Rao's Meatballs

By • June 11, 2013 89 Comments

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Author Notes: Spaghetti and meatballs doesn't have to be a meal that you slave over and simmer all day, nor does it need to put you into hibernation once you've eaten it. You can mix, shape, and fry these meatballs in exactly the time it takes for Marcella Hazan's tomato, butter, and onion sauce to cook (or even this 20-minute marinara, if you're really fast). The caveats: 1. Make your own fresh breadcrumbs (i.e. grind up some stale bread) or, if your crumbs are purchased and quite fine, cut back by half, and don't use quite as much water. I can't be responsible for your stiff, mealy dumpling-balls if you don't heed this. 2. Use local, pastured, not very lean meats if at all possible. Good flavor and fat go a long way here. Adapted slightly from Rao's Cookbook by Frank Pellegrino (Random House, 1998)Genius Recipes

Makes 28 meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup good quality olive oil, for cooking
  • Your favorite marinara sauce (we like Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, also on Food52)
  1. Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, blend ingredients together. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add water, 1 cup at a time, until the mixture is quite moist. Shape into 2 1/2 to 3-inch balls.
  2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan. When oil is very hot but not smoking, fry meatballs in batches. When the bottom half of the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp, turn and cook top half. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
  3. Lower cooked meatballs into simmering marinara sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Serve alone or with pasta.

More Great Recipes: Ground Beef|Meatballs|Beef & Veal|Pasta|Entrees

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Comments (89) Questions (1)

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about 2 hours ago Sophie Swann

Absolutely brilliant recipe! I made them tonight and they were delicious. This is the first recipe I've tried from the Genius Recipes cookbook; one of many that sound intriguing, and by no means the last one I'll be making.
Personally I think the cheese just makes it and I would never have thought to include it, or to exclude onions. I put some onions in the sauce and it was an outstanding dish. Thanks!

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8 days ago Mindy Stone

this is my initial review...YES, MY REVIEW...."I don't eat veal, but I have the best grass fed/pasture raised beef and pork that I used and the recipe was totally amazing! Will be making this again and again."

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16 days ago El Serracho

you people are mad about weird things

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16 days ago Picholine

Mindy, the child is you, to use such language on a food site ...we are discussing food. I'm not using foul language. You have the bug up your buns about veal....I am not going to jump in any more because you have no clue how to review a recipe. Why would you lower yourself by using that language? Enjoy your cooking and have fun! Don't take life so seriously.
You are most probably well meaning. Sorry for your frustration.

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16 days ago zoumonkie

Obviously the lack of veal in Mindy's diet has taken a toll on her senses

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16 days ago Mindy Stone

clearly people cannot stand someone having a conscience or sharing their opinion. the person with the problem is not me...it is those who attack me. if you can't read the entire thread of nasty remarks then I don't need help...you do. Language has meaning. If you can't appreciate language and understand meaning again...your problem. I didn't lower myself what-so-ever. Dealing with nasty people sometimes requires harsh language.

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16 days ago Mindy Stone

why are there so many douchebags like Picholine and CleveChef on here? Seriously...grow the f#ck up!

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16 days ago Picholine

Yes, I'm going there again...make any version of these meatballs you wish,
Just don't review as Rao's meatballs. Here's why, the recipe is from a very successful NYC restaurant and bastardizing them in any way will not be a true review. That's all!

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16 days ago CleveChef

Oh, geez, if you don't believe in eating veal, then don't use veal in the recipe. I don't eat veal and I don't make stupid comments about on a recipe website.

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16 days ago Mindy Stone

the beauty of opinions is that you don't have to agree with them and those who disagree show the most maturity who don't feel the need to denigrate those with differing opinions. Grow up.

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14 days ago CleveChef

Oh, so I shouldn't express MY opinion?

And I'm a "douchbag?"

I think you're the immature one.

Is anyone from Food52 moderating this thread?

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16 days ago Glendi

I made these and they are great, but I substituted Oatmeal for the breadcrumbs (because of it's cholesterol reducing capabilities, and I have trouble digesting beef) and they were still really good. In fact, in the bowl, the quantities of oatmeal to meat appeared about equal by volume. I just let the oatmeal sit in the liquid for a while before incorporating all the ingredients. Light and fluffy results.

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16 days ago Mindy Stone

Hey Glendi.....watch out....if you are not following the EXACT ingredient list you are going to get hammered by the food nazis on here. I like what you shared...thanks. :)

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23 days ago Paula

Make these balls any way you can and dont be afraid of the water! Just amazing!

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2 months ago zoumonkie

Rao's cookbook has many more delicious veal dishes

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2 months ago Mindy

so sorry to hear that.

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2 months ago Picholine

No hostility. If it was taken that way. I'm sorry. You are right. There is too many mean spirited people in this world for us to make this site and wonderful recipes and products a forum for mean remarks.

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2 months ago Mindy

thanks Picholine.

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2 months ago Mindy

Picholine...I see what you mean.

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23 days ago Paula

Right ON Picholine-TELL IT:) Food and cooking is pure JOY!?

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2 months ago Mindy

Why are people so hostile to my remarks? I said early in the thread that I made this recipe w/ out veal and it was excellent. I don't think people are reading everything I wrote. This recipe works very well without veal. That's all.

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2 months ago Picholine

Oh dear....yes make the recipe any way you want! Just don't critique this recipe if you change it! I get the info about veal, also have seen the situation with calves. That surely could be another discussion. All I'm saying is if I make this recipe and change it in any way, I will NOT comment on it because it WILL NOT be Rao's meatball recipe.

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2 months ago Mindy

I disagree about the idea that anyone who makes this MUST use veal. I source my local, pastured, organic beef, pork and lamb for this recipe and it tastes amazing. I believe that animals are worthy of respect and love as they live a decent life while they are on this planet and then give their life for mine. This is what someone wrote about her husband's experience working at a dairy during college...."Do you enjoy eating veal? What do you really know about it? I don’t eat veal because I’ve seen firsthand how these calves are treated. It’s a deplorable practice, and when you see it in person, it has a much more powerful impact than seeing it on some TV documentary.

My ex-husband worked at a dairy when we were both in college, and I saw the veal calves many times. Most veal calves are males born to dairy cows. The females are raised to produce milk, but the males aren’t needed, other than the tiny fraction kept as bulls for breeding purposes, so they end up as veal.

These calves were taken from their mothers just a few hours after birth. They were then chained by the neck in small, dark crates. They were fed only milk or milk replacer. They were never allowed to run, to play, to feel the comfort of their mother beside them, or to even see the sunlight. In fact, they were barely able to move. Why? Because the producer didn’t want the calf to develop any muscle, so that its meat would be extremely tender."

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2 months ago zoumonkie

Make your own meatballs the way you like them. No one wants your recipe. There are pleaty of places that just use ground beef. Eat Denny's meat balls. Wendy's makes meatball soup, they call it chili.

Rao's meatballs are made with veal as they should be.

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9 days ago joebuckeye

This isn't a review. It's an nazi-styled infomercial against veal. If you don't like it then don't eat it. I grew up farming, and have visited many farms that raised calves for veal. I have never witnessed what you just described. It sounds like you, maybe visited 1 farm. I can't tell if this shaped your opinion or re-enforced an opinion you already had.

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8 days ago Mindy Stone

THIS IS MY FIRST REMARK, A REVIEW, ON RAO'S MEATBALLS....."I don't eat veal, but I have the best grass fed/pasture raised beef and pork that I used and the recipe was totally amazing! Will be making this again and again."
If you don't know what a review is....THAT IS ONE! if people had just ignored my review we wouldn't be discussing it STILL 3 MO. LATER. Keep it up!!!!

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2 months ago Paula

the meatballs ROCK! the water makes them SUPER moist! I personally feel you MUST use the beef, veal + pork for the FLAVOR! i have read repeatedly ground turkey has a ton of fat in it and it's a myth its better for you AND it tastes like cardboard;) ALL the beef veal and ground pork you get these days is SO lean! Live a little! havent u head, a little fat is Good for you!!:) These balls will make you HAPPY.

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2 months ago zoumonkie

Refreshing! You can't reinvent a Raos meatball. Ground turkey contains fat, excessive purines and comes from a nasty dirty bird.

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3 months ago Dawn Greenfield

This Sunday Is Father's day. What a nice surprise It will be for my son who will be making this for his own "papa"!!!!

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3 months ago Picholine

Rao's recipe! I think I will follow exactly. Why do I need to know how anyone adjusts a well known restuaranteer's recipe! Duh!

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3 months ago zoumonkie

Spot on!

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3 months ago suzgab

Salt and pepper "to taste" isn't so helpful considering raw pork and eggs are in the mix. I did add about 1 tsp of salt and it seems pretty good. It's a very simple recipe, but I like that there are limited spices and flavors as my sauce has onions and basil.

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3 months ago MarieH

Similar to mine except than I use milk to moisten and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

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3 months ago zoumonkie

there is only one reason to use this recipe, it's by Raos. Don't mess with it. You can't improve on Raos,