Soutzoukakia: Traditional Greek Baked Meatballs in Sauce (Smyrna Meatballs)

Soutzoukakia is a spicy meatballs dish with cumin, cinnamon, and garlic served in tomato sauce. This traditional soutzoukakia recipe is also known as Smyrna meatballs or soutzoukakia Smyreika. It was introduced to Greek cuisine at the beginning of the 20th century by the Greek refugees from Asia Minor after the Great Fire of Smyrna. 

The ingredient that makes soutzoukakia unique is cumin. Cumin is a warm and earthy fragrant spice that will soak through the meat and infuse it with its unique spicy bittersweet aroma and light citrus overtones. However, as cumin is strong and a little overpowering, it needs to be moderately used. As I prefer my soutzoukakia to be light, I usually bake them. There are those, however, who prefer to fry them. If you prefer frying the soutzoukakia, I suggest you lightly coat the meatballs in flour before frying in enough vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Also, make sure that they are well cooked on all sides.

This authentic soutzoukakia recipe, which serves 4 persons, takes 50 minutes to prepare and 35 minutes to cook.  

Soutzoukakia: Traditional Greek Baked Meatballs in Sauce (Smyrna Meatballs)

Soutzoukakia - Ingredients

  • 500 gr of ground beef
  • 2 thick slices of bread, without the crust
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp. of cumin
  • 1 tsp. of dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp. of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. of sea salt  
  • ½ tsp. of pepper
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 30 gr of flour, for frying
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the soutzoukakia tomato sauce

  • 1 can of plum tomatoes, pureed and strained to remove seeds
  • 50 ml of Greek olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ tsp. of cumin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 50 ml of white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp of cinnamon
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Soutzoukakia - How to Make

  1. Start making soutzoukakia by pouring the wine and soaking the bread on a soup plate. 
  2. After a few minutes, squeeze the liquid out from the bread loaves.
  3. Take a large bowl, add the ground beef, egg, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, and the soaked bread. Mix well until you get a homogeneous mixture. 
  4. Place the ground beef mixture in the fridge for at least ½ hour to rest.
  5. In the meantime prepare the tomato sauce. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until soft and translucent.
  6. Preheat oven to 170 C 
  7. Add the garlic, cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon, wine, and plum tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
  8. Wet your hands and form the beef into quenelle-shaped little sausages. 
  9. Bake in the oven until lightly brown for around 20 minutes.
  10. Transfer the meatballs to the saucepan containing the tomato sauce and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. 
  11. Remove the bay leaves and garnish with chopped parsley.
  12. Serve the soutzoukakia. 
I usually like eating soutzoukakia with plain white rice. Enjoy