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This is how to make the prison feast from Goodfellas

If this article doesn't make you hungry, nothing will.

This is how to make the prison feast from Goodfellas

UPDATE: With the sad death of Paul Sorvino, who played Paul 'Paulie' Cicero in Goodfellas, we take a look back at a ShortList article which was originally published in 2012, where we asked Dave Watts, then head chef at The Cotswold House Hotel, now owner of The Crown Inn, Upton, Hampshire, how to cook the infamous prison feast from Goodfellas.

Razor blades and garlic cloves at the ready...


While the chance of us actually being in a movie is diminishing by the day, it's not going to stop us from trying to blur the line between us and them as much as Hollywood possible.

Which is why we're starting a new feature whereby we get an expert chef to recreate iconic movie meals and then tell you exactly how to do them at home. To kick things off, we spoke to chef Dave Watts, who's helped us to bring the classic behind-bars pasta meal from Goodfellas to life.

After you've cooked it in your non-prison kitchen (we hope), let us know at the bottom what movie meal you'd like to see us feature next.

How to make the prison feast from Goodfellas

  • Serves 4, (well)
  • Preparation time: 20 – 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 2 hrs 30 - 3hrs 30, longer if you have time or want to wait


  • 6 onions peeled and finely diced
  • 75g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • A teaspoon of salt
  • 300g minced beef
  • 300g minced pork shoulder
  • 300g diced English rose veal flank
  • 30g Cotswold gold rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 250g beef or brown chicken stock
  • 10 cloves garlic peeled
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150g tomato puree
  • 750g ripe vine tomatoes (chopped) or equivalent weight of quality chopped tinned tomatoes
  • A pinch of salt
  • Good grind of black pepper


Just like Vinnie, I’m a big fan of onions, and I like to start with lots of them, but the secret is to unlock all of their wonderful sweetness. Start by placing a large pan onto a medium heat, put the first amount of oil, diced onion and a teaspoon of salt into the pan. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn down to a medium low heat, stirring it every three to five minutes. Keep cooking this until the onions are completely soft and translucent. This will take around 25 – 30 minutes. Be patient, you have time and it’s worth it.

Whilst the onions are cooking you need to peel and finely, finely, finely slice your garlic. Remember super-thin is best to get great flavour and sweetness from it. To do this I like to use a truffle slice, this gets it really thin and is just slightly quicker than Paulie Cicero’s razor blade. Once you have sliced all of your garlic move onto dicing your tomatoes, or just opening the tin.

Because your onions are still cooking nice and slowly and you’ve sliced your way through the garlic you now need to move on to the meat. Take a large frying pan (preferably non-stick) and place it onto a high heat. You will need to use one third of the second amount of oil to fry each of the minced beef, pork and diced veal in separate batches, ensure your pan is really hot to get a good colour/caramelisation on all of your meat. Drain each batch of meat into a colander, over a bowl to catch any juices and if you're not watching your weight you can add these into the ragout when you add the meat for extra taste.

Once you have fried your last batch of meat, place it back onto a medium heat and add your finely sliced garlic. Cook this for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to break down. Now add the white wine, boil and reduce to almost nothing, then add the stock. This needs to reduce by half so turn up the heat to do this quickly. Just as Vinnie says, the pork is really important to this dish, and gives it lots of flavour. If you can’t find veal, I’d say substitute it with more pork.

Now that your onions are really, really soft and tender, you need to add the tomato puree. Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring continuously for 1 to 2 minutes. Add your tomatoes (fresh or tinned), caramelised meats and the garlic liquor from your frying pan, stir this through, place the lid back onto the pan and cook on a really low slow heat for 2-3 hours. Finally add a pinch of salt and the ground black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning to your liking.

Just like the guys in Goodfellas, I like to serve this with a char grilled 34 day aged hanger steak cooked medium rare, a bottle of Chianti and good crunchy country bread ( to soak up all those wonderful juices and flavours).