Sicilian Meatballs

No, this is not about the Philadelphia Mob

You know what John Gotti's favorite restaurant was? Crack Barrel. No kidding. Why? Because as Gotti said "How much Italian food can you eat?"

Noted Sicilian meatball Frank Nitti after he got drunk and put a bullet into his right temple. Nitti ran a first class, white table clothe restaurant called The Island of Capri, in Chicago for a decade. It was from his booth at the Capri that he plotted the Mafia's take over of Hollywood in the 1940s

Sicilian Meatballs


Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 slices of white sandwich bread

4 large eggs, beaten

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon minced marjoram

2 pounds ground beef chuck

1/2 cup dried currants

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs

2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

In a small bowl, place torn up bread and pour milk over it, set aside to soak.

Pour the tomatoes into a large enameled cast-iron casserole and crush them. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, soak the bread in water until saturated. Squeeze out the water and transfer the bread to a large bowl. Mash the bread to a paste and stir in the eggs, garlic, parsley, marjoram, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mash until smooth. Add the chuck, currants, pine nuts and cheese and mix until combined. Add the bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, and knead until the mixture is firm enough to roll. Form the mixture into 36 meatballs (about 3 tablespoons each), tucking in the currants and pine nuts.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs in 2 batches and fry over moderate heat, turning, until browned and cooked through, about 12 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve in bowls, passing more cheese at the table.