Tender and delicious, meatballs are an excellent way to add a Mediterranean twist to your meal. Keftedes (Greek meatballs) are a famous Greek appetizer, often served as a meze. However, my family loves keftedes as a meal with some greens and garlicky tzatziki sauce. Leftovers are great with tomato sauce and pasta. You can even pack leftovers in the next day’s lunch box – no spill, no mess, just Mediterranean goodness!
The flavors in this recipe are a variation of the soutzoukakia in my book, The Mediterranean Diet. Soutzoukakia is a dish introduced to the Greeks via Turkey in the early 20th century. The secret to the taste is the cumin.
The eggs in the recipe serve as a binder, and the bread crumbs and water make these meatballs light and fluffy.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, minced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2 pounds ground meat – beef, lamb, pork, or even turkey
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup grated Kefolatyri cheese, or grated Parmagiana
- ¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup fine breadcrumbs made from stale bread, or use Panko
- ½ cup water
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring until the onions are very soft and just starting to get golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the mixture cool.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl use your hands to combine the meat, cumin, salt, eggs, cheese, parsley, and bread crumbs.
- Add the cooled onion mixture and water, and, again using your hands, combine the mixture well. It should be quite sticky, so add a little more water if needed.
- Scoop out 1 heaping teaspoon of the mixture and form it into a small patty. Fry this patty in a small skillet. When done, taste the patty and add more salt to the uncooked mixture as desired.
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a cookie sheet with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Using your hands, shape the meat mixture into balls about the size of large walnuts.
- Place the meatballs on the greased cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.
- Serve immediately, or let them cool a bit and serve them at room temperature. If you aren’t going to eat them right away, cool the meatballs completely and store them, in a sealed container, for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. You can also freeze them for up to 2 months.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest; and ½ teaspoon minced fresh mint, or ¼ teaspoon dried mint