SERVES 6 to 8

My maternal grandmother, Veronica Caroline Rovnak, came to the United States in 1902 from what was then called Czechoslovakia. Her village, not much more than a single street dominated by a white clapboard church, sat deep in a leafy green valley. At 17, she married my Italian grandfather in Pennsylvania, and they passed their fiery emotions to my mom and to me. I never learned much of Granny’s personal history, but I liked to make up stories about gypsies and the evil eye. As a teenager, I gave myself chills by thinking of spies behind the Iron Curtain of Eastern Europe. When I finally visited Prague in 2010, it exceeded my romantic imagination. Everywhere I looked, there was a story: in the cobblestone streets; in the statues atop the buildings; in the stained glass windows; and in the pubs where Czechs drink beer, eat hearty food, and swap tall tales about their everyday lives.


• 1 clove garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
• 1/2 tablespoon salt
• 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
• 1 teaspoon ground paprika
• 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
• 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced (about 1/4 cup)
• 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
• 1 large egg
• 2 pounds ground pork


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

2. In a large bowl, mix the garlic, salt, caraway seeds, paprika, pepper, parsley, mustard, and egg with a fork until combined. With your hands, crumble the pork into the bowl and knead until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

3. Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess. Measure a level tablespoon of pork and roll it into a ball between your palms. Line up the meatballs like little soldiers on the prepared baking sheet, about 1/2 inch apart.

4. Slide the meatballs into the oven and bake for 20–25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

You know how you could do that?

Make ‘em tiny and serve on toothpicks as appetizers; reduce baking time to 10-15 minutes.