A hearty, easy to prepare slow cooker dish that combines Italian sausage meatballs with Mediterranean flavors of eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic and basil.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound mild Italian sausage (pork or turkey), casings removed
8 ounces sliced baby portabella (cremini) mushrooms
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic or 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (see Note)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Cooked orzo or rice
- In a slow cooker, pour 1 tablespoon oil into the bottom. Shape sausage into 1-inch balls and place on wax paper (makes around 30 meatballs).
- Place half of the meatballs into the pot. Add half the mushrooms, eggplant and zucchini. Add all of the onion and garlic (or shallot), 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Layer the remaining ingredients on top, in the same order: meatballs, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.
- Uncover and stir in tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes.
- Stir in basil and lemon juice. Serve with cooked orzo or rice.
Gluten free: Serve with rice or gluten free orzo.
Variation when using an Instant Pot: Cook on medium (or normal) slow cook setting instead of low, and use an Instant Pot tempered glass lid, or a regular saucepan lid instead of the tight fitting lid used for pressure cooking. No need to add more liquid (often required for Instant Pot slow cooking), as the ingredients in this dish naturally produce plenty!
Note on tomatoes: When tomatoes aren’t in season, substitute 1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained.