My Recipe Box

Slow-Cooked Pork and Sausage Meatballs with Porcini Sauce

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Serves 6

  • To learn more, read:
    Slow Cooker Secrets
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 133

Meatballs from the slow cooker are truly special—the sauce permeates the meat for tender, super-savory results that are delicious even without spaghetti. Because of the way the slow cooker works, the meatballs may be slightly pink inside even when cooked through; if in doubt, an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should register 160°F.

For the meatballs
  • 1-1/2 cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup red (sweet) vermouth
  • 1-1/4 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 Tbs. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
For the sauce
  • 1 14-1/2-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
Make the meatballs

Mix the breadcrumbs and vermouth in a large bowl and set aside for 20 minutes.

Add the pork and sausage to the crumbs, breaking the meat up with your fingers as you go. Add the egg, cheese, sage, oregano, salt, and nutmeg and mix until combined. Form into 12 meatballs.

Make the sauce

Mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried porcini, oregano, thyme, fennel, pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker until the tomato paste dissolves.

Nestle the meatballs into the sauce. Cover and cook until cooked through, 3 to 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. (The meatballs can stay on the keep-warm setting for up to 2 hours.) Season to taste with salt and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 420, Fat (kcal): 23, Fat Calories (g): 210, Saturated Fat (g): 9, Protein (g): 32, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10, Carbohydrates (mg): 17, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 3, Sodium (g): 1030, Cholesterol (g): 115, Fiber (g): 3,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Outstanding. A real family and crowd pleaser. The sweet vermouth is an excellent addition. We prefer portobellos to the woodsy porchini mushrooms. Very good, too, with lean beef sub for ground pork. A "go-to" recipe at our house!

The rating is for the recipe as written. It's a decent foundation and not hard to tweak to your personal tastes, but it definitely needed some tweaking. After reading previous reviews, I decided to double the sauce. (Actually, I doubled the meatballs and quadrupled the sauce to feed a crowd.) We still would have liked more, so I cannot imagine how dry the recipe as written must be. I was also not a fan of the vermouth-soaked breadcrumbs, which I thought left a distinct taste in the finished meatballs. I ran out of time for slow cooking, so I made these in the oven: I preheated an enameled dutch oven in a 450 degree oven, sprayed it with canola oil, dropped about a third of the meatballs into the hot pan, and baked them for about 11 minutes. Repeated that with two more batches, then drained off the fat, layered the browned meatballs with the sauce, put the lid on, and stuck it all back into the oven for another 18 minutes. Aside from the breadcrumb issues, my fiance, our friends, and I all agreed the flavors were very good, not bland at all. I would make it again in the way I described, but with four times the amount of sauce, breadcrumbs soaked in low sodium chicken broth, and some roasted garlic added to the meatballs to add back some of the lost sweetness from the vermouth.

I would give this meatballs a 3-1/2 stars! First of all, no red vermouth, so used white. I prepared the meatballs a day ahead of time, so ended up baking them to release some of the fat. I used my own tomatoes for the sauce. I warmed up the sauce first, then added the meatballs. The sauce at the end of cooking was almost burning to the side to the crock and there was only enough sauce to cover the meatballs ...very little to go over the rice I served. There would be no way that this could go over pasta ...not enough sauce! As for the meatballs, I used an ice cream scoop and measured out 32 meatballs, so enough for 2 meals. Next time, I would use 28 oz tomatoes, bump up the seasoning a bit and cook the meatballs on low for 3 hours.

I used lean pork ,Panko breadcrumbs ,my own roma tomatoes from last year & honey garlic Italian sausages . I doubled the sauce but not the spices , will be doing this again ,sausages were mild tasting not over powering with spice. .Other's who have complaints may be using wrong tomato product .

So all ya 1-2 stars, calm down. Anyone should quickly realize, especially if you're a saucy gal like me, that 14 oz + ain't gonna cut it. So let's focus on what's really important: the flavor. For a dish that takes 45 minute tops on a busy Saturday filled with 2 bday parties and a playdate, it's AWE-SOME (sang in a really high voice). Upon reading the recipe, I knew immediately I would 1 and 1/2 the meatballs and quickly realized that even a double of the sauce wouldn't be enough. Easily (have you seen how easy it is to make the sauce?) double downed on the sauce. Took me a whole 5 minutes after all the day's activities. The results were 8 happily filled bellies! The only thing we did not double was the porcinis. Upon walking in the house after it cooking all day, my 9 year old said, "WHAT is that stench?" Sadly it was the porcinis. So I didn't add any to the 2nd batch of sauce. Warm, cozy, rich but not overly so, spicy but savory...it was lovely.

I absolutely love this recipe! It is a crowd pleaser and a no stress option when having company for dinner. I found that I wanted more sauce after my first attempt so, I doubled the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and mushrooms. For a side, I like to serve it with a spinach and kale mix sautéed in garlic and olive oil and finished with a pat of butter. The meatballs are great leftover. I reheat them in a skillet with a little water on medium low and cover to gently steam them to temp. It keeps them really moist.

We loved the recipe as is. Plenty of sauce for us. I turned the meatballs over halfway through the cooking. Porcini mushrooms gave the sauce a wonderful earthy taste. Recipe needed the spicy Italian sausage for balance with the mushrooms.

Did anyone test this before it was posted? I had to double the sauce and still there was barely enough liquid. The vermouth was a good idea but that much breadcrumbs?? Meatballs lacked flavour....too much filling. My wife's Sicilian grandmother would be turning over in her grave!!

I also doubled the sauce because there was not enough to cover the meatballs. The sauce is quite tasty but even though i turned my croc pot off 1.5 hours early the meatballs seem a bit dry and plain. And there still could be more sauce.

What gigantic meatballs! I doubled the sauce, but I thought it still could have used a little more. I also skimmed off more than a cup of porkfat before eating. The recipe was delicious, but it smelled like a pizza parlor (oregano + sausage), which was weird on noodles.

I was worried that a half-cup of vermouth would make the meatballs too sweet, or my daughter would think they tasted weird, so I drank some of the vermouth. Then I felt better, so I put the rest (about 3/8c) into the mixture. My whole family loved these-- more than my usual recipe, so I guess "weird" was not a problem. Based on the comments, I doubled the sauce and used ground pork with bit of fennel, garlic, and salt instead of the sausage. Great recipe, after some tweaking.

Disappointed with recipe. I agree sausage was over powering, and total fat content was too high for my liking. Sauce could have been doubled. Meatballs around perimeter were burnt. Reminded my why I only use my slow-cooker for soup.

These meatballs were amazingly good. I used organic ground pork and organic Italian sausages, and the flavour was right on the money. I did make a little extra sauce. One must remember that the pasta should not be swimming in the sauce. With a sauce this flavourful a little goes a long way. I can't wait to try the other slow cooker recipes in this issue.

Meatballs were VERY disappointing. The ratio of Italian sausage to ground pork was overwhelming and was the predominant flavor. I realize everyone's palate is different; however, using good imported parmesan cheese and soaking the breadcrumbs in vermouth is for naught if all you can taste is Italian sausage. Sauce was good although not enough if you follow the recipe; but, again overwhelmed by the Italian sausage flavor of the meatballs. Bottom line: 9 of the 12 meatballs went into the garbage disposal. This is a been there, done that, never again for me.

Really good, and easy. I quadrupled the amount of sauce, and it was a perfect amount. The meatballs are HUGE if you are only making 12, but they are delicious.

Very disappointed with this recipe. Meatballs should have been browned before slow cooked, and not enough sauce for six servings. Also, sauce was too thin, despite the addition of tomato paste.

Great recipe we loved it.

These meatballs are delicious; however, I doubled the sauce and it still was not enough for my family. Also, the cooking time is really too long, on low, my crock pot had burn around the edges at about 5 hours, and the meatballs were well done.

I think the flavor was fantastic, and the texture of the meatballs was very moist and tender. I used Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes. I would use a larger can of tomatoes next time. I also would like to experiment with turkey sausage and perhaps ground turkey to make it a little bit more healthy.

I doubled the sauce too and could have used more to cover a pound of pasta. I'm guessing my oregano is unusually strong, the medicinal aroma and flavor overrode every other aspect of the sauce. The meatballs have a lovely texture but are underseasoned to my palate and again the oregano is over-assertive in my version. Clearly I should have done a lot more tasting, and I'll pull way back on the oregano as long as I'm using this jar. But usually Fine Cooking gives me excellent guidance on seasoning and serving sizes, so I'm marking this one down.

This was excellent! My husband really liked it. The recipe made 12 large meatballs that were very flavorful and moist. I used extra lean ground pork and Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, so the dish wasn't greasy at all. I used a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, so I had enough sauce. If you use a 14.5 oz can, you won't have enough sauce.

I was really disappointed with this recipe. There was not enough sauce to even coat the spaghetti lightly. Really the sauce left coated the meatballs only. There was so much grease in the cooker at the end of cooking I felt lucky to even get enough sauce to coat the meatballs. The recipe made 16 not 12 very generous sized meatballs (at least 2-2.5in diameter meatballs). The flavor was one note, and soaking the breadcrumbs in vermouth made the inside of the meatball soggy. The recipe looked delicious from the photos, but the end result left me extremely dissatisfied. It was edible but nothing I would ever make again.

The meatballs are WONDERFUL! I did double the sauce and even then there was not as much as we would have liked. But the dish is outstanding. Absolutely delicious.

Delish!!!

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