Recipe: Rao’s Meatballs

When the holiday tables are all booked up, just DIY.


Rao’s Restaurant, which has thrived in New York for well over a century, brought its dreamy red sauce Italian fare to Hollywood this fall. Among chef Nicole Grimes’s list of recipes to replicate on the left coast? The side dish that every table orders: Rao’s famous meatballs. Served in pairs, they come dressed in the restaurant’s signature marinara—sweet, garlicky, and flecked with oregano. The Hollywood location is now as packed each night as the New York original. In the Big Apple, a mobster might steal your table; here it’s more likely to be the guy who plays him on TV. Luckily Grimes is sharing her recipe, and it yields 28 big ones. A tip from the chef: Mold the meaty mix into orbs the size of softballs and cook them until they’re still juicy in the center. And then invite the crowd over to your place.

Rao’s Meatballs

Makes about 28

1 pound ground lean beef
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1½ tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
½ small garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups bread crumbs
2 cups lukewarm water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, blend ingredients together.
2. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add water,1 cup at a time, until the mixture is quite moist.
3. Shape the meat mixture into balls (2½ to 3 inch balls).
4. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. When oil is very hot but not smoking, fry meatballs in batches. When bottom half of meatball is very brown and slightly crisp turn and cook top half. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
5. Lower cooked meatballs into simmering Marinara Sauce and cook for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta or on their own.

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