I dare you to watch the film Goodfellas and not get hungry.
From the sausages sizzling on the barbecue when we get introduced to Paulie to Tommy’s mother fixing the guys a midnight feast and Henry’s brother lovingly spending all day stirring the gravy on the stove, there’s seemingly food in every other scene. This is for good reason – the film’s protagonist Henry Hill was a keen cook as well as a gangster. Over the years, he owned several restaurants, both to satisfy his love of good food and to use as cover for his illegal activities.
A few years after Martin Scorsese adapted Nicholas Pileggi’s book about Hill’s life for the big screen, the former gangster wrote a book of his own. This time, however, it was recipes – rather than hijackings, murders and extortion – that provided the content.
I was lucky enough to get Hill’s cookbook for my birthday a few years ago. And while some of the recipes are far too tricky for my basic cooking skills, I’ve had a go at some of them with some great results.
The book – which relies on great descriptions rather than pictures to get the mouth watering – is also a great account of the food that Hill would eat throughout his life, from his childhood holding onto his mother’s pinny in Brooklyn to his life on the run in the Witness Protection Program.
Here’s my slightly tweaked version of Hill’s recipe. It makes around 24 meatballs, which will serve 4-6 depending how greedy you are.
For the tomato sauce:
- 12 cloves of garlic – minced
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 cans (390g) of chopped tomatoes
- 20 basil leaves or one tablespoon dried (fresh is best) – ripped into small pieces
- A tablespoon of dried parsley
- Half a medium-sized carrrot – grated (optional – to sweeten)
- A glass of red wine (optional)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
For the meatballs:
- 500g of minced beef
- 500g of minced pork
- 2 eggs
- 3 cloves of garlic – minced
- 65g breadcrumbs
- Pinch of salt
- Black pepper
- A quarter of a medium-sized onion – diced into very small pieces
Start cooking the tomato sauce first. Cook the garlic in the olive oil until it sizzles – don’t brown it or it will make the sauce bitter.
Then add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients. Add plenty of black pepper.
Put all the ingredients, except the eggs, in a bowl and combine, making sure you’ve distributed everything evenly.
Add the eggs and work them through the mixture. Don’t worry if it goes a bit gooey – you don’t want dry meatballs that fall apart in the sauce!