We Greeks are pretty simplistic when it comes to ingredients. I would venture to say that 95% of savory dishes are made with either tomatoes or lemons, and always with oregano. Desserts? Well, it just isn’t a Greek dessert if it doesn’t have nuts and honey. Not that I’m complaining. I love all of those ingredients and I love the simplicity of Mediterranean cooking.
Soutzoukakia (soo-tzoo-kah-kya) are one of my husband’s and my favorite Greek dishes (despite the fact that the first time I made them, they needed salt like whoa). I haven’t made this dish in quite some time, as I tend to think of it as more of a fall or winter meal for some reason. When Tom suggested it for dinner, I just had to make it. Growing up, we always ate soutzoukakia over mashed potatoes. However, I have also seen them served over rice. I haven’t personally tried them that way, but I still think I prefer potatoes :) The one thing we were missing tonight was some crusty bread to sop up all the tomato sauce.
As a complete side note, if you happen to be wondering, the suffix “aki” or “akia” in Greek means little. I mention this because you may have noticed that my youvarlakia also have the same suffix. Paidakia, for example, means little kids. If you wanted to call me “Ellaki” it would mean…well, little Elly, I guess. :)
1 medium onion, divided
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 Tbsp. bread crumbs (optional)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can water
2 bay leaves
1/2 – 1 tsp. cumin (I start with 1/2 and taste-test)
1 pinch sugar
salt and pepper
corn starch slurry (optional)
Finely mince or grate half of the onion into a large bowl. Lightly mix in the beef, salt, oregano, garlic, parsley, egg, pepper to taste and breadcrumbs (if using). Form the mixture into elongated/oval-shaped meatballs.
Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium Dutch oven or pot over medium-high. Pan-fry the meatballs, in batches, until they are browned on all sides. Remove.
Dice the other half of the onion, and add it to the pot; cook until translucent. Add the tomato sauce, water, bay leaf, cumin, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a low boil and add the meatballs. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine too. If you want a thicker sauce, add a corn starch slurry at the end.