This version of sausage balls, a traditional southern appetizer, gets an Italian twist. Pickled cherry peppers add a touch of acid and spice that complements the richness of the sausage and the mozzarella.
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
24 fresh basil leaves
12 slices pickled cherry peppers
24 decorative toothpicks
Position a rack in the top of the oven, and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
Beat the sausage, mozzarella, flour and oil in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until the mixture just comes together. Shape the mixture into balls, using a level tablespoon for each, and set them on the prepared baking sheet at least 1 inch apart (you should have about 24).
Bake the sausage balls until lightly golden brown and slightly puffed, 12 to 15 minutes, turning them halfway through.
To serve, skewer a basil leaf (if the leaves are large, fold them in half), a pepper slice and a sausage ball onto a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining toothpicks and ingredients.
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