Soutzoukakia (Spiced Greek meatballs in a red wine and tomato sauce)

With the advent of Fall comes the desire for heartier dishes like these Greek spiced, juicy meatballs cooked in a thick, rich and aromatic tomato sauce. Over time, we have perfected the recipe and execution of this classic.  After trying out all kinds of different ways to prepare this, we have added some little twists that elevate the dish even further, to what is now heavenly! It has become one of our family's firm favourites, especially during the colder months of the year.

This dish is of course about high quality ingredients and their ideal proportions but it is also very much about style. It is one of our pet peeves to get this dish served in huge, long, fat shapes. The meatballs must be small, delectable morsels to be eaten in one delicious bite. Too many times have we been disappointed because the cook went for the faster-to-make large lumps of meat mixture. Like with so many other things, it's all about standards and style. 
This dish freezes well, so I like to make double quantities and freeze one part for a pre-cooked meal for another day.  This recipe is gluten free.

Ingredients (serves about 8 people)  
For the meatballs:
750 grs ground beef 5% fat
2 medium onions pureed in a blender
2-3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 cup plain, gluten free oats 
3/4 cup red wine (Mavrodafni or VinSanto)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten with a few drops of milk 
olive oil for baking tray
salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
750ml tomato passata
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup red wine (Mavrodafni or VinSanto)
1 vegetable bouillon cube 
1 onion, pureed
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chilli (optional)
Preparation
  • Line a backing tray with lightly oiled baking paper and preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. 
  • In a large bowl combine the meatball ingredients and kneed through until you have a homogeneous mixture ready to be shaped into little bites.  I use an ice cream scoop which holds 50grs of meat per scoop to do this.  I just divide the scoop in two equal portions and this gives me bites of about 25gr each, which I believe is an ideal size. 
  • Line the meatballs up on your prepared baking tray and once filled, put in the pre-heated oven for about 8-9 minutes.  Take out, turn meatballs over and bake for another 5-6 minutes.
  • In the meantime, in a large stovetop pot, mix your sauce ingredients together until well combined. Put on medium high heat and wait until the sauce starts bubbling.  Reduce heat a little bit and let bubble away for about 10 minutes longer until it starts to slightly thicken. 
  • Gently add the meatballs you have by now taken out of the oven, one by one.  Cook on a simmer for another 15 minutes.  If you find that the sauce is too thick, add some water and heat through.  I you find it is too thin add a tbsp of tomato paste and one tsp of corn flour, diluted in a little bit of cold water.
Serve over a bed of long grain rice or with potato mash or fries, sprinkled with some fresh, thinly shredded flat leaf parsley.

To buy Opus oléa click here.