Up until recently, I’ve been intimidated by my slow cooker. For an appliance that is designed to make life easier, it always seemed so complicated! But I’ve used it twice in the past week and am coming to see that it’s crazy handy for making use of time when I have it—and getting dinner onto the table when we need it. Plus, I’m becoming more confident in using it with some of our weekly recipe staples, such as tacos and soups, because of these two principles: the cooker needs to be at least 3/4 of the way full and you need to have some liquid. (You of course should follow basic food safety rules too! Here are more slow cooker tips.) This recipe was born from the assortment of vegetables in the crisper, so it’s definitely adaptable, but the little meatballs make it very memorable.
Slow Cooker Vegetable and Mini Meatball Soup
The pesto adds a lot of flavor to this soup, but you can still make it without that component. If you skip it, stir in some minced parsley or shredded basil before serving. You could also use 1 cup diced carrots and celery in place of the leeks or try regular potatoes or butternut squash in place of the sweet potatoes.
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup bread crumbs with Italian seasoning
1 large onion, diced
4 medium leeks, cleaned and chopped
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small pepper, seeded and chopped
5-7 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
5-6 cups water
1 cup pastina or Isreali couscous
1/4 cup pesto
1. Combine the beef, cheese, bread crumbs, and egg in a large bowl with your hands. Form into 1-inch meatballs. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a skillet and brown all sides of the meatballs. (You will likely need to do these in at least 2 batches). Once browned, set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
2. Place all vegetables into a slow cooker, add salt and pepper, and stir. Pour in the water, place the meatballs on top, and cook on high heat for 5-6 hours (or low for 7-8).
3. Just before you are ready to serve, stir in the pastina (it’s so tiny that it cooks almost instantly), then the pesto. Serve with Parmesan cheese.