Meatballs are one of those midweek meals that always feel like a real treat when you make them! These slow cooker pork and apple meatballs are no exception. Super tasty and incredibly moreish – I challenge you not to go back for a second portion!
Our slow cooker pork meatball recipe adds an extra top secret ingredient to a usual meatball recipe. We think it adds buckets to the flavour, so much so that our toddler declared “I love those meatballs!” and ate quite possibly more than we’ve ever seen him eat in one go.
Pretty good praise from a three year old, right?
Why Pork and Apple Meatballs?
For as long as I can remember, my Mum would cook a joint of pork on a Sunday, and we’d eat it with vegetables and a tonne of apple sauce. Absolutely no complaints from me whatsoever, but I can’t say I’ve ever questioned why we had apple with pork!
In researching this post, I learnt that there may actually be a historic reason dating back to the 1700s why apple and pork are served together. Sadly they weren’t making crockpot pork meatballs, but it’s a great story nonetheless!
In Autumn, farmers would cull surplus stock that they didn’t want to keep over winter, and they’d have their last fresh meat feast before winter drew in. As we know, apples are most ripe and plentiful in Autumn, and therefore it made sense to use them to create an apple sauce to serve with the pork. The Old Foodie has more about it on her site, including menus from a 1760s pocket book, if you’re interested.
Clearly there are gastronomic reasons too, as they taste great together!
What to serve with Slow Cooker Pork and Apple Meatballs
Once your pork and apple meatballs are nearly cooked, then you need to think about what to serve with them. We like a chunkier pasta, like pappardelle.
This is what we used in the photos, and it’s available from most popular supermarkets. For garnish, you can use chopped flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil.
How To Make The Best Slow Cooker Meatballs
- Meat – don’t use “lean” variants of mince (or ground) meat. The fat in the meat will help prevent the meatballs from drying out.
- Maillard Reaction – Make sure you kickstart the “Maillard Reaction” by searing the meatballs quickly over a high heat. The high heat will cause some tasty browning which will add buckets to the flavour, and they’ll look better too!
- Size – Your meatballs need to be the right size. Too small and they’ll dry out in the slow cooker, too large and they may not cook sufficiently. We like them to be 4cm, or 1.5 inches.
- Don’t over-egg – the eggs are not in the mixture as a source of moisture, they’re there to bind the meatballs together. Add too much egg and the meatballs will be overly dense in texture.
- Breadcrumbs – the breadcrumbs help to bind the meatballs together, as well absorbing moisture whilst cooking.
- Flour – the flour coating on the outside adds to the crispiness of the meatballs, and makes them easier to work with once formed.
Storing Leftover Meatballs
This slow cooker pork and apple meatball recipe makes approximately 24 meatballs, which is a lot! As a reference, Dave ate four plus pasta when I cooked this recipe.
Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for three days in an airtight container, or it can be kept in the freezer for up to three months. When reheating, ensure that the sauce and meatballs are piping hot all the way through.
Slow Cooker Pork and Apple Meatballs
- 500 g (1.1 lb) pork mince
- 1 red apple
- 1 medium onion
- 1 slice bread – toasted
- 1 egg – beaten
- 2 garlic cloves – crushed
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp oil
- 4 tbsp flour
- 1 onion – diced
- 1 red pepper – diced
- 2 cloves of garlic – crushed
- 350 g (2.5 cups) tomato passata
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 400 g (14 oz) chopped tomatoes – canned
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 100 ml (0.5 cups) water – hot
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- Fresh basil – chopped
- Pappardelle pasta
- Toast the slice of bread then grate or pulse into breadcrumbs.
- Peel and grate the apple and onion, crush the garlic cloves and place into a mixing bowl along with the breadcrumbs, sage, salt and pepper.
- Add the pork mince to the mixing bowl, pour over half of the beaten egg and combine all of the ingredients well.
- Shape the pork mince mixture into balls of 4cm (1.5 inch) diameter. This recipe will make approximately 24 meatballs.
- Put the flour in a separate bowl and then roll each meatball in the flour to evenly coat each one.
- Heat a little oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the meatballs to the pan and ensure that they're browned and sealed (approx 1-2 minutes).
- Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the slow cooker. Sprinkle over the flour to coat the vegetables evenly.
- Pour in the tomato passata and chopped tomatoes, then add the tomato paste, basil, salt, pepper and sugar.
- Dissolve the chicken stock cube in 100ml of hot water and pour into the slow cooker with the other ingredients. Stir all the ingredients through well.
- Gently add the meatballs into the pot and ensure they are submerged in the sauce. Set the cooker to high for 4 hours, or low for 7.
- Serve with pappardelle pasta and chopped basil on top.