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Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Here’s A Soutzoukakia Recipe For Flavorful Meatballs!

If you’re looking for a Greek dish that is meaty, flavorful, and great for the colder months, soutzoukakia are certainly for you.

Known in Greek as “soutzoukakia Smyrneika” (because these meatballs originally came from Smyrna, now İzmir, in Turkey), these little meatballs have a classic oval shape and are served in a rich homemade tomato sauce made with red wine and cumin.

You can enjoy them with rice or potatoes and a side salad for a filling, well-rounded meal!

large pot on counter filled with meatballs in tomato sauce.
The combination of meatballs and tomato sauce is delicious.

Ingredients

ingredients to make meatballs on counter in bowls with labels.
The ingredients needed to make Soutzoukakia!

To make this recipe, here are the Greek soutzoukakia ingredients that you will need. They are slightly different from the Turkish version, so pay attention to the spices and meat used!

  • Minced beef – The main ingredient of the dish. You can also use a mixture of lamb and beef or pork and beef.
  • Slices of bread – Can be slightly stale. Alternatively, you could use unseasoned breadcrumbs.
  • Eggs – Acts as a binder so the meatballs keep their shape.
  • Onion – We use yellow onions; adjust to taste. Some for the meatballs, some for the sauce.
  • Garlic cloves – To add extra flavor to the meatballs and the sauce.
  • Ground cinnamon – To season the meatballs.
  • Ground cumin – To season the meatballs and the sauce.
  • Fresh parsley – To season the meatballs and the sauce.
  • Salt – To enhance the overall flavor; adjust to taste.
  • Black pepper – To add a hint of spice.
  • Olive oil – To grease the baking dish and sauté the onions.
  • Tomato passata – The tomato base for the sauce. Alternatively, you can use unseasoned tomato sauce.
  • Red wine – Adds depth and richness to the sauce. Choose a wine you would drink, but it doesn’t have to be top quality.
  • Granulated sugar – To balance the acidity of the tomato sauce.

Recipe Tips

Before you tackle these Greek meatballs in tomato sauce, have a quick read through these recipe tips so that you have success with this recipe!

  • To keep the bread from getting too soggy, you can toast it first until brown.
  • Soak the slices of bread in a small bowl with water or milk until soft (this doesn’t take long for untoasted bread). Then squeeze out the liquid.
  • Use good quality spices for a flavorful dish. Adjust the amount of herbs and spices depending on your personal preference.
  • Make sure the meatballs are about the same size so they cook evenly.
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How to Make Soutzoukakia – Step by Step Instructions

In this section, we’ll show you exactly how to make soutzoukakia with recipe process photos. This way you can follow along at home and compare as you cook.

Of course, you can find the detailed recipe card with the exact measurements and steps at the end of this post. Feel free to skip ahead if you don’t like visuals!

ingredients for meatballs in mixing bowl on counter.
Place the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl.

First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large baking dish with olive oil.

Then add the minced beef, soaked bread, eggs, grated onion, minced garlic, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper to a mixing bowl.

blended raw ingredients for meatballs in white mixing bowl on counter.
The ingredients should be well mixed.

Use your clean hands to mix everything together. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.

sixteen oval shaped meatballs in glass baking dish on counter.
Shape the meatballs.

Wet your hands, take about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture and form into an oblong shape. They should all be about the same size.

Place the prepared meatballs in the greased baking dish and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.

onions and spices frying in oil in large sauce pan with counter around.
Sauté the onions.

While the meatballs are baking, prepare the tomato sauce. In a pot or a deep pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the cumin and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for another minute.

tomato sauce in large pot with chopped parsley on and mixing spoon in the sauce.
Add the wine and tomato passata.

Finally add the wine, the tomato passata, sugar and chopped parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the Soutzoukakia sauce starts to thicken.

cooked meatballs sitting in pot covered in red tomato sauce.
Place the cooked meatballs in the pot.

When the meatballs are done, add them to the tomato sauce and continue to cook for another 20 minutes.

meatballs in tomato sauce on plate with fork cutting one in half.
Enjoy these meatballs in tomato sauce!

Garnish with fresh parsley and/or feta cheese (optional). You can serve the meatballs with rice or mashed potatoes and a side salad. Enjoy!

Storage Tips

If you have leftovers, allow the meatballs and sauce to cool, then place them in a sealed container in the fridge. Properly stored, they’ll keep for up to 3-4 days.

To reheat, you can either place the meatballs in tomato sauce in a saucepan and heat them on the stovetop over medium-low heat, or place them in a microwave-safe dish and reheat in the microwave.

If using the microwave, use a microwave-safe cover or lid to prevent splattering.

FAQ

What is soutzoukakia?

Soutzoukakia – known as soutzoukakia Smyrneika in Greece, are oblong meatballs made with beef, garlic, cinnamon, and cumin that are cooked in and served with a fragrant tomato sauce. The dish is popular in both Greece and Turkey, having been brought to Greece by refugees from the Anatolia region.

What is the difference between keftedes and soutzoukakia?

While both are types of Greek meatballs, keftedes are typically round in shape while soutzoukakia are usually more oval. Keftedes have a more basic (but still delicious) flavor, seasoned with salt, pepper, and onion, while soutzoukakia are more fragrant with the addition of cumin and cinnamon. Unlike keftedes, soutzoukakia are usually simmered in tomato sauce.

Related Recipes

If you enjoyed these meatballs, here are some other classic Greek recipes that you might want to try – and they all include meat:

large pot filled with greek meatballs covered in tomato sauce.

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Soutzoukakia are classic Greek meatballs in a rich and flavorful tomato sauce. Made with beef and fragrant spices like cumin and cinnamon, these meatballs can be enjoyed with rice or mashed potatoes for a filling main dish.
4.80 from 5 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 5

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 pounds minced beef
  • 4 slices of bread, soaked and drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, to grease the baking dish

Tomato sauce

  • 33 ounces tomato passata, approximately
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 onion, thinly diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

To Garnish (optional)

  • fresh parsley, chopped
  • feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions

Make the meatballs

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Grease a large baking dish with olive oil.
    olive oil
  • Add all the meatball ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix everything together. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes.
    1 1/2 pounds minced beef, 4 slices of bread, 2 eggs, 1 small onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, salt, black pepper
  • Wet your hands, take about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the meatball mixture and form into an oblong shape.
  • Place the prepared meatballs in the greased baking dish.
  • Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.

Make the tomato sauce

  • While the meatballs are baking, prepare the tomato sauce. In a pot or a deep pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.
    1 onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the cumin and a bit of salt and pepper and cook for another minute.
    2 garlic cloves, salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Finally, add the wine, tomato passata, sugar and chopped parsley. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the Soutzoukakia sauce starts to thicken.
    33 ounces tomato passata, 1/2 cup red wine, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • When the meatballs are cooked, add them to the tomato sauce and continue cooking for another 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and/or feta cheese. You can serve the meatballs with rice or mashed potatoes and a side salad.
    fresh parsley, feta cheese

Notes

  • You can also use a mixture of minced beef and lamb or minced beef and pork.
  • The bread can be slightly stale. You can also toast it first until brown to keep it from getting too soggy. Alternatively, you could use unseasoned breadcrumbs.
  • Soak the bread slices in a small bowl with water or milk until soft. Then squeeze out the liquid.
  • Instead of tomato passata, you can use unseasoned tomato sauce. 
  • Use good quality spices for a flavorful dish. Adjust the amount of herbs and spices to taste.
  • Make sure the meatballs are about the same size so they cook evenly.

Nutrition

Calories: 612kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 162mg | Sodium: 286mg | Potassium: 1433mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 2074IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 139mg | Iron: 9mg

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Dinner
Cuisine Greek
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This recipe was contributed by
Stefani Stefovska
Born and raised in North Macedonia, Stefani started cooking from a very young age. Her family passed down their love for food and cooking together with many traditional Balkan and Greek recipes.

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