooked marinara sauce makes your house smell heavenly, and when it’s finally ready, it is truly bellissimo!

As an Italian girl, I know sometimes great food takes a little extra time to prepare. But lucky you, you get to cheat a little with this recipe and simply plug in your crock pot. It will do most of the work while you get to take a bow at the end of the meal. 

I used my favorite canned tomato, San Marzano, for this recipe. Zuc-Can-Tomatoes-Ext-200x275WRYou don’t have to, but any cook will tell you they’re the best. Why? Because they’re perfectly vine-ripened and come packed in pure tomato sauce instead of water. Well worth the extra cost in my opinion. But if you prefer fresh tomatoes, by all means, use them. You may need to add some tomato paste to thicken the sauce.

I gotta tell you, my hubby is not a fan of meatballs. I know, he’s just weird. So when I said I was making this recipe, he just shrugged. I knew he was thinking who eats those little balls of meat anyway?

Then he tasted them, and changed his opinion real fast. He loved them so much he had them for dinner last night, and again today for lunch. Need I say more?

Another great idea for these is to serve them as appetizers at cocktail parties. Just make them a little smaller and stick those cute little toothpicks in them and your crowd will love them!

Give them a try.

Ciao peeps!

Paleo Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Paleo Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce


  • 1 1/2 lbs, of grass-fed beef (or another meat of your choice)
  • 1 large onion, diced small (set aside one half for the sauce)
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic (set aside one half for the sauce)
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup of fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Marinara Sauce
  • (1) 28-oz can of San Marzano plum tomatoes with sauce
  • (1) 15-oz can of tomato sauce
  • The other half of the diced onions and minced garlic (see meatball ingredients above)
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of dried basil
  • 2 Tbsp of fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp of sea salt
  • A healthy pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 5-7 minutes
  2. Next season with salt, add garlic, and cook for one additional minute
  3. Remove from heat
  4. Add half of the onion/garlic to the crockpot, and set the other half aside
  5. Add remaining ingredients for the sauce into crock pot
  6. Break apart the tomatoes in the crock pot so they are not whole
  7. Set crockpot to low
  8. Add ground beef to the bowl you set aside of the chopped onions and minced garlic
  9. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients to the same bowl
  10. GENTLY combine all the meatball ingredients with your hands – do not over mix or your meatballs will turn out tough
  11. Preheat a medium or large frying pan with few tablespoons of coconut or olive oil over medium heat
  12. Form meatballs by hand -- make each about the size of a golf ball
  13. Place meatballs in the heated frying pan, to get a nice brown on the surface. (they should still be raw in the center and will be cooked through in the crock pot)
  14. Transfer browned meatballs directly into the crock pot
  15. Cook in crock pot on low 4-6 hours
  16. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot
  17. Enjoy!

78 replies
  1. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I have these in crockpot now and the sauce seems greasy. Also my meatballs wanted to fall apart. Not sure what I did wrong

  2. Kelli
    Kelli says:

    Any suggestions for making these egg free? I have dairy, wheat and egg sensitivities…this recipe hits the mark on 2 out of three and sounds delicious!
    Also, I’m planning a baby shower and would love to make these ahead of time (hopefully 2-3 days). Do you think I should cook them through and then just reheat them day of?

    • Trina
      Trina says:

      Hi Kelli…sure just leave the egg out…it’s just used as a binder to hold the meatballs together, but they should keep their shape fairly well without. And yes, they should be fine to reheat and eat!

    • crunchymamavix
      crunchymamavix says:

      Chia seeds are a great egg alternative! 1 tbsp of chia seeds soaked in 3 tbsp of water subs for 1 egg. The mixture will turn gelatinous after a few minutes and just use as you would a normal egg. 🙂

    • Trina
      Trina says:

      Hi Carmen…you can use crushed or pureed tomatoes…or if fresh plum tomatoes are available in the produce section you can use those, but you’ll need to add some canned tomato sauce to go with them. Hope that helps 🙂

  3. Daniela W. (@Erna2428)
    Daniela W. (@Erna2428) says:

    I am so happy I found this recipe!! Your recipe for meatballs is closer to my grandmother’s (who was born and raised in Italy) recipe than any other recipe I’ve seen 🙂 ….and you’re right, San Marzano tomatoes are the best….everyone in my family raves about them!! Thank you for posting…and I can’t wait to make these!!

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Wow, that’s so kind of you to say Daniela! It’s hard trying to keep Italian recipes authentic with the paleo restrictions, but I think you will like this one. For me meatballs and marinara is pure comfort food. I Hope you enjoy. 🙂

  4. APanda
    APanda says:

    Hello! How many golf ball-sized meatballs does 1.5 lbs make? I’d like to have a really big meal for a group! Thanks

  5. Christel K
    Christel K says:

    I tried this with venison. I ended using 2/3 venison and 1/3 turkey. Overall, it was great – the sauce was delicious and I served of spaghetti squash. The meatballs were good but could use a little more moisture for this low fat meat version. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Hi Christel, good questions. Since you’re using super lean meat it’s a little difficult. You might try adding some shredded zucchini or mushrooms to the meatball for moisture. If your looking for fat, maybe some coconut or olive oil? Maybe some of both (zucchini and oil) would be good? I’m not sure because honestly I don’t have a lot of experience with venison. Let me know how it goes.

    • Paula
      Paula says:

      I saw a slow cooker meatball and marinara on Cook’s Country Kitchen-couldn’t get the recipe because they say it so fast and when I looked on the web page you were expected to sign-up for a magazine subscription – BUT, during the TV episode, they used shredded mozzarella cheese instead of bread crumbs – this was to hold the meatballs together and add moisture…give it a try. These were also some very large (about 2-3 inch meatballs).

      • Trina B
        Trina B says:

        Paula, that sounds wonderful! The only reason I do not add cheese to the meatball recipes is because a lot of paleo people can not tolerate dairy. If dairy is part of their diet, I would say go for it! 🙂

  6. donna
    donna says:

    i just found your blog and your recipes are awesome … just pinned a ton of them! My non-Paleo husband is always asking me what kind of an Italian am I because I don’t eat pasta and bread but now with your recipes maybe I can go back to being an Italian again, only healthier!

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Donna, you and I are in the same boat! That’s exactly what my husband kept saying, so I had to go for it. The meatballs and lasagna are two of our favorites. 🙂

  7. Karyn
    Karyn says:

    This recipe looks great. If I hadn’t just finished assembling your chili recipe for tomorrow’s dinner, this might have gone on the docket (the chili looks like it will be delicious, btw). Definitely saving this one for later, though.

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Hi Barb, I would use tomatoes that way if I had them. I haven’t had success in my attempts to grow them and store them for winter. Az is super hot, and my green thumb is lacking. I also take into consideration working people that need recipes that are easy and have all the ingredients available at the grocery store. 🙂

  8. Kat
    Kat says:

    This is my second time making these also. They are truly a delicious recipe…especially for someone who loved italian food and went paleo for better health. They truly do satisify my italian cravings and my husband loves them as well. Thank you Trina for a great idea and we will continue to enjoy..

  9. Patty
    Patty says:

    I LOVE your blog and these recipe looks delicious! I’ve recently went Paleo doe to an anaylphalactic allergy to gluten and a growing sensitivity to other grains, and I love finding normal recipes that I know my family will love! Can’t wait to make these meatballs!

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Hi Patty, I’m glad you found us! I try hard to make the foods you’re used to, but changing them up paleo style. The meatballs are great and you would probably like the crockpot chili and chili lime pork. All easy, and comfort food. I hope all goes well for you. Paleo was a life changer for me, but in the best way!

  10. Heather
    Heather says:

    I can’t believe your husband doesn’t like Meatballs! Even my 5-year old loves meatballs! Who DOESN’T eat those little balls of meat? Lol.

    This looks like a fantastic recipe! I was curious what held them together if you weren’t allowed grains (crackers or bread crumbs). Didn’t think of almond flour! Bookmarking this for reference later!

    • Trina B
      Trina B says:

      Haha Heather! I told my husband the same thing. I put off making this recipe for a long time because every time I brought it up he would make a face! But I got the last word because he loves them now! 🙂

  11. Regina
    Regina says:

    Oh my…these look Scrumptious!!! I’m so going to have to try these. I love using my crock pot and would be so lost without it…reall….I would. ^_^

    If you wouldn’t mind I would like to link this recipe in one of my future blog post. I love sharing new recipes when I find them…especially scrumptious ones made in crock pots.



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