Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce (aka Meatball Subs)

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Dad jokes.  They are a staple in my life.

My dad is one of the punniest guys around.  You know the jokes – “I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger.  Then it hit me.” or “Have you ever tried to eat a clock?  It’s very time consuming.”.  (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle)  Any member of the Weslaco youth group during the 80’s or 90’s that travelled in the church van with my dad would most likely remember the pun that follows him pointing to a round bale of hay.

Before my husband calls me out I must admit – I get my humor from my dad. Texting between the two of us generally consists of memes, jokes and snapshots of the best church signs around town. You could say we have a punstoppable bond.

I know.  Groan.

I recently made this dish for my dad when he came into town.  I don’t want to brag… but he did say it was “the best meatball sub he’d had all day” (insert eye roll followed by a little giggle) ♥


Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

This one couldn’t be more simple, y’all.

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef/pork, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.  I prefer the mixture of ground beef and pork when making meatballs, as you can see I chose here.  Save the all-beef for meatloaf 😉

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.  I just eyeball the measuring part here, but I end up with somewhere around 2 dozen meatballs.

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In the bowl of a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  You can use any ‘flavor’ of pasta sauce here, whatever you have on hand.

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Side note: Sadie is ever-so hopeful.  At least she has that “kitchen spot” down!

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Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.  You may have to stack them up a little, just try to wiggle all the meatballs down into the sauce a bit.  You can always give them a stir about halfway through cooking to move them around in the sauce.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve the meatballs up on the sub rolls according to your preference.  I detest soggy bread so my favorite method is to hollow out the sub roll a bit, place a few meatballs on top, cover with provolone cheese and broil it a bit.  I then serve it with a side of extra sauce for dipping.   

However you serve it up, these meatballs are an easy, delicious addition to your dinner rotation!

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Full Recipe

Slow Cooker Meatballs in Red Sauce

aka Meatball Subs

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef, or combo of beef/pork
  • 1 ¼ cups bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 jar (28 oz) tomato and basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • Sub rolls
  • Parmesan, provolone cheese for topping

In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, onion and egg.

Shape the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.

In a slow cooker, mix the pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, and tomato sauce.

Place the meatballs into the sauce mixture.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve on sub rolls, topped with with cheese.

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.27 PM

A few years back, Will and I had the opportunity to attend a cooking demonstration hosted by my chef-BFF, Pati Jinich.  I love her simple, classic style of cooking and have enjoyed cooking many of her recipes. They are full of great techniques and easy to follow.  She may or may not know that she is my BFF… but that’s beside the point.

Chef Pati demonstrated an entire menu from her cookbook, Mexican Today, and we got a signed copy of the book at the end.  Will and I have been through this cookbook several times, finding our favorites throughout. The To Die For Ceviche is, well, to die for. The Mango Pecan Tart will be in my kitchen soon. One of the true highlights though is the section devoted to sauces. We love to make enchiladas and we have played with a few of them.  We ultimately landed on this version of a traditional red sauce – you can stuff the enchilada with any filling and they are always delicious. While it may look complicated, it can all come together pretty quickly once you have the basic technique of creating a puree from dried peppers down.  As a bonus, any extra sauce freezes nicely for another use.  It’s been fun adapting such a tasty recipe to our kitchen!

I’d like to think my BFF would be proud.


Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles.  You’re looking for the outer skin to crisp and blacken. 

Place the toasted peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat. Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they plump back up a bit.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.18.22 PM

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Side note: that soaking liquid also makes a great broth for a side dish of rice!

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.  Be ready!  That sauce will jump and quickly splatter everywhere!

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.22.32 PM

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more. Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

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In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, “pass” the tortillas through the oil to soften them. You basically want to drag both sides of the tortillas through the hot oil until you see the tortillas start to bubble up just a bit. It should only take a few seconds. Don’t skip this step – if you try to roll the corn tortillas without softening them they will crack and tear as you stuff and roll them.

“Pass” the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.  Tonight, we went with a beef filling – ground beef browned up with onions, peppers and pinto beans.  This red sauce would also be fantastic with shredded chicken or a straight cheese filling!

Line the rolled enchiladas in the prepared baking dish. Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 3.27.17 PM

What filling will be in your version of Enchiladas with Red Sauce?


Full Recipe

Enchiladas with Red Sauce

  • 15 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a hot skillet set over medium-low heat, toast the chiles until the skins are crisp and blackened.

Place the peppers in a medium saucepan, cover with hot water and set over medium-high heat.

Let them simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until they rehydrate, soften and plump up.

In the jar of a blender, place chiles along with 1 1/2 cups of their soaking liquid, the onion, garlic, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Puree until completely smooth.

Taste again for seasoning.

In a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

Once hot, but not smoking, add the chile sauce and quickly cover with a lid ajar, as the sauce will be jumping.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, add the broth and cook a couple minutes more.

Turn off the heat and keep covered.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with a thin layer of red sauce.

In a skillet set over medium-heat heat, add a couple tablespoons oil.

When the oil is hot, pass the tortillas through the oil to soften them.

Pass the warmed tortillas through the red sauce to coat them.

Line the center of the tortillas with your choice filling and roll into enchiladas.

Top with more sauce, any leftover filling, and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.