Frank Falcinelli, one of the two Franks behind the popular Frankies Spuntino in New York City, learned this dish from his Naples-born, Brooklyn-raised friend Tony Durazzo. Tony is the inspiration for the raisins and pine nuts—they add texture and a hint of sweetness. Two factors that will make or break your meatballs: a good sauce, and using 90 percent lean meat, no fattier. (Note that this is the baked meatballs recipe from the Frankies Spuntino cookbook; there’s also a pan-fried version, which is what the Franks demonstrate in their My Go-To Dish video for CHOW.)
Game plan: You’ll need to make the tomato sauce before you begin.
- Yield: 15 meatballs (5 servings)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 1 hr 30 mins
- 4 slices plain white bread, torn into large pieces (about 2 packed cups)
- 2 pounds ground beef (90 percent lean, no fattier)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
- 15 turns freshly ground white pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup dried plain breadcrumbs
- 12 cups (3 quarts) tomato sauce, such as our Basic Tomato Sauce (see Game Plan note)
- Heat the oven to 325°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Place the bread in a large bowl, cover with water, and let soak until saturated, about 1 minute. Pour off the remaining water, wring out the bread, and tear it into tiny pieces. Place in a large bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients except the breadcrumbs and tomato sauce and mix to combine. Add the breadcrumbs a little at a time until the mixture is moist wet, not sloppy wet. (You may not have to add all of the breadcrumbs.)
- Roll 1/2 cup of the meat mixture between your hands until it’s smooth, compact, and round (about 2 inches in diameter) and place the meatball on a baking sheet; repeat until you have 15 meatballs, spacing them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until firm and just cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. (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 large pot over medium heat until simmering. Add the meatballs and increase the heat to medium high until the sauce returns to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meatballs soak up some of the sauce, at least 30 minutes. Serve 3 meatballs per person with a healthy helping of the sauce. Top each portion with a fluffy mountain of grated cheese.