Almost Turkish Recipes

Izmir Style Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (İzmir Köfte)

There are so many meatball dishes in Turkish cuisine that we can easily make a multi-volume cookbook out of them. Among all the meatball recipes, Izmir koftesi, i.e. Izmir meatball, a specialty of Aegean city of Izmir, holds a special place in my heart. This dish of meatballs cooked with potatoes and peppers in tomato sauce is one of my all time beloved comfort foods. Since nowadays, we need comfort more than any other time I've been making Izmir meatballs almost weekly. Izmir kofte is usually a summer dish when tomatoes are in abundance served traditionally with rice and yogurt on the side, and accompanied by an icy glass of
rakı, obviously. 

For the meatball
1/2 lb ground meat
2 slices of stale bread soaked in water and squeezed tight or 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup minced or finely chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 egg (Traditionally there’s always an egg in the meatballs both to keep the meatballs together and moist when baked; however, I don't like egg smell in meatballs and prefer not to use any)

~10 peppers. (In Turkey green sweet chilies are staples in this dish.) If you like spicy peppers, you can use any kind of pepper: jalapeno, wax, banana, Anaheim, or poblano. I like using Shishito and sweet Italian peppers for this recipe. Seeded.
2 medium size potatoes, peeled and cut in wedges
3 tbsp olive oil
3-4 medium size tomatoes, grated or chopped in food processor
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)  

-Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs. Knead well for 5-7 minutes. Wet your hands and form 3-4 inches long oval-ish finger shaped meatballs round in the middle and thinner at the ends. 
-Heat a pan. Add 3 tbsp olive oil. Add meatballs and cook until they change color. We're not trying to cook them, just sealing them. 
-Take the meatballs aside but keep the oil in the pan. (Some people fry the potatoes as well and it is delicious, but much more greasy. So I choose not to fry the potatoes)
-Place meatballs in a sun pattern in a wide bottom oven proof dish or a cast iron pot with 1/2-1 inch intervals. If you're using a square or rectangle dish, you can line them up. 
-Add tomato paste to the frying pan and cook for 2 minutes, if you're using any. Add grated tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes or tomato sauce as well. Salt to your taste. Cook tomatoes until the juice is gone. Add 1 and half cup boiling water. Bring to a boil and turn off. 
-Place potatoes in between meatballs and put peppers on top, all still in sun shape. 
-Pour tomato sauce on top of meatballs and vegetables. The sauce should barely cover the meatballs and vegetables. If it doesn't, add a little bit more boiling water.  
-Bake in the middle rack of the oven at 380 F for 40-45 minutes, enough time for potatoes to cook.
-Serve with rice or crusty bread and yogurt. 
Bon appétit! 



  1. Anonymous11:59 AM

    If I use a rectangular oven-proof dish, do I cover it with foil while cooking, or is it uncovered? Thanks!

    1. No need for foil. It should be uncovered. Good luck!