Soutzoukakia Smyrneika are sausage-shaped meatballs that are cooked in a hearty tomato sauce. I like to serve them with creamy mashed potatoes. This classic Greek comfort food can be made ahead and frozen for those busy days and it’s a recipe that the whole family will love.
What makes these meatballs so flavorful and soft?
These meatballs are moist and loaded with flavor. Traditionally, cumin and cinnamon are added but, I leave out the cinnamon and add a little extra cumin. My kids will only eat cinnamon in desserts. The soutzoukakia stay very soft from the addition of breadcrumbs. I usually have Panko breadcrumbs in my pantry so, that’s what I use but, in Greece, bread that has been soaked in milk (and sometimes wine) is used. If you’re sticking to a gluten-free diet then, feel free to substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs or even some mashed potatoes for the breadcrumbs.
However, make sure to not skip the addition of the breadcrumbs otherwise the meatballs will not be soft and moist.
How to make the Soutzoukakia
I like to use my food processor for this recipe and I almost always make a double and sometimes triple batch. It takes a little bit of extra time and effort but boy, is it worth it. The meatballs freeze beautifully and are a lifesaver on busy days.
- Pulse the garlic first so that there aren’t any big bites of garlic in the meatballs.
- Then, add the parsley and chop that up in the food processor. Don’t worry about the thin stems. Add those in for flavor. You won’t even know that they’re in there.
- Quarter the onions before adding them to the food processor so that they’re chopped evenly. Also, take care not to add too many quarters at the same time. Do this in batches so that they are uniformly sized.
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. The best tools for this step are your two clean hands. 😁
- As for the ground meat, I usually use beef but, lamb or poultry meat can be used instead.
- Form the soutzoukakia into any shape that you like. You can form them in the traditional sausage shape or into meatballs.
- At this point, if you’ve made an extra batch, you can freeze the soutzoukakia until they’re solid and then transfer them to freezer-safe bags. They will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Pan-fry the soutzoukakia in some olive oil for just a few minutes on each side. We’re not cooking them all the way through as they will cook in the sauce. We just want them to get lightly browned. This adds flavor! Alternatively, place them on a baking tray and brush the tops with some olive oil. Broil them for a few minutes until they’re golden.
- Add the sauce to the pan and bake for about 30 minutes. Here’s another option: Cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce on the stovetop. So many choices! Let me know which way you made them in the comments.😀
About the Sauce
The Sauce for these Smyrneika Soutzoukakia could not be simpler to make. If you’re in a hurry, feel free to use store-bought pasta sauce instead of making it from scratch. Again, the characteristic flavor of this rich tomato sauce comes from cumin and cinnamon. I leave out the cinnamon and add cumin instead. It’s ready in 20 minutes and why not make a large batch of it to have on hand. This sauce is great anywhere that pasta sauce is used. Can, it freeze it, or make enough for the week and keep a jar or two in the refrigerator.
Here’s what you will need to make this sauce from scratch:
- olive oil
- crushed tomatoes from a can or grated fresh tomatoes
- sugar or honey
- a bay leaf
- cinnamon and cumin powder
- salt and pepper
- dried oregano or your favorite herb
How to make the creamiest Mashed Potatoes
Creamy mashed potatoes are the perfect accompaniment for these baked meatballs. I’ve tested my mashed potato recipe over and over again using different methods: the stand mixer (they come out a bit overdone with a gluey -is that even a word?- consistency, with a potato masher: it’s great if you like a chunkier mashed potato but I’m going for creamy. So, the best way to make these mashed potatoes consistently creamy every single time is with a stainless steel potato ricer.
My next tip is to use roasted garlic! Most recipes call for grated garlic but trust me when I tell you that using roasted garlic takes these mashed potatoes to the next level of deliciousness. Raw garlic has a bite to it. Roasted garlic on the other hand has a mellow taste with the best garlicky flavor. I usually keep a small batch in my freezer.
Last, season the mashed potatoes well. Potatoes need plenty of salt so, taste as you slowly add it until it is just the way you like it.
How to Roast Garlic:
- Spread a layer of peeled garlic cloves in a baking tray. Drizzle lots of olive oil on top. Enough to create a layer of olive oil under the garlic cloves. Sprinkle some salt over the garlic and toss.
- Roast the garlic in a preheated 350 °F, 180 °C oven for about 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and golden.
- Puree the garlic and olive oil in a blender and transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container. This puree will keep fresh in the freezer for months. Use it in soups, stews, dips, sauces, or in mashed potatoes.
I love freezer-safe dishes. This entire menu is freezer-friendly. I generally don’t freeze mashed potatoes but, it can be done successfully. They’re ready in under 30 minutes so, I usually make them fresh. I always keep soutzoukakia or meatballs in my freezer. They’re such a lifesaver on those busy days when the family is craving home-cooking and I have a few minutes to put a meal on the table.
How to prepare this meal a day ahead:
- Shape the soutzoukakia and place them in an airtight container and then, refrigerate them.
- Make the sauce and refrigerate.
- Warm the sauce while the soutzoukakia are pan fried or broiled.
- Add the sauce and meatballs to a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Serve with mashed potatoes that are made fresh or warmed through from the previous day’s prep.
- Shape the soutzoukakia and place them on a tray and in the freezer to set and harden for about an hour. Transfer them to freezer-safe bags or containers and freeze for up to 3 months. The sauce can also be made ahead and stored in freezer-safe bags. To freeze the mashed potatoes, mash them with extra butter and once they cool, transfer them into freezer-safe bags. Flatten the bags out and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to make the meal, thaw the soutzoukakia in the refrigerator overnight and then pan fry and bake in the sauce.
- Alternatively, pan-fry the soutzoukakia and place them in a freezer-safe baking dish along with the sauce. Cool completely and cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- Reheat the thawed mashed potatoes with some extra half and half along with some butter.
Watch the video tutorial
Other recipes to try:
- For the Meatballs:
- 2 pounds ground beef (lean or 80/20)
- 2 small onions
- A small bunch of fresh parsley, washed and dried
- 1 and ½ cups breadcrumbs
- ½ cup milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 and ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
- 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, pureed
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed oregano
For the Mashed Potatoes:
- 4 pounds Russet or Gold potatoes or a combination of both
- 1 and ¼ cup half and half, heated
- 4 ounces salted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons roasted garlic puree
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 °F, 200 °C.
Make the meatballs:
Add the garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Remove the leaves from the parsley and add to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Peel and quarter the onions and add to the food processor in a few batches and pulse until finely chopped.
Add the onion, parsley, and garlic to a large mixing bowl along with all of the remaining meatball ingredients and mix well.
Shape the meatballs into balls or sausages and place on a baking tray.
Heat some olive oil in a cast-iron skillet and pan-fry the meatballs 3-4 minutes per side until golden. Transfer to a baking dish.
Make the sauce:
Add the olive oil and garlic to a small saucepan. Heat through for a few seconds and immediately add the pureed tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and sugar. Add the bay leaf and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the dried oregano.
Assemble the dish:
Remove the soutzoukakia from the baking pan and pour the sauce on the bottom. Add the soutzoukakia over the sauce.
Bake in a preheated oven on the center rack for about 30 minutes.
Make the Mashed Potatoes:
While the soutzoukakia are baking make the mashed potatoes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-inch cubes. Add the potatoes to a pot and cover with cold water. Season with a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until fork-tender. About 8-10 minutes. Drain the water from the potatoes.
Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into a mixing bowl. Add the hot half and half in a few batches along with the melted butter. Season with salt, pepper, and roasted garlic. Mix well with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Serve the meal with a salad and some feta cheese. Enjoy!
Freezer Instructions: Shape the soutzoukakia and place them on a tray and in the freezer to set and harden for about an hour. Transfer them to freezer-safe bags or containers and freeze for up to 3 months. The sauce can also be made ahead and stored in freezer-safe bags. To freeze the mashed potatoes, mash them with extra butter and once they cool, transfer them into freezer-safe bags. Flatten the bags out and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to make the meal, thaw the soutzoukakia in the refrigerator overnight and then pan fry and bake in the sauce.
Alternatively, pan-fry the soutzoukakia and place them in a freezer-safe baking dish along with the sauce. Cool completely and cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Reheat the thawed mashed potatoes with some extra half and half along with some butter.
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