Manhattan Meatball Sliders

You all have heard me talk about the dinner Chad and I had at Joey Campanaro’s restaurant The Little Owl in Manhattan last November.   If not, be sure to check it out here.  It was a night just filled with delicious food that truly inspired me.

One of the dishes that Chef Campanaro is famous for is his meatball sliders.  Chad and I had read up on the chef while we were sitting in a Greenwich Village Starbucks while waiting for our reservations that night.  Almost every article or TV show he appeared in, these meatball sliders were discussed.  When we arrived, they offered us several exquisite apps to try, but we insisted on the sliders.  It will go down in history as one of the best decisions I’ve made.

The sliders come out three to a plate on little scratch-made garlic buns.  The meatballs are exquisitely tender, covered in velvety tomato gravy, and garnished with fresh arugula.  I savored them slowly, trying to commit the flavors to memory.  We tried countless other dishes that night, but the sliders were my favorite, a perfect example of how pure talent can transform simple food into fare that is unforgettable.

I finally decided to create a version of Chef Campanaro’s famous dish.  I didn’t make my own buns, but instead found the most adorable little knot-topped slider buns at Stone Ground Bakery in Salt Lake City.

This is not what I would call a difficult recipe, but it is one that takes some time due to multiple steps for the scratch-made meatballs and sauce.  I think you will find every step worth it.

You first start out by mixing the ingredients for the meatballs.  I cannot find ground veal around these parts, so I was forced to settle for half beef, half pork instead of 1/3 of each of the three.  Honestly, it was perfect, so fret not if you can’t find veal.


Let the mixture rest for a few minutes while you start the sauce, because it needs to simmer for a half an hour before you immerse the meatballs in it to cook.

Shape the balls around 2 inches because you want enough meat to fill up the slider buns.  Are these not so adorable?


Now, you will have to forgive me, because I failed to take a picture of the sauce while it was cooking.  I was too busy standing over the pot, breathing in the scents of fresh basil, bright parsley, garlic, and tomatoes.  It made me lose all sense of myself.  Sorry about that.

Once the sauce simmers for a bit, you drop the meatballs right in and cook them for about 30 minutes, just until they are perfectly poached in and the flavors have married.  Oh, what a union this is, too.


All you gotta do is butter and toast up those buns and then place a healthy pinch of micro arugula down on the bottom bun.  Scoop on a spoonful of sauce before placing one of those plump meatballs on the top.  Garnish it with some Pecorino Romano and some coarse black pepper.


This recipe makes a dozen meatballs, so you can serve them up as singles for an appetizer, or serve them three to a plate as an entrée.  That is unless you want to shut yourself in the closet with all 12 of them and have your own little party.  Nobody would blame you.


The above shot is a contender for the cover of my cookbook.  I am just in love with this dish and the shot.  My only issue is that I need a vertical photo for the cover and the verticles on this one are a bit soft.   That’s because I shot this pre-tripod and I just can’t steady my hands as well on verticles as I can on horizontals.  I know I just digressed on photography babble again, but it’s heavy on my mind!   Soooo, we’ll see what I can do to save it.  Otherwise I’m remaking the meatballs to re-shoot my cover.  I guess that’s not an entirely bad thing though, is it?

Manhattan Meatball Sliders


  • For the Meatballs:
  • ¾ lb lean ground beef, ¾ lb ground pork, ½ Cup Panko crumbs, ½ Cup Water, 1 large egg, plus one yolk, 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano, finely grated, ¼ Cup fresh parsley, minced, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp coarse black pepper
  • For the gravy:
  • ¼ Cup fresh parsley, 1/3 Cup fresh basil, 1 small yellow onion, 1 bulb garlic,1 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs salted butter, ¼ Cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ½ Tbs Fennel Seeds, 1 28 oz, and one 14.5 oz can tomato puree
  • To assemble the sliders:
  • 12 Slider buns, 4 Tbs softened butter, 1 Cup micro arugula, extra pecorino, parsley, and black pepper


  1. Prepare meatballs by gently combining all meatball ingredients. Wet your hands and roll the meatballs out into 12, 1 ½ inch balls.
  2. To make the tomato gravy, combine parsley, basil, onion, & garlic in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Heat a large skillet to medium, add olive oil and butter. Add the puree and sauté for five minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add tomato puree, fennel seeds, and the sugar. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
  3. To cook the meatballs, wet your hands and gently re-shape the balls as you drop them into the hot gravy. Turn heat up to medium low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Gently turn them several times with a wooden spoon.
  4. Assemble the sandwiches by buttering each half of the sliders. Toast them in a hot skillet, butter side down. Place a spoonful of gravy onto the bottom of each bun. Add some micro arugula, a meat ball, and another spoonful of gravy. Sprinkle with some grated cheese, minced parsley, and course black pepper. Top the sliders and serve immediately.



  1. That meeting and dinner with Joey Campenaro will go down as one of the best ever! These meatball sliders are great salute to such an out of this world meal.

  2. Looks yummy! Dustin would like these! I’ll have to give them a try!

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