Semi-Spicy Italian Meatballs

Sharing a recipe is one of the most satisfying things a cook can do. And it’s even more so rewarding if a compliment comes back from the recipient.

That’ why I admire the Recipe Finder column of Julie Rothman that appears in the Baltimore Sun. Julie’s column is familiar with me because it is contained on the weekly food budget of the McClatchy Tribune News Service.

Recently, I was able share a family recipe for baked oysters with Julie’s readers. One of them, Martha Meyers, from Manchester, Md., was looking for a “good old-time” recipe for oyster dressing, and I saw her request in the Recipe Finder column. And ever since, I’ve been a dedicated reader.

Just this week, Julie shared a recipe for a good semi-spicy Italian meatball for spaghetti. Julie did not receive any recipe from readers, so she decided to do a little experimenting on her own to come up with a good one, and what she came up with looked pretty interesting to me.

Semi-Spicy Italian Meatballs
½ pound lean pork sausages (spicy is best), removed from casing
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1 large egg, slightly beaten
½ cup milk or water
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
In a large bowl, combine all the above ingredients. Gently mix them together with a wooden spoon, or use your hands, taking care not to over mix.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop (for less messy results), shape the mixture into medium-sized balls, and place on a lightly greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the balls once or twice to promote even browning. Once they are browned, it is best to allow them to finish cooking in the sauce so the flavors are released into your liquid.
Yield: 24 medium-sized meatballs.
Cook’s note: These meatballs freeze beautifully. Just cut the cooking time by a few minutes so they are only partially done, let them cool, place in a freezer tight bag and freeze. Next time you need a tasty meal but don’t have much time to make it, just remove the meatballs from the freezer and drop them into a quality store-bought red sauce to finish the cooking. You will have yummy homemade dinner in no time flat.