Cooking makes up a huge part of Laura Rysz’s family traditions.

While she grew up in Haddonfield, New Jersey, her parents, Dan and Susan Rysz, made delicious homecooked meals for her and her brothers, Danny and Eddie.

Rysz — a copy editor for The Sunday Times and calendar editor for Access NEPA — also spent every Christmas Eve with her father’s side of the family. There, her grandmother, Maria Bormolini Rysz, would cook Polish and Italian dishes such as Gnocchi, Pierogi and Kielbasa with Pineapples, Yellow Rice, Polenta and Meatballs.

Being around great cooks helped spark Rysz’s own interest in the craft, though she really began to expand her skillset when she moved to Northeast Pennsylvania. Today, she lives in New Milford with her boyfriend, Nate Calabro, and their cats, Holly and Kit, and one of her recipe staples is Simple Italian Meatballs. This earned St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, Scranton, a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore, through Local Flavor Gives Back’s Times-Shamrock employee edition.

The dish’s ease is in its name, though Rysz tweaked it a little bit. The best-tasting results come from combining a package of meatloaf mix with 90% lean ground beef and Parmesan before baking them. While the original recipe advised to bake the meatballs for 35 minutes, Rysz cut that down to 25 minutes at 350 F. She then serves the meatballs with marinara sauce over pasta or in meatball subs.

No matter what she cooks, Rysz uses what she learned from her family as well as knowledge she’s gained along the way to express her creativity in the kitchen. Some of her favorite dishes to make include Baked Salmon with Green Beans, Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Marsala, Parmesan Spinach Orzo, Tortellini Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup. Rysz does most of the cooking, she said, while Calabro is the official taste-tester. And he takes his job very seriously.

“Usually, I’ll make meatballs and half of them are gone the next day,” she said.

Rysz also is a total foodie and loves to check out new restaurants in the area. Before the coronavirus pandemic, she was part of a small group who tasted adventurous dishes all over NEPA.

When it comes to cooking, however, her grandmother serves as her biggest inspiration.

“She will run over homemade soup when you are sick, and she is just so warm and friendly,” Rysz said. “She’s a woman who will feed your soul with her cooking.”