Your slow cooker is the perfect vessel for long-simmered pasta sauce, bolstered here by big, hearty Italian sausage meatballs that are bound by an egg and old-fashioned oats. The sauce gains depth from dry red wine and balsamic vinegar, not to mention the meat itself. The acids are essential to the sauce; without them the result is bland and one-note.
And while you can use the more traditional ground beef, pork, and veal mixture for meatballs, Italian sausage really does deliver a strong, interesting flavor profile to this dish.
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded, plus additional for garnishing
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup Chianti or other dry red wine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 pound fusilli or other short, ridged or tubular pasta
Place Italian sausage, ground beef, egg, oats, parsley and Parmesan in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and combine with hands, taking care not to over-mix. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs and place in the slow cooker.
Add hand-crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, garlic, onion, and vinegar. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir gently to combine, being careful not to break up or crush meatballs, cover and set slow cooker on low for 6 hours. Halfway through cooking, flip meatballs and bathe them in sauce.
When sauce is ready, taste and adjust seasonings. Cook pasta according to package directions. Individually top pasta with meatballs and sauce and garnish with Parmesan, or serve family-style.