Over the course of nearly 9 years writing this blog, I have posted numerous meatball recipes from many different cultures. Until The Hubs recently came across this one from The Mediterranean Dish, we had never heard of Soutzoukakia, football-shaped Greek meatballs.
Soutzoukakia is not an easy word to enunciate, so try this “soot-zoo-KAH-kee-ah”. Flavor-packed meatballs with loads of aromatics, fresh parsley, and a special blend of spices, including ground cumin and a touch of cinnamon baked in a rich tomato sauce.
Soutzoukakia are delicious meatballs made with ground beef, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and a unique spice combination, the star of which is cumin. The cumin’s warm and distinctive flavor with bitter, lemony undertones provides a great earthy base here. Adding to the flavor is the epic tomato sauce scented with bay, garlic and a touch of cinnamon.
The meatballs are baked in the sauce to create a dish that is comfort food at it’s finest. The secret to making great meatballs that are extra tender and juicy? Add pieces of milk-soaked bread and use a light hand when mixing and forming the meatballs. (With no whole wheat bread slices on hand, we incorporated a toasted hamburger roll.)
When you first eyeball all of the ingredients, you may say “No way!” But if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that 4 of those ingredients repeat in both the meatballs and in the sauce. Plus, there is no need to brown the meatballs, which is a time-saver in itself.
To make ahead, you can prep both the sauce and meatball mixture the day before. Mix the meatball mixture and keep it in the fridge for up to one day in advance. When you’re ready, form the meat into oblong shapes, place them in an oiled baking dish, and pour the sauce over. Bake and serve. Quickly cook up some rice or orzo and heap meatballs and sauce atop them. Dinner done.
Soutzoukakia: Greek Baked Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
- 2 slices whole wheat bread, toast-size, toasted to a medium-brown (or use gluten free bread if you need)
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- 1½ lbs. lean ground beef
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil, to grease the baking dish
For Red Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 30 oz. canned tomato sauce, that’s 2, 15-oz. cans of sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- ¾ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. sugar
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- In a small bowl, place the toasted bread and cover with milk (or water) to soak. When bread is soft and well-soaked, squeeze the liquid out completely and discard remaining milk if any.
- Transfer the bread to a large mixing bowl. Add round beef and remaining meatball ingredients. Knead well until well-combined. Cover the meat mixture and rest in the fridge for now.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- While oven is heating, prepare the sauce. In a sauce pan or large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook for another minute, stirring regularly.
- Now add red wine and cook to reduce by about ½, then add tomato sauce, bay leaf and remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Prepare a large baking dish and lightly oil the bottom with extra virgin olive oil.
- Take the meat mixture out of the fridge. Wet your hands and scoop portions of about 2 ½ tablespoons of the meat mixture and form into large elongated meatballs (football-shaped). You should have 12 to 16 meatballs or so. Arrange meatballs in the papered baking dish and top with the sauce. Be sure to have removed the bay leaf from the sauce.
- Place the baking dish on the middle rack of your heated oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the meatballs are well cooked through. Check part-way through to make sure sauce is not dry, and if needed, add a little bit of water to the bottom of the baking dish.
- Remove from oven and add another drizzle of EVOO. Garnish with parsley and serve over rice or orzo.
Adapted recipe from Suzy Karadsheh