Learn How to Make Martin Scorsese’s Mom’s Sauce and Meatballs, As Seen in 'Goodfellas'

Paul Sorvino perfects Mama Scorsese's sauce and meatballs in Goodfellas (1990).
Paul Sorvino perfects Mama Scorsese's sauce and meatballs in Goodfellas (1990). / Warner Home Video

Goodfellas (1990) isn't the ideal movie to watch with dinner, but one scene is famous for how it portrays food. Between acts of violence, the gang of mobsters prepares an Italian feast in prison, featuring razor blade-sliced garlic thin enough to "liquefy in the pan with just a little oil." As the video below demonstrates, the sauce and meatballs taste just as good prepared in a home kitchen.

Many famous movie meals—like Pulp Fiction (1994)'s Big Kahuna burger—have been recreated for YouTube. When making the sauce from Goodfellas, the British Film Institute had an actual recipe to follow. Director Martin Scorsese based the meal on his mother Catherine's classic Sunday gravy. BFI deferred to Mama Scorsese's instructions for some parts (she calls for one onion instead of three), and stayed true to the movie for others.

Paulie's technique of slicing garlic with a razor blade is one step you shouldn't try at home. In addition to being dangerous, it may not be that effective. As BFI points out, the thinly-sliced garlic doesn't liquify in the pan as the film promises.

Martin Scorsese first featured his mom's sauce in his 1974 documentary Italianamerican. A detailed recipe from the film is available online. Sixteen years later, he brought her and her famous dish back for Goodfellas. Next time you watch the movie, look out for cameos from both Mama and Papa Scorsese. Here are more facts about Goodfellas you should know.