Best Movie Recipes! “Goodfellas” Garlic, Belushi Food Fights + Big Nights!

I want to watch a movie. AND I am hungry. Just like Bluto, eyeing the food right above us. What to do? Easy. Dinner IN A MOVIE. I have posted about this before, but I wanted to update, expand, and yes, absorb the aroma of a good food/movie post….and as always, I have included the recipes so you can make these terrific dishes and then watch these great movies…so here we go:

“Goodfellas thin”:
The unofficial measurement of a slice of garlic cut extremely thin using a razor blade.

In 1990, Scorsese teamed up with Robert DeNiro to tell the story of Henry Hill, the young kid who worked his way up through the mob hierarchy, only to see it all fall apart. Ray Liotta is brilliant as the young mobster, and DeNiro plays James Conway, the guy who helps Hill get into the mob, only to betray him in an effort to save himself.

Joe Pesci won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of psycho gangster Tommy DeVito – I have included the infamous “but I’m funny HOW?” dialogue at the end of this post, one of the film’s many iconic moments.

This classic film lost Best Picture to “Dances With Wolves”, but Scorsese was at the top of his game here. We all know that. What is easy to forget is how much Scorsese’s love of food permeated the film.

Scorsese’s mother, Catherine Scorsese, shown above at the dinner table, plays Tommy’s mother. She and the cast ad-libbed this dinner scene. Scorsese’s father, Charles Scorsese, plays the prisoner who puts too many onions in the tomato sauce…the prison scene that introduced America to the “Goodfellas thin” slicing of the garlic!

The term is a reference to the famous scene in which lead character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) describes in detail how mob boss Paulie Cicero (Paul Sorvino) prepared dinner while in prison:

“In prison, dinner was always a big thing. We had a pasta course, then we had a meat or a fish. Paulie was doing a year for contempt and had a wonderful system for garlic. He used a razor and sliced it so thin it would liquefy in the pan with a little oil. It’s a very good system.”

So here is the three-meat meatball (just like Goodfellas “Veal, beef and pork… you gotta have the pork”) recipe to try at home:

Meatballs a la Goodfellas

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, sliced razor thin then minced
2 eggs
1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 cups stale Italian bread, crumbled
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup olive oil

Combine beef, veal, and pork in a large bowl. Add garlic, eggs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Blend bread crumbs into meat mixture. Slowly add the water 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture should be very moist but still hold it’s shape if rolled into meatballs. (I usually use about 1 1/4 cups of water). Shape into meatballs.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Fry meatballs in batches. When the meatball is very brown and slightly crisp remove from the heat and drain on a paper towel. (If your mixture is too wet, cover the meatballs while they are cooking so that they hold their shape better.)

Place cooked meatballs into Marinara Sauce and cook for 15 more minutes.

There you have it, Meatballs ala Goodfellas…you must have a lot of red wine with this. A good Chianti, Sangiovese, Zinfandel – or all of them!

And here is the famous scene in which Joe Pesci busts Ray Liotta’s balls….

Henry Hill: You’re a pistol, you’re really funny. You’re really funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I’m funny?
Henry Hill: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: [it becomes quiet] Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, You got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Jus…
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just… ya know… you’re funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just… you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don’t know, you said it. How do I know? You said I’m funny. How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!
Henry Hill: [long pause] Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy DeVito: [everyone laughs] Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

An instant classic scene in an instant classic movie…AND SPEAKING OF CLASSIC MOVIES:


National Lampoon’s Animal House. Ok, this classic comedy is known for so much: Togas! “Double Secret Probation” – NIEDERMEYER!

But Animal House also has the best food fight since the Marx Brothers! It all begins one day in the school cafeteria, when John “Bluto” Belushi takes a slow “stuff your face with food” crawl down the cafeteria line – eating, slurping and pocketing a massive amount of food – and piling up his tray.

He winds up at the table with his buddy Boon and a few of the OTHER Frat guys and Sorority girls. There is an amazing amount of uncomfortableness as Bluto sits and begins to stuff his face…to the point where one of the sorority girls exclaims, “you are a P-I-G PIG!”

Belushi nonchalantly ignores her. “Guess what I am” he says pointedly before he stuffs his mouth with a jello concoction,then presses his fists into his cheeks and spews it out all over the table. “A zit! Get it?”

Let the food fight begin!

In honor of John Blutarsky – Bluto! – here is the perfect recipe for a “jiggly jello” concoction to use when you replicate this scene for friends and family!

8 oz. cottage cheese
1 pkg. jello
2 cups cool whip
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can crushed pineapple

Mix the jello according to instructions, then add the cottage cheese, oranges, pineapple and cool whip. Refrigerate until ready to pop!

This is guaranteed to put you in “double secret probation.”

Big Night. Many consider this to be the best movie ever devoted to food. This 1996 labor of love is starring Minnie Driver, Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci – AND DIRECTED BY- Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott. Two brothers struggle to save their failing restaurant by putting on a “big night” for a celebrity.

They make one of the greatest dishes ever – a Timpano – and as you watch it come together you will need to eat one, so here is the recipe from the film!

Big Night Timpano


2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 medium rib celery, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons chicken broth or white wine
2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, passed through the medium disk of a food mill to remove seeds
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1/2 pound penne or other short-shaped pasta, cooked al dente, drained and reserved
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in quarters
1 pound mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami

To make the pasta, mix the flour and the salt together, then stir the salted flour with the eggs and the oil. Continue to stir until the dough comes together in a ball. On a floured work surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes, or until silky smooth. Wrap with plastic and set aside at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Combine all the meatball ingredients. Roll into about 65 balls, using 1 tablespoon of meat for each. In a large nonstick frying pan, cook as many meatballs as will fit in 1 layer over medium heat, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Repeat if necessary. Set aside in a bowl at room temperature.
In the same pan used to make the meatballs and utilizing the fat left in the pan, cook the onion, carrot, celery and garlic over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the tomato paste in the stock or wine and stir into the vegetables. Cook the mixture for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
To make the timpano, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the penne with 2 cups of the sauce. Roll out the pasta on a lightly floured surface to make a 26-inch round. Grease a 3-quart stainless- steel bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil and gently mold the pasta sheet to the contours of the bowl; there should be enough hanging over the edge to fold over and cover the filling.
Spoon 1 cup of penne into the bowl. Top with 1/2 cup of the sauce, 12 pieces of egg, half of the meatballs and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat the process, this time using 3 cups of penne, 1 1/2 cups of sauce, the remaining eggs, meatballs and cheese. Top with the remaining penne and sauce. Create a final layer with the salami. Fold the pasta over the filling and brush with 1 tablespoon of oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake the timpano for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 45 more minutes. To check if it’s done make a small hole at the top using a knife blade. If steam comes out and the cheese is melted, it’s done. Otherwise, bake for 10 to 15 more minutes. To serve, remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Carefully turn upside down onto a large platter.
YIELD 6 to 8 servings
Originally published with FOOD; Eye Candy
By Molly O’Neill, November 16, 1997

Also…At the end of the movie, there is a static 4 minute scene involving a single fried egg – the shot above captures the exact camera shot – a moment of simplicity that is full of unspoken emotion between the two brother – it will make you cry.

Just three examples of great food moments in the movies…I will be adding more posts in the future, adding more films and cleaning up old posts…thanks for bearing with me!

Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Action Films, Awards, Books / Media, cookbooks, Director Martin Scorsese, Food, Food Review, Movies, New York, Obscure Movies, Recipes, Restaurants, Revenge Movies, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Memoir, TV Show, Uncategorized, wine

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