Ode to ol’ blue eyes: Classic Meatballs


In honor of Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday, we whip up his classic Italian American meatballs.

Words and photos by: Dine Girl

Frank loved his mother Dolly’s meatballs, and we understand why. These babies are a true Italian American classic.

Making meatballs at home can be tricky (too dry, not enough flavor, too mushy, too tough), but with a few simple tricks from the experts you can have a batch ready to devour in a little over an hour – perfect for a lazy movie night in.

“Now we all can pretend this recipe came from our Nonna— meatballs”

Time:  30 min prep, 45 min to 1 hr for meatballs to cook in the sauce

Servings:  4-6


½ pound gound beef (I splurged an extra few bucks and used kobe beef,
made a huge difference)

  • – ½ pound gound pork
  • – ¼ cup Italian bread crumbs
  • – ¼ cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • – ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • – 2 tsp kosher salt, 1tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • – ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • – 1 large egg, lightly beaten in a small bowl
  • – 2 tsp chopped fresh flat leafed Italian parsley – leaves only, no stems!!
  • – Pinch of garlic salt or freshly minced garlic (optional)
  • – Splash of milk if the egg is too small (optional)
  • – Fresh basil to shred on top at the very end.
  • – 2 tblsp all purpose flour – to dredge the meatballs
  • – Olive oil and vegetable oil to fry  – you need both
  • – Your favorite tomato / marinara sauce (homemade or really good quality) in a large pot heating up on the stovetop on a back burner.


1) In a large bowl, place the meat, then the breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, salt&pepper, nutmeg, garlic in a pile. Then add the egg / milk on top. Gently mix together with your hands (about 10 folds until everything comes together – do not over mix, otherwise the meatballs will be super tough)

2) Gently shape into 12-14 golf ball size balls, lay out onto a plate or sheet try.

3) Dredge lightly (roll) in the flour to coat each ball. Place back on plate while you fry. Also have a large plate with paper towel waiting.

4) In a large heavy bottom frying pan, coat the bottom with equal parts olive oil and vegetable oil (maybe 1/3 cup total in oil). Drop a tiny bit of flour to test the temperature – when the flour sizzles the pan is ready. (med high heat)

5) Gently fry as many can fit comfortably in the pan (do in batches) lightly so that the outside is sealed. Do not over cook at this stage! This whole process should only take about 5-6 minutes max to do all of the meatballs. **KEY POINT** Basically the inside should still be super raw. Drain excess oil on the paper towel, and add each ball to the awaiting warmed sauce as you keep frying.

6) Finish cooking the meatballs in the sauce on low simmer for 30-45 min.

7) Serve with spaghetti, crusty bread and of course a good bottle of red wine. Sprinkle fresh parm on top with shredded basil and cracked black pepper just before serving.

Marinara Sauce variation – You can jazz up store bought (San Marzano / Rao’s) sauce by sautéing some onions, deglazing with wine before adding the sauce.

Summary of key points:

– High quality beef + pork (and veal if available) combo.
– Don’t over mix or over fry.
– Olive oil + vegetable oil combo to fry
– Let them cook in the sauce, not the oil.

Words by Dine Girl