Holiday tables in Greece are loaded with more food than is possible for assembled family members to eat. Every square inch of table is covered with food-laden plates and bowls. Soutzoukakia/Smyrna Sausages in Tomato-Wine Sauce (Σουτζουκάκια Σμυρνέικα) Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to
I’m happiest when seated near a plate of garlicky meatballs, which diners spear off the serving dish with their forks. Sometimes the meatballs are round and fried (keftedes), and occasionally they are shaped into oblong sausages, seasoned with cumin, and served in tomato wine sauce. These sausages are called Soutzoukakia, and are one of my favorite dishes.
Greeks settled Smyrna (now the Turkish city of Izmir) in the 11th century BCE. Smyrna remained important to Greece for over 3000 years, even though its government was controlled at various points by the Greeks, the Persians, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. From its settlement until 1923, Smyrna remained home to a large Greek population.
Following the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the entire Greek population was ejected from Smyrna and forced to seek refuge in new countries. Most went to Greece. The displaced Smyrna residents brought their customs and cuisine with them to their new homes. Soutzoukakia is one of the dishes that originated in Smyrna, and remains a popular menu item in Greek homes and tavernas today.
I started ordering Soutzoukakia (soo-tsoo-KAH-kyah) whenever I could, initially because I liked the way the word exploded out of my mouth and later because I was hooked on the taste. After years of eating it, I consider myself a Soutzoukakia connoisseur.
I’ve had Soutzoukakia made with ground beef, lamb, and pork, or a combination of two of these meats. I’ve had it moist and tender, but also dry as dust. I’ve had it seasoned to perfection, and I’ve had it so bland that even a Peoria grandmother would eat it without complaint. It’s been served by itself, with rice, or with fried potatoes.
Although Soutzoukakia is translated as “Smyrna sausages,” most North Americans would call them meatballs. They are not in casings, as are typical sausages, and their ingredient list mirrors that of meatballs. In an early edition of his famous cookbook, Nikolaos Tselementes (in Greece, his name is synonymous with “cookbook”) instructs his readers to use the same ingredients as they would for regular meatballs, but with cumin and garlic added.
My version of Soutzoukakia follows. I use a combination of beef and pork, which results in juicy, flavorful sausages. I don’t use breadcrumbs, as is called for in many recipes, because I prefer Soutzoukakia’s texture without it. The sausages are robustly spiced; the tomato sauce is not; the contrast is pleasing.
Makes 20 large sausages or 40 small sausages
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Soutzoukakia/Smyrna Sausages in Tomato-Wine Sauce (Σουτζουκάκια Σμυρνέικα)
Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to