Soutzoukakia are a -special occasion -food, something served when you have company or for a Sunday dinner. One of the reasons is that, well, this is meat and meat was not served every day, the second reason is that these meatballs are exceptional.
These are not just any old meatballs: Meatballs full of spice, drenched in thick tomato sauce satisfy that need, when you really want something rich.
However, I’ll eat them occasionally at a restaurant because they are a bit too “rich”. You see, the traditional way is to make them is by frying them, this preparation along with all the spices make them very tasty, but sometimes a bit difficult to digest. But there is a solution: Baking them.
By avoiding the frying you have a slightly lighter dish but you still use all the spices. There is no difference in flavor. You can adjust the spices more or less to your taste, but this Asia Minor influenced dish is meant to be spicy.
This particular recipe is an altered version by my mom from the traditional Greek cookbook of Hrisa Paradisi. In her book she includes the regular recipe (fried) but also a baked one. My mom and I slightly adjusted it (Paradisi recommends using butter-my mom used only olive oil). The tomato sauce is simple, and when heated along with the olive oil you have an increased absorption of lycopene (a protective antioxidant) but also increased absorption of iron from the meat.
Usually this dish is accompanied with rice and a seasonal salad. For a balanced meal, ideally you want the meat to make up ¼ of the meal, ¼ the starch and the rest salad or other vegetables. You may also serve this as an appetizer, if you do, I like shaping them in smaller bite-size shapes. This also freezes well (without the rice).
The beauty of this recipe, is that it looks difficult to make but in fact it is very straightforward and the result is a beautiful and delicious dish.
Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved