I know from watching my Italian father-in-law that meatballs always turn out better when a mix of meats are used. So, Trifecta Meatballs were born....
Note: I have a large slow cooker and my recipe below makes a LOT of meatballs (50+). We had a nice amount left over to freeze. You can cut down the ingredient amounts below to produce a smaller batch (although, if you're going to go to all the trouble... why not make the big batch and freeze them?)
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground lamb
(Note: you can get fresh ground veal and lamb at any good butcher counter like what is found at Whole Foods, New Seasons, etc. I found it frozen at Haggen's and used that).
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 3 tbsp dried parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 medium yellow onion, chopped or 1/2 cup dried chopped onion
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup-1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 (12oz) cans tomato paste
2 (24oz) jars spaghetti sauce (a third may be needed/desired)
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
6-8oz of red cooking wine (optional)
Take meat out of refrigerator about 30 min prior to starting to let some of the chill out of it. That will make it easier to mix, not as cold on your hands, and the prepared meatballs will be better prepared to go in to a hot oven.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, combine meat, parsley, garlic, Italian seasoning, onion, egg and cheese. The best way I've found to mix up ground meat like this is to just use my hands. Mix up everything very well, being sure to mix the different meats together. Combine the bread crumbs in to the mixture until it is a consistency that will easy form together.
Coat baking sheets (you'll need 2) with cooking spray. Form meat mixture into meatballs approx 1-1.5" in diameter and place on baking sheets with at least 1/4" spacing between them.
Bake meatballs for 20 minutes. Immediately transfer them to another baking sheet that is lined with a few layers of paper towels to drain them. Pat them firmly on top with another paper towel to soak up additional grease.
In slow cooker, combine tomato paste, 2 jars of the spaghetti sauce, sugar, and about 4oz of the wine. Stir it all together well and then stir in the mushrooms and meatballs.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
As usual, my slow cooker had these completely cooked and ready within 4-5 hours. As they cooked, I stirred them every hour and also tasted the sauce, adding the rest of the wine along the way. I also sprinkled in about a teaspoon of red pepper flake as the sauce was a bit bland for our taste. You could also add some red pepper flake to the meatball mixture and I think next time I make these I will be doing that to give the meatballs a little more zing.
I served the meatballs over large rigatoni noodles with fresh Italian bread and Caesar salad.