Rao’s Restaurant in NYC is perhaps best known for its Lemon Chicken, a dish that recently inspired my friend and co-worker, Annie Petito, when developing her “Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Lemon Sauce” for Cook’s Illustrated. I’ve never eaten at Rao’s, but was so impressed by the bold lemon flavor of their chicken, that when I recently saw a recipe for their classic Italian meatballs, I thought I’d give them a try. I was not disappointed.
I think what I like most about these meatballs is how straight-forward they are to make. A few classically simple ingredients and a couple minutes in a mixing bowl is all that’s required to produce, tender and deeply flavored meatballs. They’re easy to roll and hold up well to skillet browning before being used over pasta, or laid into a roll, topped with mozzarella, and slipped under a broiler to make a killer meatball sub!
I’m sure a visit to Rao’s would be delightful, but my understanding is that reservations are nearly impossible to score and so I’ll probably never get the chance. No worries. Between Annie’s lemon chicken, and this recipe for their tasty meatballs, I can dine “at” Rao’s whenever I want, without ever having to leave home.
Cheers – Steve
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1/2 lb ground veal
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 1/2 Tbs minced, flat leaf parsley
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup EVOO
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, veal and pork. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley and minced garlic, then salt and pepper as desired. Add the milk to the bread crumbs and mix well. Squeeze any excess milk from breadcrumbs, then add them to the meat and gently mix to incorporate. Shape into 1 1/2 -inch meatballs.
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and sauté until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then discard the garlic. Working in batches and taking care not to crowd the pan, add meatballs and fry until undersides are brown and slightly crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and brown the other sides, about 5 minutes more. Transfer cooked meatballs to paper towels to drain, then add to your favorite marinara sauce. Mix gently and serve.