Greek meatballs (Soutzoukakia)

The greek meatballs with beef minced meat in tomato sauce are delicious ! 
I love both miniature and oversized soutzoukakia (the greek meatballs in tomato sauce)! And , when I am really hungry, this is the kind of food I look for … satisfaction guaranteed!

10387305_10207228358250586_7783138220181143693_n-2Subsequently, the question that remains is if I should make them XS , M or XL. To give you an idea of their size , think of soutzoukakia anywhere between a one bite meatball (XS) to a whopping oval-shaped burger (XL).

Last time we gathered with my pals to work for a whole day at home , I made my soutzoukakia extra-large so we could … extra-enjoy them at our lunch brake. At times however, especially when I pair them with French fries, I go for the tiny version! This way a single forkful cοnsists of two perfect fries and a mini soutzoukaki meat ball the two of them combined into a heavenly bite.

Oversized soutzoukakia remind me also of greek old ferries’ dining rooms (when real and good food was served , not just snacks and chips). Or summer camps with hungry teenagers eagerly queuing for freshly-cooked self-service delicious food. Or country side unpretentious greek taverns that still insist today on serving only the typical greek food…

You understand, I love them madly! That’s why I usually wait for the summer and the tomato season to cook soutzoukakia. I want to get the acidity of the tomatoes combined with the aroma of the herbs and the sweetness of the spices that all cook together in a delicious sauce.

Soutzoukakia will remain for me a summer thing to be enjoyed after long hours of swimming around a table with lots of good friends. It is a satisfying dish for a parea to share and not so much for the solitary eater.

If you opt for oversized soutzoukakia you may have just one little problem: you may not be able to fit them all in one home pan (the professional-grade pots that resemble …small swimming pools and are found in the greek tavernas can fit tens of soutzoukakia in them – a brilliant picture in itself!). So you may have to divide the XL soutzoukakia and their accompanying sauce into two deep pots (with lid) in order for them to spread out and cook properly, with the sauce covering all of the soutzoukakia bodies, small or large. Each kilo of minced meat (half beef and half pork) makes 10 extra-large soutzoukakia that might fit in your largest frying pan or twenty plus smaller ones .

For two kilos of minced meat (1 kg pork and 1 kg beef) which yield about 25 huge soutzoukakia ) you’ll need some ingredients to bind together the minced meat and some others to keep it light and moist.

Which ingredients are used to bind minced meat?
Soaked bread: For 2 kg minced meat use 1/2 kg loaf of white soaked and thoroughly squeezed bread and knead with minced meat until very well combined and no bread pieces show.
Spices: hot or sweet paprika, cumin and some sumac if you like a hint of lemon .
Egg (if you choose to use it use a whole egg, personally I don’t use it for this dish)
And finally, the good kneading so to blend and combine all ingredients.

Which ingredients keep the soutzoukakia moist and give them a light bite?
A splash of white wine vinegar
Lots of finely chopped spearmint and parsley
Lots of onion (well-minced in a blender with a bit of water, juices included)
A splash of ouzo
1 small ripe peeled tomato passed through the blender or some tomato ketchup or tomato paste (2 tablespoons per kilo)

Which ingredient and what else makes minced meat elastic and easy to shape in its final form?
Olive oil
Good kneading

What’s else?
The intense trademark taste, mint! Hit the mix with loads of spearmint, plenty of finely chopped or minced garlic, pinch of cumin and a splash of ouzo.
Am I forgetting something?
Yes! Salt and pepper. Plenty of it!

What about the sauce?
Ideally (for 2 kilos of minced meat) you need:

  • At least 1 ½ – 2 kilos tomatoes, peeled and pureed
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, halved
  • 3-4 thin carrot slices
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • Some allspice berries
  • Some black pepper corns
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine

Water added to the tomatoes, but just enough to half cover the soutzoukakia meat balls.
Put all ingredients in a wide pot and let it simmer before adding the soutzoukakia.

Making the soutzoukakia :
Thoroughly mix all ingredients , working the mix well with your hands, and shape the soutzoukakia into oval meat balls. Make sure you can smell the ouzo, spearmint and cumin in the mix.
Flour them lightly and fry in olive oil over high heat, for a few minutes on each side until they turn golden but not cooked thoroughly through as they will get extra cooking in the sauce.
Using tongs or two spoons carefully transfer the soutzoukakia meatballs into the simmering sauce pot.

Let them simmer in the sauce for at least an hour. Do not stir with a ladle, use tongs or two spoons instead to turn them carefully into the sauce from time to time.

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Serve the soutzoukakia topped with a lot of tomato sauce.

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