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Gluten-Free Mediterranean: Soutzoukakia (Baked Meatballs in Red Sauce)

Try this fantastic recipe for Soutzoukakia shared with Active Retirees by Helen Tzouganatos from her cookbook Gluten-Free Mediterranean.

My paternal grandparents were Greek refugees from Asia Minor (now mostly modern-day Turkey). I met them only once on my first trip to Greece when I was 10. At the time, I didn’t understand why they spoke to each other in Turkish. Much later I discovered that for many years they were forbidden to speak Greek under Turkish rule. In 1922 at the end of the Greco–Turkish War, during a population exchange between the two countries, they were forced to abandon their home and settled in northern Greece, bringing many dishes from Asia Minor with them. Soutzoukakia was one of those recipes.

During my stay with my grandmother, she baked these mouthwatering cumin- and cinnamon-scented meatballs in rich tomato sauce for me. Now I make gluten-free soutzoukakia for my kids, and swap out the bread in the mince mixture with finely grated potato to keep the meatballs super light and fluffy. The intoxicating aroma of the simmering sauce still takes me straight back to Yiayia’s village kitchen. I love that this warming and delicious recipe is imbued with the history of my father’s family.



cooked basmati rice or gluten-free pasta, to serve


2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 large all-purpose potato (such as sebago), peeled and finely grated, excess moisture squeezed out
250 g pork mince
250 g beef mince
1 onion, grated, excess moisture squeezed out
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 egg

Red Sauce

80 ml (1⁄3 cup) extra-virgin olive oil 1 large onion, finely chopped pinch of sea salt flakes
1 garlic clove, finely grated
125 ml (1⁄2 cup) red wine
2 x 400 g cans crushed tomatoes 1⁄2 teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 fresh bay leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
pinch of grated nutmeg
3 whole cloves


1. Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then roll the mixture into 16 oval-shaped logs. Transfer to a baking dish.

2. For the red sauce, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, stirring to release any caramelised bits caught on the base, and simmer for 2–3 minutes or until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, caster sugar, herbs and spices, stir to combine and simmer for 20 minutes to thicken the sauce.

3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan-forced).

4. Pour the sauce over meatballs and bake for 20 minutes until rich and golden. Serve with cooked rice or pasta and a sprinkling of parsley over the top.

Gluten-Free Mediterranean by Helen Tzouganatos, published by Plum, RRP $44.99, photography by Jeremy Simons.