Rao's Meatballs

By • June 11, 2013 72 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.
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Comments (72) Questions (1)

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11 days ago zoumonkie

Rao's cookbook has many more delicious veal dishes

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11 days ago Mindy

so sorry to hear that.

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11 days 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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11 days ago Mindy

thanks Picholine.

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11 days ago Mindy

Picholine...I see what you mean.

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12 days 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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12 days 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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12 days 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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12 days 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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12 days 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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12 days 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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20 days 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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20 days 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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20 days ago zoumonkie

Spot on!

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about 1 month 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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about 1 month ago MarieH

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

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about 1 month 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,

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about 1 month ago Mindy

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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about 1 month ago Remo Packer

Try using sausage instead of the veal and see what you think or just use beef and sausage. I agree this is too much water overall. You could use half the amount and they will turn out perfectly and they will soak up a better flavor from the sauce when immersed. Mangia!

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2 months ago zoumonkie

Like it's kinda a given you'd use Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce.

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3 months ago Chloroph

Used turkey to replace the veal and pork (we don't eat either of these). Still fantastic. This will be my go to recipe from now on.

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2 months ago zoumonkie

Turkey is high in purines as bad for you as scallops, kidney, or anchovies

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3 months ago Lula Mae Broadway

Almost identical to my Calabrian grandmother's recipe. Only difference: equal parts beef, pork & veal - not beef dominant. And sometimes optional milk instead of water. But not so much 2 cups as by feel. Finally, cooking these in a sauce will MAKE your sauce taste amazing. The longer they're in there, the better. And no matter how good they taste the first day, after a night in the fridge (in the sauce) and then reheated both sauce and meatballs are even more delicious. They're also great cold!

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3 months ago Transcendancing

Really loved this recipe! I used a combination of beef and free range pork, commercial breadcrumbs so halved them as per the suggestion and used a bit less water - but still as much as I thought I could get them to hold. Texture is light and elastic, delicious flavour, they hold together beautifully and they're moist. They go beautifully with the tomato, onion, butter sauce too. Delicious! Will definitely make again!

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3 months ago TerryB5520

The process is excellent. Used all the water, adding slowly. Best meatballs ever (and I was extremely skeptical). My new go to method. Genius indeed.

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4 months ago AnAhitA Nazari

Remember 1 thing a Big Resturant will not give you their real method of Recipie since it is trade marked

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4 months ago Bruce Virga

I wish there was a Like button Todd Mullins.