Legacy of Passion

Slow Cooker Meatballs with Broccoli Rabe


The simplest combinations can be the tastiest. Bold broccoli rabe, salty cheese, and savory lean beef combine to form a meatball that bursts with flavor. Even better, because it’s a slow-cooker recipe, you don’t have to spend your whole evening cooking. They go well with the classics, pasta and bread, but we like to serve them over a bed of broccoli rabe for meal that’s as good for you as it is delicious.

Recipe by Gina Homolka

Gina is the author of Skinnytaste, a healthy-eating food blog that receives over 3 million unique visitors monthly.  Gina is the author of The Skinnytaste Cookbook, as well as Skinnytaste Fast And Slow, a new cookbook devoted to the easiest, tastiest, most convenient, healthy slow cooker and quick dish recipes. She has been featured on a number of outlets including Dr. Oz, The Food Network, and The Huffington Post.

Serves: 5
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 4.5 hrs
Total: 5 hrs



  • 3/4 cup broccoli rabe, washed, stems trimmed off
  • 1 cup unpacked fresh whole wheat bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2” cubes (about 1 3/4 oz)
  • 3 Tbsp fat free milk
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh black pepper


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves smashed garlic
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil (Tuttorosso)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper


Meatball Ingredients

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, then add the broccoli rabe. Blanch for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, drain well and set aside in a colander to cool. Finely chop a 3/4 cup of the florets and leaves.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the bread with milk, tossing to coat. Let stand, tossing occasionally, until bread is completely moist, about 10 minutes. Squeeze bread between your fingers or mash with a spoon to make sure there are no dry spots; if there are dry spots that refuse to moisten, add more milk 1 Tbsp at a time until bread is moist throughout.

Meatballs Process

3. Add the ground beef, chopped broccoli rabe, grated cheese, egg, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Mix with clean hands, then gently form into 15 meatballs, about 1/4 cup each and transfer to a large baking sheet. Broil on the 2nd rack from the top until the top is golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. In a small skillet heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until golden on both sides.

Meatballs in Crockpot

5. Pour the crushed tomatoes into a large slow cooker. Add salt and pepper, bay leaf, and the garlic. Gently place the meatballs into the sauce, cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or on high for 2 to 3 hours. If you wish to make this on the stove, simmer in a large pot covered about 30 minutes.

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