The Spuntino Way

Create an authentic Italian feast with these recipes for marina sauce, meatballs, and pork braciola.


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After serving up heaping ladles full of John Mariani’s Sunday gravy from our Jan/Feb issue, we wanted to try even more of the Italian specialty. Fortunately for us, the owners of Frankies Spuntino restaurant in Brooklyn, Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo, obliged. These recipes come to us from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, by Falcinelli, Castronovo, and food writer Peter Meehan. Buon appetito!

Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce
(Makes about 3 quarts)

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 13 cloves garlic
  • One 96-ounce can (1 kg.) or four 28-ounce cans Italian tomatoes
  • Large pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt


1. Combine olive oil and garlic in large deep saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling occasionally, until garlic is deeply colored—striations of deep brown running through golden cloves—and fragrant. If garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or is taking on color quickly, pull pan off stove and reduce heat.

2. While garlic is getting golden, deal with tomatoes: Pour them into bowl and crush them with your hands. We like to pull out the firmer stem end from each of the tomatoes as we crush them and discard those along with the basil leaves that are packed into the can.

3. When garlic is just about done, add red pepper flakes to the oil and cook them for 30 seconds or a minute, to infuse their flavor and spice into the oil. Dump in the tomatoes, add the salt, and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium, get the sauce simmering at a gentle pace, not aggressively, and simmer for 4 hours. Stir it from time to time. Mother it a little bit.

4. Check the sauce for salt at the end. The sauce can be cooked with meat at this point, or stored, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 days or frozen for up to a few months.

(Makes 6 servings—18 to 20 meatballs)
Cooked Meatballs

  • 4 slices bread (2 packed cups’ worth)
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus about 1 cup for serving
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 15 turns white pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce (from above)
  • Directions

    1. Heat oven to 325°F. Put fresh bread in bowl, cover it with water, and let it soak for a minute or so. Pour off water and wring out bread, then crumble and tear it into tiny pieces.

    2. Combine bread with remaining ingredients except tomato sauce in medium mixing bowl, adding them in the order listed. Add dried breadcrumbs last to adjust for wetness: mixture should be moist wet, not sloppy wet.

    3. Shape meat mixture into handball-sized meatballs and space them evenly on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Meatballs will be firm but still juicy and gently yielding when they’re cooked through. (At this point, you can cool meatballs and hold them in refrigerator for as long as a couple of days or freeze them for future.)

    4. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce in sauté pan large enough to accommodate the meatballs comfortably.

    5. Dump meatballs into pan of sauce and nudge heat up ever so slightly. Simmer meatballs for half an hour or so (this isn’t one of those cases where longer is better) so they can soak up some sauce. Keep them there until it’s time to eat.

    Pork Braciola Marinara
    (Makes 6 servings)

    • Six ½-inch-thick boneless pork shoulder steaks (8 ounces each)
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
    • 1 clove, garlic, minced
    • ⅔ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 cup grated aged provolone
    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
    • Frankies Spuntino Tomato Sauce
    • Directions

      1. Butterfly pork: With palm of one hand firmly steadying a cutlet on cutting board, and with your knife blade parallel to meat, slice almost all way through meat, leaving last ¼-inch uncut.

      2. Open up cutlet like a book, season it with salt and white pepper, and set it aside. Repeat with remaining pieces of pork.

      3. Sprinkle cut side of one cutlet with a tiny pinch of minced garlic, a couple of pinches of parsley, and a generous tablespoon of each cheese.

      4. Roll cutlet into tight log and set aside, seam side down.

      5. Tie braciola. The simplest way is to use 2 or 3 short lengths of butcher’s twine for each roll and tie them around meat to hold it together. If you’re a master of more professional ways of tying—like a real butcher’s tie—go for it. But the braciola doesn’t (or shouldn’t) get roughed up too much during the cooking process, so it doesn’t need to be in a straitjacket or anything.

      6. Bring tomato sauce to a steady, gentle simmer in large pot.

      7. Nestle braciola into pot of tomato sauce. Simmer for 3 hours, or until tender; you should be able to easily pull away a strand or two of meat with tug of fork.

      8. To serve, remove braciola from sauce and snip off the twine. Arrange, whole or sliced, on a platter with generous blanket of sauce. Transfer remaining sauce to serving bowl. Serve hot or at room temperature. Garnish with grated Pecorino Romano and serve. Use leftover tomato sauce from the braciola in any recipe that calls for tomato sauce.

      Recipes excerpted from The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual (Artisan Books) with special thanks to Dan Freedman, author of our Jan/Feb feature on Sunday Gravy.

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