What family doesn't love a hearty plate of spaghetti and meatballs? This classic recipe gets a heart-healthy makeover with lean meatballs and whole wheat pasta, and is cooked in the slow cooker for ease. Your family will never know the difference, but your jeans will!

Every family seems to have their favorite version of spaghetti and meatballs, but sometimes even the best family recipes need a makeover to make them heart-healthy. Extra-lean ground beef is used to lighten up the meatballs and, with all of the herbs and spices in the meatballs and sauce, the extra fat won't be missed one bit.

The meatballs are partially baked in the oven before taking a turn in the slow cooker. This will help to avoid the tomato sauce becoming greasy while cooking with the meatballs.

For an extra make-ahead step, cook the meatballs in the oven as directed the night before, covering and refrigerating them until ready to transfer to the slow cooker. The tomato sauce can also be assembled the night before. Combine the meatballs and sauce in the slow cooker 5 to 6 hours before serving.

allParenting Slow Cooker healthy spaghetti and meatballs prep collage

Slow cooker healthy spaghetti and meatballs

Serves 6


The meatballs:

  • 1-1/2 pounds very lean (93 percent) ground beef
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

The sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 16 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • Parmesan cheese and minced parsley, for serving


The meatballs:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the ground beef, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, eggs, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper until combined.
  3. Using a rounded 2-tablespoon portion of the meat mixture, form meatballs by rolling between the palms of your hands. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  4. Bake until the meatballs are almost firm to the touch and still pink inside, 12 to 15 minutes. Using tongs, immediately transfer the meatballs to a large slow cooker, scraping any accumulated fat off the bottom of the meatballs.

The sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cooking, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the onion and oregano, and cook until the onions are starting to soften, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper to the onions and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the basil. Pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slow cooker.
  5. Set the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 5 hours. Serve the sauce and meatballs over the spaghetti. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley, if desired.

allParenting slow cooker spaghetti and meatballs

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