Italian Meatballs in Crockpot with Marinara

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These Italian Meatballs in Crockpot are savory and cheesy, and they cook up perfectly in the slow cooker! The sauce is made with ingredients from your pantry — there is a time and a place for fresh tomatoes and herbs, and this simple crockpot Italian meatballs recipe isn’t it! Toss everything in the crockpot to cook… it doesn’t get much easier than this.

Titled Image: Italian Meatballs in Crockpot with Marinara


Italian Meatballs in Crockpot

I love my slow cooker and am so excited to share my crockpot meatballs and sauce recipe with all of you.

It’s the ultimate set-it-and-forget-it meal that you can prepare before you leave the house in the morning. You’ll have perfectly cooked meatballs in just 4 hours!

Just boil some pasta when you get home and voila! Dinner is ready in 10 minutes. 

I use my slow cooker all the time and have recipes for wings, beans, shredded meat sandwiches, make-ahead chicken, candy, sides, soup, and so much more.

Oh, and if you’re looking for another version of meatballs to make, I also have a recipe for smoked meatballs that are amazing!

ingredients for crockpot meatballs and marinara

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Ground Beef – Opt for lean ground beef so there isn’t too much grease — I used 88%.

    You could also use ground chicken or turkey if you prefer, but you may need to increase the seasoning.
  • Breadcrumbs – I like to use Italian breadcrumbs when making Italian meatballs in crockpot! They add flavor and also help to bind everything together.
  • Diced Tomatoes – Remember that my recipe Italian meatballs in the crockpot is all about pantry ingredients, so be sure to use canned diced tomatoes.

    Fire-roasted with garlic is my favorite!
  • Tomato Sauce and Paste – Adds even more concentrated tomato goodness that will infuse your crockpot meatballs marinara with deep tomato flavor.
  • Spices and Seasonings – Along with sugar, you’ll need Italian seasoning, garlic and onion powder, salt, bay leaves, and black pepper.

    I also like to add red pepper flakes for some heat, but those are optional.
making marinara sauce for italian meatballs

Tips for Making Crockpot Meatballs and Sauce

  • Mix until just combined.

Making homemade meatballs in marinara sauce is an art form, and it all starts with how you mix the ingredients.

Add everything to a bowl, then use your (clean!) hands to combine. You could also use a wooden spoon, but I find that using my hands works best!

Overmixing will create a tough meatball, and that isn’t good for anyone.

  • Advice for perfectly shaped meatballs.

I recommend using an ice cream or cookie scoop to make uniform-sized meatballs. This way you handle them less and they will cook evenly.

Another thing to note when forming your meatballs — if you lightly coat your hands with olive oil or water before rolling the meatballs, they will form better and crack less!

  • Don’t be afraid to double or triple this recipe!

Why not make a few batches of meatballs ahead and freeze them for easy dinners? 

To freeze, allow meatballs to come to room temperature and place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment.

Flash-freeze until firm, about an hour, then transfer the frozen meatballs to a freezer bag. It makes it easier to grab as many meatballs as I need.

making meatballs

Storing and Reheating Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

If you have any leftover crockpot meatballs marinara, allow them to cool completely before placing in an airtight container in the fridge.

When properly stored, they will keep for 3-4 days.

You can reheat them in the microwave in 30-second bursts, or you can use your stovetop.

Add meatballs in marinara to a saucepan and heat over medium until warmed through.

italian meatballs coated in red sauce

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • Slow Cooker – Great for crockpot meatballs and sauce, soups, roasts, shredded chicken, and more!

    I love it in the cooler months, but it’s also great in the summer when you don’t want to heat up the whole house with the oven.
  • Cookies Scoops – Form evenly sized meatballs and cookies, or portion out leftovers. I’ve had this set for years and use them all the time.

Crockpot Italian Meatballs FAQ

Can I use homemade marinara sauce for this recipe?

I’m using all pantry ingredients to make the sauce for Italian meatballs in the crockpot to make it as easy as possible, but you can certainly make it homemade if you’d like! 

Is it ok to put raw meatballs in sauce?

As long as you simmer them together until the meat is cooked through, it’s not a problem!

Doing so actually infuses flavor into each meatball and the sauce itself. Talk about a win-win!!

How should I serve crockpot Italian meatballs?

You can keep things classic and serve them on top of a heaping plate of pasta. Or, add them to a crusty roll to make meatball subs.

Create a hearty appetizer by serving them with toothpicks, or pair with garlic bread and a burrata caprese salad for another complete meal option!

closeup of crockpot of meatballs and marinara

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crockpot of meatballs and marinara next to basil and tomatoes

Crockpot Italian Meatballs and Marinara

Italian Meatballs in Crockpot with Marinara

Donna Elick
My Italian Meatballs in Crockpot are slow-cooked in sauce and oh-so flavorful! Making meatballs in marinara sauce has never been easier!!
5 stars from 1 review
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Method Slow Cooker
Servings 36 1 tablespoon Meatballs



  • 30 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, 2 14.5 ounce cans
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • meatballs, uncooked (recipe to follow)
  • 2 dried bay leaves


  • 1 pound lean ground beef, I used 88%
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup marinara
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten



  • Combine all ingredients in a blender in the order they are listed, except meatballs and bay leaves. Process until your sauce is the consistency you prefer. Cover bottom of crockpot with sauce crockpot. Reserve remaining sauce to pour on top of meatballs.
  • Gently place 1 layer of meatballs in crockpot. Pour sauce over top, until covered. Continue adding meatballs until they are all in the slow cooker. You may have to layer them, just be sure the bottom layer is thoroughly coated in sauce before you add the next layer. Pour remaining sauce over top. Add bay leaves. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours.


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well, do not over mix or you will have tough meatballs.
  • Using a 1 tablespoon scoop, portion out meat and place on a plate. After all meatballs have been scooped onto plate, roll into balls.

Donna’s Notes

If you lightly oil your hands the meatballs will form better and crack less.
You can prepare meatballs the night before and refrigerate to cut down on prep time.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 36cal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 14mg | Sodium: 221mg | Sugar: 1g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Italian Meatballs in Crockpot with Marinara - PIN

Originally published 3/2/15, updated and republished September 2023

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  1. These look delicious! My kids love meatball subs, so I really need to start making something like this.

  2. This is a great recipe. Very tasty, quick and easy to put together. I accidently bought Italian stewed tomatoes instead of the diced tomatoes the first I made and it was delicious so that is what I always use. I usually make a double batch of the marinara and the meatballs. I don't cook my meatballs in the sauce. I make them up and bake off in the oven. Then add to the cooked sauce just to warm. Anyway you make it this recipe is good.

  3. I think 3 total tblspns of Italian seasoning in this recipe is a little heavy. I believe 3 tspns total would be fine. Also, I browned my meatballs before putting them in the crock pot. Other than that a great recipe.

  4. I am in love with your cooking pages. They call mostly for things you already have and not a20 ingredient recipe. I love Crock Pot cooking also. I have three of them. Please keep them coming!

  5. 5 stars
    Meatballs in the crockpot are the absolute best. They are so good on sub rolls sprinkled with mozzarella! The perfect dinner!

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