Rao’s Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

Rao's meatballs in marinara sauce
Rao’s meatballs in marinara sauce

Rao’s Restaurant in Manhattan, New York, is one the famous Italian restaurants in the world. It’s so small (about 10 tables) and popular that it’s virtually impossible to get a table there. So what’s so special about this place? Their food. Honest, Italian food. The place was established 1896 so you can imagine they are doing something right.

Italian food at its best is very simple and made of fresh ingredients. That’s what this recipe is all about. Original Rao’s meatball recipe is public knowledge since they have it even on their website. The marinara sauce recipe, however, is secret. This is our version of Rao’s Marinara which we have tested and fine tuned over the years. And like the meatballs, the marinara sauce doesn’t contain any readymade ingredients except Italian canned tomatoes. Sometimes we replace those with fresh ones, but the canned tomato brings its special flavor to the sauce.

Ingredients for Rao’s Marinara Sauce for 4 Servings

  • 800 g (28 ounces) of Italian canned tomatoes – lata de tomate entero pelado
  • 3-5 fresh tomatoes – tomates
  • 0,5 dl (1/4 cup) of olive oil – aceite de oliva
  • 1 minced onion – cebolla
  • 4 cloves garlic – dientes de ajo
  • Sea salt – sal marina
  • Ground black pepper – pimienta negra
  • 2 tablespoons of honey – miel
  • bunch of fresh basil – albahaca

Place a sauce pan on medium heat and add olive oil. When the oil is hot soften minced onions and garlics for 2-3 minutes. Add canned tomatoes to the pan. Remove the skins of fresh tomatoes and add them as well. Bring to boil and lower the heat so that the mixture slowly simmers. Let it simmer without a lid for 45 minutes and stir every 10 minutes so that the tomatoes begin to break and about half of the liquid is vaporized. Add honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves just before serving.

Ingredients for Rao’s Frankie’s Meatballs for 4 Servings

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) of ground beef – vacuno pidaco
    (or as the original recipe says 500 g (1 lbs) of ground beef, 250 g (0.5 lbs) of ground veal and 250 g (0.5 lbs) of ground pork)
  • 2 cloves garlic – dientes de ajo
  • 2 large eggs – huevos
  • 2 dl (1 cup) freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese – queso Pecorino Romano
  • Bunch of chopped fresh parsley – perejil
  • Sea salt – sal marina
  • Ground black pepper – pimienta negra
  • 4 dl (2 cups) of plain dry bread crumbs – pan rallado
  • 4 dl (2 cups) of water – agua
  • 2 dl (1 cup) of olive or sunflower oil for frying – aceite para fréier

Mix all the ingredients except the oil with the ground meat. Make the meatball mixture nice and even with your hands. If you are using only beef (as we did) you can safely check the seasoning and add salt and pepper, if needed. The mixture should be fluffy and very moist. Roll 8 large meatballs with wet hands.

Pour the oil into a large sauce pan and bring it to 150 ºC (300 ºC). Put the meatballs in the oil. The oil level should go to the middle of the meatballs. Fry the meatballs from one side for about 10 minutes (the reason why the oil is not very hot is that the interior of the big meatballs cook properly without burning them). Turn the other side and cook for another 10 minutes.

Make some pasta (check out our previous post for instructions how to make fresh pasta from scratch) and serve the meatballs with the marinara sauce.

¡Buen provecho!

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