Little Owl Meatball Sliders

Sliders - usually three little meatballs on three little buns - are a huge hit in New York. They are also the most popular dish at Little Owl, the West Village restaurant that serves tasty Mediterranean-influenced food at affordable prices. Since the restaurant has only 32 seats, it takes forever to get a table, but it's well worth the wait. While I was there, chef Joey Campanaro was kind enough to give me the recipe for his gravy meatball sliders. Buy jars of passata (tomato purée) for the puréed tomatoes.



  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) ground beef
  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) ground pork
  • 1/2 pound (250 grams) ground veal
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 11/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fennel seeds
  • 1 796-ml (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 cup canned pureed tomatoes

To finish:

  • 3 cups arugula leaves
  • 18 small soft rolls split horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese


Combine beef, pork, veal, panko, water, cheese, egg, egg yolk and parsley in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Fry a small piece of mixture to check seasoning. Form mixture into 18 2-inch balls.

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry meatballs until brown all over and transfer to a plate. Pour off oil and any dark bits from skillet.

Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil to skillet. Add onion, garlic, basil and fennel seeds and sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add all tomatoes and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. Transfer sauce to a food processor and process until smooth.

Return sauce to skillet, add meatballs, turn heat to medium-low and simmer, covered with lid slightly ajar, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until meatballs are cooked through.

Place a few arugula leaves on the bottom half of each roll. Top each with 1 meatball, drizzle with some sauce and sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Cover with tops of rolls. Makes 18 sliders.