Weekends are when I tackle the serious cooking. Dinner might be something particularly complex or something that just requires long hours on the stove or in the oven, both situations that are just not feasible on a weekday. Last weekend was one of those weekends when I thought I’d make Italian-American spaghetti and meatballs, an idea I’d got into my head a few days previously. (The list of things I want to make is as long as my arm but they keep getting superseded by the latest idea that pops into my head.)

Half the fun of the cooking for me is the putting together of the recipe; I rarely stick to one particular recipe, preferring to mix and match elements that come from all over the place (sometimes based on whatever I have in the kitchen). And while I’ve certainly made meatballs in the past, this time called for an investigation into what makes the perfect humongous Italian-American meatball, sometimes described as an intriguing ‘fluffy’. When one meatball came up again and again as being one of the best meatballs in New York City, well, one pays attention. That honour was bestowed on the meatballs served at Frankie’s Spuntino, a restaurant I had not heard of before, and lucky for me, they’d recently brought out a cookbook and so that meatball recipe was everywhere. I used the one posted on Serious Eats, tinkering with no part of it.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

These meatballs are pretty incredible – beef, bread, pinenuts, raisins, parsley, parmesan. I reduced the recipe by 2/3s and formed exactly a dozen balls, larger than a golf ball but slightly smaller than a baseball. While not fluffy like a kitty cat, they are indeed softer and lighter than a meatball made of pure meat and an absolute delight to eat with the thick tomato sauce in which they wade. That sauce is ridiculously easy to put together but requires hours of slow simmering.

Meatball Innards

To complete the Frankie’s Spuntino experience, I made wine stewed prunes and mascarpone, a recipe I found on The Wednesday Chef and is a dessert that’s also served at the restaurant.

Red Wine Prunes and Mascarpone

This was an incredibly rich dessert which may not have been the ideal thing to eat straight after the meatballs but they were so delicious. The prunes plump up in the wine which in turn reduces to an alcoholic syrup and they make for a gorgeous mouthful with the creamy mascarpone. I halved the recipe; the original serves a lot of people.

We had plenty of leftovers the next day and I served them up in the way the restaurant does, without spaghetti – just the meatballs in tomato sauce, with the sauce to be mopped up with plenty of bread. I couldn’t help tweaking here though and showered the hot meatballs with plenty of grated parmesan and grilling them until the cheese was golden.

Meatballs Gratin


With a side of good bread and a green salad, the final 7 of these babies made for a fine meal. These are seriously good meatballs. Excellent meatballs, in fact. They and the slow cooked tomato sauce they sit in will definitely be made again here.