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MMM: Italian Slow Cooker Meatballs
Today’s recipe is courtesy of Stephanie Gaudreau at Stupid Easy Paleo. She’s disguised the superfood power of liver in flavorful Italian meatballs in a slow cooker recipe, which means you can score the winning basket without even being in the kitchen… or something like that.
This recipe is part of March Meatball Madness; get all the recipes right here.
Italian Slow Cooker Meatballs
Serves 4-8 | Whole30 approved
I had two pounds of grass-fed calf’s liver sitting in my freezer for months, and I was unsure of what to do with it. Liver is known as one of the most potent superfoods and is ridiculously high in micronutrients. I’d tried sheep’s liver fried in butter and onions and, while it wasn’t utterly terrible, I didn’t find it great, either. The idea of hiding the liver in something else (meatballs!) came to me, and I pulled the calf’s liver out of the deep freeze and grated it into the meatball mixture. You could very easily make these meatballs with any type of ground meat you’d like (bison, turkey, elk, pork, etc.) and certainly leave out the liver, if you prefer. This makes two pounds of meatballs, but you might want to make three or four at a time because they will freeze well and make great leftovers throughout the week. — Steph
2 pounds (1 kilogram) grass-fed ground beef
1/3 cup calf’s liver, frozen and grated, optional
1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup olives (any kind), chopped
1 large egg
4 tablespoons Italian herb blend
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 jar (24 oz) organic pasta sauce (I like Muir Glen.)
1 can diced tomatoes
In a large bowl, place the ground beef, liver, diced bell pepper, green onion, garlic, olives, egg, Italian seasoning, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix until combined. Shape into balls, about 2 inches in diameter.
Heat a large skillet to medium and add the coconut oil. When it’s melted, add the meatballs and brown on all sides. As they brown, add them to the slow cooker. You will probably need to do this in two batches.
When all the meatballs are in the slow cooker, sprinkle the sliced red bell pepper on top of them. Pour the pasta sauce and diced tomatoes on top.
Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Serve with spaghetti squash, over sautéed kale, or just as they are.
Connect with Stephanie Gaudreau
Steph combines 12 years of science teaching experience, a certificate in holistic nutrition, and an unabashed love of tasty Paleo food on her blog Stupid Easy Paleo. Steph went Paleo in 2010, and it didn’t take long for her to decide that she was never turning back. Eating clean, nutrient-dense foods has fueled her both in life and as a competitive athlete. Steph’s mission is to spread the word about how to make simple, tasty recipes to help people in their quests to just eat real food. She authored The Paleo Athlete: A Beginner’s Guide to Real Food for Performance in 2014.
Stupid Easy Paleo
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Hi, Can you explain how to use the liver (in this recipe or any other meatballs).
Do you actually grate frozen liver by hand? That sounds terribly tedious and messy.
I’m not sure how Steph does it, but when I want to mince liver to put it in something else, I just plop it in the food processor and purée until smooth, then I mix it into the other meat.
I put the liver, green onions, garlic, olives and egg (didn’t have a bell pepper on hand – bagged it) in the food processor and let it puree everything into a slurry.
I made these with half beef/half pork. Next time I’ll chill the meat before forming the meatballs – they’ll hold up better when browning.
These were very flavorful and juicy. This recipe’s a keeper!