Raymond Akers of China Grove, N.C., is hoping someone can share a recipe for semi-spicy Italian meatballs for spaghetti. Surprisingly, I did not receive any recipe from readers, so I decided to do a little experimenting to come up with a good one.

There is no shortage of meatball recipes to use as a starting point. I took what I thought were the best components of several recipes to develop this light, lean and slightly spicy meatball. It uses a combination of spicy sausage and lean ground beef, with the heat coming from the sausage and red pepper flakes.

I browned the meatballs first in the oven and then put them into a good-quality, store-bought tomato sauce to finish the cooking and impart flavor. Served with the sauce, over a bowl of piping-hot pasta or on your favorite sub roll, and topped with generous amount of Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, these meatballs are comfort food at its best.

Requests

Veronique Marzullo from Baltimore would like to have the recipe for the waffles served at Miss Shirley's in Baltimore.

Carol Conley from Bend, Ore. is looking for a recipe for milk noodle soup that is tomato-based. She said that her German grandmother (who lived in Baltimore most of her life) used to make it for her.

If you are looking for a recipe or can answer a request, write to Julie Rothman, Recipe Finder, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or email baltsunrecipefinder@gmail.com. If you send in more than one recipe, please put each on a separate piece of paper and be sure to include your name, address and daytime phone number. Important: Name and hometown must accompany recipes in order to be published. Please list the ingredients in order of use, and note the number of servings each recipe makes. Please type or print contributions. Letter and recipes may be edited for clarity.

Semi-spicy Italian meatballs

Makes 24 medium-size meatballs

1/2 pound lean pork sausages (spicy is best), removed from casing

1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

1 large egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup milk or water

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1/2 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 overmix.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop (for less messy results), shape the mixture into medium-size 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.

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 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 a tasty homemade dinner in no time flat.