Saucy Soutzoukakia are pure comfort food
To say meatballs are one of my favorite comfort foods would be an understatement. I love them with any type of ground meat, served alone, or Keftedes served with tzatziki on a mezze spread. I make them all the time for my Los Angeles personal chef clients because they are so versatile, delicious, and freeze well. But one of my favorite ways to eat them is in tomato sauce full of savory spices like in this Soutzoukakia recipe.
History of Soutzoukakia
Soutzoukakia is an iconic Greek dish of braised meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce that comes from the Greeks who lives in the Asia Minor, or present day Turkey. The full Greek name for this dish is Soutzoukakia Smyrneika. The Smyrneika in the name is for Smyrna, or present day Izmir, Turkey. The Greeks who were refugees when the Turks burned Smyrna in 1922 (the event that decidedly ended the Greco-Turkish War) brought this recipe back to Greece and across the world with them.
While cooking meatballs in tomato sauce may seem link an incredibly Italian application, this tastes much different from traditional meatballs marinara. The spiced in the sauce are what really distinguish this dish. Ground cumin, cinnamon, and smoked paprika along with a dash of hot chili flakes infuse the sauce with a depth that brings your palate directly to the region. When I was living with Sicily, I cooked this for my Sicilian roommates because it was similar to the meatballs they were familiar with, but the spices in the sauce took it in a totally different direction.
How to serve
You can serve this dish as part of a mezze platter with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce. But I recommend it as a main course. Serve it over rice, or even some saffron infused rice. It also pairs nicely with potatoes, either mashed or roasted.