Soutzoukakia are football-shaped Greek meatballs baked in savory tomato sauce spiced with cinnamon, clove and herbs. Make this baked meatball recipe for a delicious main dish entree or for a mezze platter.
Greece is a popular tourist destination for many reasons, one in particular being the incredible cuisine! Sharing delicious dishes from a mezze platter over great conversation (and glasses of ouza) is a fantastic way to spend an evening with friends or family.
Fried or baked Greek meatballs would be a great addition to an entree meze!
Cuisine: Mediterranean / Greek
Alternate names/spellings: smyrna meatballs, soutzoukakia smyrneika
Preparation: Baked or fried
Difficulty: Easy 🥄
Ground beef or lamb meatballs covered in rich, cinnamon-spiced tomato sauce
Shopping for the Ground Meat
You don’t need expensive cuts of beef, lamb and pork to make soutzoukakia. In fact, the best cuts of meat for meatballs are those with higher ratios of fat, which are also typically the least expensive.
Whether you’ll be using lamb, beef, pork, or something else, be sure the blend you use has at least 15 percent fat, and 20 percent is even better.
For beef meatballs, ground chuck is a great choice. Chuck is 15 to 20% fat, so it holds together well, keeps the meat moist and has a deep, rich beef flavor.
For ground lamb meatballs, cuts from the shoulder and leg are best. These cuts of lamb are also a great choice for making other ground lamb recipes like Lebanese kafta kebab and kawarma (lamb hummus).
The Secret to Moist Meatballs
- Use fresh herbs whenever possible. Dried herbs tend to absorb moisture from the ground meat
- Don’t over mix, and be gentle when combining the ingredients. The more it’s touched, the drier the meatball mixture becomes. This can lead to tough, dry Greek meatballs.
- Refrigerate the mixture before shaping it into balls. It just needs to chill briefly, about 15 to 20 minutes. It helps prevent the mixture from falling apart.
- Keep your hands wet. Set a bowl of water nearby and wet your hands occasionally when rolling the soutzoukakia. This prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands.
- Bake them in sauce to keep them extra juicy and tender!
Technically, the meatballs could be any size, but most often, they’re made with 2 to 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) of meat mixture.
It’s possible and perfectly safe to bake raw meatballs in sauce! While the sauce does touch the raw meat, it all bakes together to a food-safe temperature of 155°F.
The soutzoukakia are safe to eat when the inside of the meatball is no longer pink and registers an internal temperature of 155°F. Any sauce in the pan with the baked meatballs is also safe to eat.
To reduce the risk of becoming sick from bacteria, any sauce that comes in contact with raw meat that will not be cooked should be discarded.
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Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)
- 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 1/4 cup mint leaves chopped
- Add all tomato sauce ingredients except fresh mint, parsley, bay leaf and olive oil to a blender and purée until smooth.
- Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat. Pour in blended tomato sauce and the fresh mint, parsley and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of water, stirring to make sure the bottom does not scorch, and cook another 10 minutes. Sauce will reduce and thicken.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Grate remaining red onion half and add to a large bowl with the ground beef or lamb. Add remaining meatball ingredients and mix well by hand. Refrigerate to firm up, 15 minutes (optional).
- Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of meat mixture into wet hands and shape into football shaped meatballs. You should have between 12-16 meatballs.
- Place in a greased baking dish and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Top with tomato sauce and bake another 10 minutes. Top with feta cheese, chopped mint and serve.
- Feel free to use lamb as a substitution for the ground beef.
- Juice from onion and grated onion all go in the mix.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.