March 9 is a National Holiday in my family. Why? Because it’s the holy day of meatballs: National Meatball Day. Hark—let every red sauce joint rejoice!
I’ve been the “Direttore Generale” of Trattoria Dell’Arte, a classic Italian restaurant across from Carnegie Hall, for over 10 years. To say I’ve had my fair share of meatballs is an understatement. But none of my Italian chefs beat my grandmother’s meatball recipe. Which is funny because we’re Jewish. Growing up, our Passover feast included potato latkes…and spaghetti and meatballs. That was always a fun delicious twist for the holiday!
Whenever I’m not in the restaurant, I’m spending time at home cooking for my wife, Victoria, and my two-year-old daughter, Hudson Billy. The meatball recipe below usually makes it on the menu at home. I always know I’ve cooked them just perfectly when Hudson yells “More, More!!”
What you’ll need:
For the meatballs:
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork
½ lb. ground veal
1 bunch parsley, chopped
½ cup grated pecorino
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups canola oil
12 mini buns (I like King’s Hawaiian)
½ lb. burrata cheese
1 bunch basil
How to make it:
1. Heat oil in a saute pan, and sweat onions and garlic until translucent and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
2. When onion mixture is cooled, mix together with all remaining ingredients except for the blended oil. Portion into 2 ounce meatballs. [TIP: Use an ice cream scoop for consistency.]
3. Heat 2 tbsp. of canola oil in a large ovenproof saute pan until it starts to shimmer, about 3 minutes. Evenly distribute meatballs in the pan, making sure not to crowd them. Sear on all sides until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Repeat with remaining meatballs until all meatballs are seared.
4. Pour tomato sauce into the same pan, and add back the meatballs. Transfer to a 350 F oven and finish cooking the meatballs, about 25 minutes.
5. When ready to serve, assemble the sliders as such: Place a meatball on a bun, top with a dollop of burrata and a basil leaf. Serve with extra tomato sauce on the side for dipping.
Spaghetti & Meatballs
What you’ll need:
1 lb. spaghetti
12 meatballs (see recipe above)
1 qt. tomato sauce (see below)
¼ cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
Basil leaves, for garnish
For tomato sauce:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2, 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp. granulated sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup basil leaves
How to make it:
1. For the sauce: Heat oil in a medium sauce pan; sweat garlic until fragrant (do not brown), about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and let cook until reduce by half and thickened, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat and adjust seasoning if necessary.
2. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
3. In the interim, transfer tomato sauce to a large sauce pan. When pasta is al dente, add to the sauce and toss. Mix in ¼ cup of parmesan cheese. Add in meatballs and toss until reheated. Transfer to a large platter and garnish with more parmesan and basil leaves.
Brandon Fay is a TV Personality, Celebrity Restaurateur and Hospitality Guru. Native to New York City, Brandon has over 20 years of experience working in the hospitality industry. Brandon joined the Fireman Hospitality Group over 15 years ago. Throughout his tenure, he has held many titles and responsibilities, from Maitre D’ to his current role as Managing Director of The Trattoria Dell’Arte, which he has helped propel into one of New York’s most successful, profitable and iconic Italian restaurants. Known as the “Go To” for all of Trattoria Dell’Arte’s “A-list” celebrity guests, Brandon appears Sunday mornings on CBS-2 in New York City for his popular recurring segment, “Cooking with Brandon.”