These are a perfect dinner solution if you’re in the mood for using your slow cooker (crock pot), and particularly when it seems like Old Man Winter is refusing to let go and you want a hearty, comfort food experience without much guilt. Actually, at any time of the year it’s a fun recipe, with some prep time involved and a cooking time of three to four hours. You’ll need a food processor and of course, a slow cooker. I stumbled across this recipe recently in one of those recipe booklets you find in the grocery aisle called Skinny Slow Cooker Recipes.
This is a meal I’ll enjoy making throughout the year when I’m in the mood for meatballs. The recipe makes 24 meatballs, with a serving size of four meatballs that accounts for a total of 230 calories and 21 grams of protein. While you might be tempted to serve these meatballs with rice or mashed potatoes, I strongly recommend a healthier and just as pleasing alternative: garlic cauliflower mash, which you can find the recipe for on this site!
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds (I used blanched slivered almonds as I was unable to find whole almonds, so go with what you can find.)
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup roasted red pepper (I found these in the frozen vegetable section at my grocery store.)
4 tsp. minced garlic, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. crushed saffron threads, optional (If you have these already in your pantry and want to use them, go ahead; As saffron is insanely expensive, I would recommend skipping this ingredient. I used it once in preparing this recipe and then a second time without it and noticed no difference. I am not using it in this demonstration.)
1 cup bread crumbs, divided
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 lb. extra lean ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbs. minced fresh Italian parsley
Nonstick cooking spray (like Pam)
We’re starting with the sauce. Place the 1/2 cup of blanched almonds in your food processor and pulse until finely ground.
Add the chicken broth, red pepper, 2 tsp. of garlic and 1/4 tsp. of salt into the processor (and saffron if you so desire), and process until smooth.
Stir in one quarter cup of the bread crumbs into the processed mixture (first take out the blade). Transfer finished sauce into the slow cooker.
Now that the sauce is done, we turn our attention to making the pork meatballs.
Place the remaining 3/4 of a cup of bread crumbs in a large bowl. Pour the 1/4 cup of white wine over the bread crumbs.
Add the pork, onion, parsley, remaining two tsp. of garlic and 1/2 tsp. of salt to bread crumbs and wine in the bowl. Stir to blend (Use your hands; nothing better to mix together all these ingredients, but make sure you don’t end up with bread crumbs sitting at the bottom of your bowl).
And here is the meatball mixture after all of the ingredients have been well blended together.
Form the meatball mixture into 24 meatballs. These will not be large meatballs, but smallish to medium (The first time I tried this recipe, I made the first meatballs a bit too big and ended up with only 20 meatballs If you start off thinking small or medium, you can always adjust the sizes of individual meatballs if you end up with 24 balls and mixture to spare). Once you get started, you’ll get in the groove and they’ll be done in no time.
Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, bring the heat up on your stove burner to medium-high. Add the meatballs to the pan in batches and cook, routinely flipping meatballs until they get a good brown coating (The recipe recommends 5-7 minutes for each batch, but the batches after the first one tend to cook faster once the oils from the first batch mix with the cooking spray, so pay more attention to the coloring then how much time has passed. I did batches of eight meatballs). We are not cooking the meatballs through in this process, that’s what the slow cooker is for; this is to give the meatballs a good sear and color and help firm them before they go into the crock pot.
Start adding the meatballs into the slow cooker as you finish each batch. Once you have all the meatballs in the slow cooker, gently (to avoid breaking up the balls), use a utensil to coat the meatballs with the sauce. Set the slow cooker on high and cook for three to four hours (I would recommend closer to three or three and a half hours, but check the meatballs after three hours if you can and assess whether you think they look ready and not all the sauce has dried up).
You’re ready for plating! As I said at the top of the post, these go great with garlic cauliflower mash (Check the archives for the recipe). Enjoy!
Serving size: four meatballs
Per serving: Cal: 230; Total Fat: 11 g. (Sat Fat: 2 g.); Chol: 80 mg.; Sodium: 720 mg.; Carb: 11 g.; Pro: 21 g.