When eating at Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo's Frankies Spuntino, not ordering the meatballs is really a crime. They are by far the best meatballs I've ever had in a restaurant, and possibly my life.
Perfectly textured, not at all dense but not falling-apart crumbly, with just the right amount of egg, bread crumbs, garlic, and cheese throughout. But what really makes these meatballs special is the addition of raisins and pine nuts. They come three to an order with plenty of tomato sauce for sopping and a generous grating of Percorino. It was one of the recipes that I was just dying to try when I got my copy of The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual.
Watch the Franks Make-a the Meatballs
After watching this, I set about making mine at home. It's a dead simple process, basically mixing all of the ingredients together, making sure to add the dried bread crumbs at the end which keeps the texture just right. The meatballs are shaped and baked until cooked through in the oven and finished with a half-hour simmer in the tomato sauce.
This was one of those happy scenarios where the recipe was just as good if not even better than the restaurant version. At first I was thinking that 18 to 20 meatballs was going to make for a lot of leftovers but we've been eating them at an alarming rate. Next time I think I might make a double batch since they really are just that good.
- 4 slices bread (2 packed cups' worth)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 15 turns white pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the fresh bread in a bowl, cover it with water, an let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off the water and wring out the bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces.
Combine the bread with all of the remaining ingredients except the tomato sauce in a medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order that they are listed. Add the dried bread crumbs last to adjust for wetness; the mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.
Shape the meat mixture into handball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they're cooked through. (At this point, you can cool the meatballs and hold them in the refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for the future.
Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce in a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.
Dump the meatballs into the pan of sauce and nudge the heat up ever so slightly. Simmer the meatballs for half and hour or so (this isn't one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some of the sauce. Keep them there until it's time to eat.
Serve the meatballs 3 to a person in a healthy helping of red sauce, and hit everybody's portion—never the pan—with a fluffy mountain of grated cheese. Reserve the leftover tomato sauce (it will be extra-super-delicious) and use it anywhere tomato sauce is called for in this book.