Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Pumpkin Marinara

I adapted this recipe from one found in Cook's Country magazine in 2009. As with all of their recipes, it's well thought out and an easy way to add pumpkin to a family favorite. The pumpkin cannot be tasted in the sauce. The clever way of giving the meatballs a slight crust so as not to turn to mush in the slow cooker is genius.

Slow-Cooker Meatballs and Pumpkin Marinara

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped fine
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
8 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 large eggs
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, tomato paste, 6 of the garlic cloves, oregano, pepper flakes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until golden, about 8 minutes.

Transfer half of the onion mixture to a food processor; set aside. Add wine to pot with remaining onion mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and pumpkin, then transfer half the sauce to a slow cooker. 

Add 1/2 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, sausage, eggs, 3/4 teaspoon salt, remaining garlic, beef and cream to food processor and run until well combined. Form mixture into twelve 2-inch meatballs.

Microwave meatballs on large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm, 4 to 7 minutes. Nestle meatballs in slow cooker, discarding rendered fat. Cover with remaining sauce. Cover and cook on low until meatballs are tender and sauce is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 hours. Skim fat. Stir in basil and remaining Parmesan. Season with salt and serve over pasta.

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