Pepperoni Meatballs

I've had the idea for these pepperoni meatballs kicking around in my head for a couple years, but it wasn't until this past week that I was finally able to try them. I was initially inspired by one of my brother's friends who used a similar technique when making hamburgers. Instead of just using ground beef or a mixture of raw ground meats, he added finely minced pepperonis to his patties, adding an incredible amount of flavor and seasoning, with very little extra effort.

I wanted to translate his idea into meatballs, which I figured would be delicious in a rich red sauce served over pasta or veggies. I tried on multiple occasions to make these, but kept getting thwarted. Not because the recipe didn't work out, but rather because every single time I bought pepperoni, Eugene would come along and eat most of it before I got the chance to make my recipe.

Finally this past weekend I went out of my way to buy double the amount of pepperoni I needed, and made sure to issue a stern warning to STAY AWAY as it was already spoken for. It worked and so I started Monday by grinding up a pound of pepperoni in my food processor.

The awesome thing about this recipe? All the seasonings are already in the pepperoni, so you literally don't have to add anything else to the meat mixture, apart from a couple eggs, breadcrumbs, and a bit of milk for binding. Certainly makes clean-up a breeze!

I baked my meatballs in the oven in a baking pan filled with crushed tomatoes and fresh basil, and then served them just like that over a pile of steamed zucchini (I was going for a low-carb spaghetti and meatballs kind of dish). They would also be a wonderful twist in a meatball sub or even on their own as a party appetizer.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I initially meant to take a final beauty shot of the finished product and even set some aside to photograph in the daylight the next day, but I got home from a work event so hungry that I was about 3/4 of the way done with the bowl before I realized I forgot to take a picture. Whoops!

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Pepperoni Meatballs
Makes about 20 small meatballs

1/2 pound pepperoni (whole or diced is fine)
1 pound ground beef
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (optional if you want low-carb meatballs, but will make them more tender)
1/3 cup whole milk

Marinara sauce (homemade or jarred), for serving

Use a food processor or meat grinder to finely grind the salami. If you don't have a food processor, use a knife to finely mince the salami by hand (this works best done in small batches at a time).

Combine the ground peperoni and the ground beef in a bowl. Crack in the two eggs and pour in the milk, then use your hands to combine the mixture and work in the eggs, breadcrumbs, and milk. Use a delicate hand, but make sure everything is evenly distributed.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and use damp hands to shape meatballs about 2" in diameter, placing them on the sheet about 1" apart.

To cook:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake meatballs about 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through. At this point, you can freeze the meatballs for use in future recipes OR transfer to a pot of your favorite homemade or jarred marinara sauce and let simmer on the stove about 20 minutes before serving over pasta, vegetables, or on their own as a side.

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