Sammy Davis Jr.’s Favorite Comfort Food Is One We Can All Relate To

It was on regular rotation in his home—and we've got the recipe!

<p>Dotdash Meredith</p>

Dotdash Meredith

These days, Beyonce and Taylor Swift are sharing—and dominating—the music world spotlight. But back in the 1950s and ‘60s, it didn’t get more iconic than the Rat Pack.

The crooners collectively known as the “Rat Pack” (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford) were the epitome of old Hollywood charm. While they had reputations as red carpet stars and big partyiers, we’re learning that several members had quite down-to-earth taste.

Take Frank Sinatra, for one. He loved Entenmann’s Crumb Coffee Cake so much (yes, the same one you can still snag at your local supermarket today) that he had a standing weekly delivery. Sinatra was also sweet on a very humble candy: Tootsie Rolls.

One of his fellow pack members also had a penchant for a cozy dish that frequently appears on many American tables.

Sammy Davis Jr.'s Favorite Food

Although nothing feels quite like home like his grandma Rosa B. Davis' ham hocks and greens, Davis Jr. declared, "I love spaghetti and meatballs. I swear it has nothing to do with Frank Sinatra," the crooner told the author of the Celebrity Cookbook section of the St. Petersberg, Florida newspaper "Evening Independent" for a column that ran in January 1966. "It dates to when I was a kid."

Davis Jr. was born in Harlem and admitted to the paper that he usually preferred Southern cuisine (preferably dishes that remind him of his grandma's cooking) over New York City staples.

"We still like fried chicken and black-eyed peas on Sunday. We had them on New Year's Eve because it's supposed to bring you good luck."

But there's something about a comforting plate piled high with spaghetti, tomato sauce, and meatballs that lures the "I've Gotta Be Me" singer—and his family—in.



Davis Jr. explained that he and his wife at the time, May Britt, frequently shared this cozy dish with their three children. It was one of about a dozen dinners on regular rotation, he added: "Our menus at home are basic. We have about 12 to 15 dishes that intrigue us, such as roast beef, lamb dishes, or a good pot roast."

One of those dishes was his favorite spaghetti sauce, which is nice and thick on purpose, per Davis Jr.'s preference. However, he admitted that he couldn't take credit for the recipe he shared with the newspaper.

"When people ask me what I can't do, I say I can't cook or swim! Why, I can't even boil water," Davis Jr. confessed.

So how about his plus one, Britt? "She's a great 'warmer-upper.' Those are her words, not mine."

This recipe, which Davis Jr. adores and which reminds him of his childhood, comes courtesy of his cook, Bessie Evans. She would prepare it in advance and store it in the refrigerator so Davis Jr. and Britt could use those top-notch warm-up skills.

How to Make Sammy Davis Jr.’s Favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs

We’ve slightly adjusted the recipe that was featured in print to utilize ingredients in portion sizes that are readily accessible today, and to be easier to follow at home. Before you roll up your sleeves and preheat your pans, don’t miss our guide on how to make the best meatballs (including our top five tips to ensure your meatballs are tender, flavorful, and worthy of the celebrity that we know you are).



Serves: 8

Cook Time: 40 min

Prep Time: 20 min

Total Time: 1 hour



  • 3 large yellow onions, coarsely grated

  • 1 large green pepper, coarsely grated

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1 whole garlic clove, peeled

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground


  • 1 large onion, yellow coarsely grated

  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) lean ground beef

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

  • Olive oil


  • 1 (16-ounce) box spaghetti

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Make the sauce:

  1. Using a clean kitchen towel or sturdy paper towels, squeeze juice from the 3 grated onions. Discard the juice, and retain the pulp.

  2. In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, warm olive oil. Sauté strained grated onion and green pepper for 10 minutes, stirring often.

  3. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

  4. Turn heat to low, then cover with a lid and cook for 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning.

  5. Just before serving, remove the garlic clove and bay leaf.

Make the meatballs: 

  1. As the sauce simmers, in a large bowl, combine the other grated onion, ground beef, eggs, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Mix well.

  2. Form into 1- to 2-inch balls. (At Allrecipes, we like using a small scoop for this task.)

  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil.

  4. Add the meatballs, using tongs to turn them and brown every side.

  5. Once brown on the outside and no longer pink in the center, about 3 to 5 minutes, transfer the meatballs to a paper towel to drain.

  6. Use the tongs to nestle the meatballs in the tomato sauce. Stir to coat each meatball evenly with sauce.

To serve:

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

  2. Spoon the sauce and meatballs over the pasta, then top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Adapted from the "Evening Independent."

Read the original article on All Recipes.