Lunch Recipes

Rao's Famous Meatballs

This recipe comes to us from Rao’s Italian restaurant, a cornerstone in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York since 1896 — and now in SoCal, with our very own Rao’s Hollywood.

Rao’s is known for its simple, Italian home cooking and a gritty elegance that has long attracted celebrities, perhaps most famously, Martin Scorsese. One of the former owners, Frankie No — nicknamed for his legendary reservation book, which filled up four months in advance — even had a role in Goodfellas.

Today the restaurant offers its homey marinara in jars, and if you’re craving the eatery’s meatballs, you can make them at home. No reservation required! Our tip? Meatballs pair well with a big, bold red wine that can match the meat for richness and take the tangy edge off the tomato sauce: Think Zinfandel or a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Servings: 4


1 pound ground lean beef
½ pound ground veal
½ pound ground pork
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 3 or 4 oz)
1 ½ tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 small garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 cups fine bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp Rao’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 jar of Rao’s Marinara Sauce
Pecorino Romano and parsley for garnish


  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.
  2. Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. If the mixture is dry, slowly add water until it’s quite moist.
  3. Shape the meat mixture into balls (2 ½ to 3-inch balls). Tip: Use a large ice cream scoop to portion the meatballs — if they’re a consistent size, they’ll cook more evenly.
  4. Heat the olive in a large pan. When oil is hot, fry the meatballs in batches, turning regularly, until they’re browned evenly on all sides. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
  5. In a large pan, bring the marinara sauce to a simmer, and then gently lower the cooked meatballs into it and continue simmering for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta, in a sandwich, or on their own.