Free Range Nurse

Cooking therapy from a former travel nurse

Rao’s Meatballs January 6, 2010

Filed under: beef,dinner,pasta — freerangenurse @ 6:09 pm

This is the recipe that started me cooking again.  Seriously the best, most tender, flavorful meatballs I’ve ever had.  Sure you’ll need to buy every animal on the ranch to go in them, but it is well worth it!  The marinara recipe is also from Rao’s cookbook and tastes like sunshine, light and fresh.  I think a red wine sauce would also be fabulous, but I like the savory meatballs paired with a light sauce.

First up, your ingredients list:


  • 1 pound ground beef (I usually use a 85/15 beef)
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced (I love garlic, so I usually use 3-5 cloves)
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs, grated (best to use freshly grated rather than prepackaged)
  • 2 cups luke warm water (yes, it seems like a lot, but it makes a difference)
  • salt and pepper to taste (kosher salt or sea salt)
  • 1-2 cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • You can also put minced onion in it, but I don’t (I am not sure why I put it in the picture)

In a large bowl, mix the three meats, without overworking it.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the olive oil.

Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until everything is evenly incorporated.

Form the meat into 2-2.5 inch diameter meatballs.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot enough to make a clove of garlic bubble.

Carefully add meatballs, but don’t overcrowd.  Leave a little room around each one.

Fry the meatballs for a few minutes on each side so that it browns and forms a little bit of a crispy skin.  If your heat is too high, you will burn the outside of the meatballs without fully cooking the insides.  Once the meatballs are evenly browned, remove them from the oil to drain on paper towels.

Once drained, place them into simmering marinara sauce (recipe to follow) to complete the cooking process.  Simmer in sauce for 15 minutes.

They can be eaten alone with the sauce or on your pasta of choice.  If you pace yourself, and have leftovers, you could also have them this way….

and this way is very yummy.

Marinara Sauce:

  • 2  28 ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes (I like the ones pictured, but if you want to go all out, get the imported D.O.P. certified ones)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced (or rough minced)
  • 10 or so fresh basil leaves, washed and freshly torn
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pinch of dried oregano
  • kosher salt to taste

Pour out tomato sauce from cans into a large bowl, keeping the whole tomatoes in the can.

One by one remove each tomato and remove any tough parts including stem ends, then add to reserved juice in bowl.  Once completed…and this is the fun part…hand crush the tomatoes in their juices.  Go on.

Get your hands dirty!  In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat until it flashes, add onion and cook about three minutes until translucent and beginning to brown.

Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds being very careful not to burn the garlic (it will turn everything bitter).  Add the tomatoes and sauce, salt to taste.

Raise heat and bring sauce to a boil, then decrease heat and simmer for about an hour.  Add basil and oregano and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.  Note:  this is just enough sauce to coat the meatballs and have just a little sauce with the pasta.  If you like a lot of sauce with your pasta, you may want to double the recipe or at least use 3 cans of tomatoes.


5 Responses to “Rao’s Meatballs”

  1. Thanks for sharing, this is my FAVORITE FOOD!! Have you been to Ciola’s in Lakeway? So far (besides this recipe), they make my favorite spaghetti and meatballs, check it out. Love ya, L

  2. I haven’t tried it. I’ll have to check it out. I hope you enjoy the meatballs. I made them for Greta when she visited and she loved them, too.

  3. YUM….I saw a Food TV show featuring Rao’s a while ago. These look amazing. They will be on my to make list for sure. Thanks!

  4. Juanita Flores Says:

    Wow mija! I’m impressed with your cooking skills. Judging from all I have read and seen, you have become quite the gourmet cook. You got all that from what I taught you about cooking when I thought you weren’t even listening. LOL! I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I look forward to more.
    Love you, mom

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