Frank Sinatra by all accounts, was a very accomplished cook. Naturally enough, he favoured Italian recipes, and proclaimed himself to be living proof that a man who loved all the traditional pasta, sauces and breads of Italy could still grow up to be thin.
In honour of the forthcoming Ring-a-Ding Ding: The Films of Frank Sinatra festivities at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco, plus the current run of the hit Sinatra: The Man and His Music show here in London, I’ve gathered together three of his best recipes for you to try. Why not listen to some classic Frank on the stereo as you prepare one of his dishes, and watch one of his movies after you’ve enjoyed eating it? It would be a real Sinatra soiree.
Variations on the theme of meatballs were provided by Frank to several cookbook compilers and magazine journalists. He also often shared his recipe for Marinara Sauce. An easy, vegetarian pasta sauce, this is a definite classic. I’ve chosen the version below which is from The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook, published in 1996. This is a wonderful collection of recipes not just from the home of Frank and his wife Barbara, but also from the kitchens of lots of their celebrity friends. Dean Martin offered up Caviar Potato Appetizers and Jerry Lewis proposed Pasta with Vegetables and Pesto, for example. The book is highly recommended, not least because the proceeds go to a very good cause, the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California.
Sinatra Marinara Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
- Olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
- 2 (28 ounce) cans tomatoes, undrained
- Basil to taste
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 1 (16 ounce) package pasta
Pour oil into skillet to cover bottom. Sauté garlic in oil until very lightly browned. Remove garlic and discard.
Sauté onion in garlic oil until very lightly browned.
Using blender, separately puree each can of tomatoes with basil; turn blender on, then off immediately.
Add puree to onion. Season with salt, black pepper and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes, skimming top as the sauce cooks.
While sauce is cooking, prepare pasta. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon oil and then add pasta. Begin checking after 7 minutes and cook until firm but neither hard nor sticky.
Drain in colander, return to pan and add small amount of sauce to coat pasta to keep from clumping.
Serve pasta with sauce on the side.
Also from The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook is this creamy and cheesy dish that gives a definite nod in the direction of Fettucine Alfredo:
Fettucine a la Sinatra
Serves 3 or 4
- 1 (8 ounce) package fettucine
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and black pepper
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Prepare fettucine according to package directions, cooking until al dente. While pasta is cooking, prepare sauce. Drain pasta well before using.
Melt butter in small saucepan. Remove from heat.
Blend cream and cheese into melted butter.
Return to heat, season with salt and black pepper, and heat thoroughly but do not boil.
Add sauce to pasta and let stand, covered, for 2 minutes. Place on serving plate and garnish with parsley and cheese.
Lovely Dinah Shore was great friends with Frank, and in her fabulous book Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah she includes two recipes provided by Frank. One is for a Fresh Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti that Frank cooked up on her television show in 1970. It’s very similar to the Marinara sauce above, but there is an additional serving suggestion. “Serve with small side dishes of red pepper flakes and Romano cheese, hot crusty French bread and Italian red wine. Don’t forget the red checkered tablecloth.” The other recipe is for Sausage and Peppers. Dinah tells how Frank gave her the recipe for this as he drove her to Palm Springs Airport one day at around 70 miles per hour. She says, “When I reached my own digs that evening, I couldn’t wait to try it out on my own front burner. It was nice but something was missing. I called and lodged my complaint. Then he remembered that little something he had left out — ¾ to 1 cup of red wine.”
Dinah and Frank cook and joke in the kitchen.
Dinah and Frank eat what they cooked.
Sausage and Peppers by Sinatra
- 1 lb hot Italian sausages
- 2 green peppers
- ¾ cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper (optional)
Dinah tries to sing but Frank wants to clown around
- Pam Grady’s preview of Ring-a-Ding Ding: The Films of Frank Sinatra.
- Eat My Shorts features Frank Sinatra’s The House I Live In.
- Michael Cecconi shares a Sinatra-inspired Jack Daniels cocktail.
Jenny Hammerton is a film archivist with a nosey parker interest in what the stars of Hollywood Golden era liked to eat and drink. She’s been scribbling away about film star recipes for around eight years at Silver Screen Suppers and her bulging collection of film star favorites now numbers over 5,500. When not cooking and writing, Jenny works with the British Movietone newsreel collection for the AP Archive in London, and DJs on a wind-up gramophone with The Shellac Sisters. You can read about and buy her new book Cooking with Joan Crawford here.