Izmir Kofte (Smyrna Meatballs) is a traditional dish from the Izmir region of Turkey and is widely popular around the country. This delicious kofte dish is made with oblong-shaped meatballs and vegetables lightly fried in vegetable oil, then baked in tomato sauce. And my favourite way to serve it is with Turkish Rice Pilaf or Bulgur Pilaf and a bowl of Greek Salad.Jump to Recipe
There are many different kofte recipes in Turkey and some of them has been named after the city they were invented. Izmir Kofte and Inegol Kofte are probably the most popular Turkish meatball recipes and they both are my favourite!
Izmir Kofte or Smyrna Meatballs is a great weeknight supper and can be prepared beforehand. The leftover is perfect for a packed lunch and tastes even better the day after. When making the kofte mixture, I sometimes double the recipe up and freeze the rest to use later. it is a great dish to cook throughout the year but even better during the summer when juicy & red tomatoes and sweet & hot peppers are in season.
How to Make Izmir Kofte?
Making this delicious dish is very simple and straightforward. However, to achieve the best results you need to follow few tips and simple steps:
- Choose the right mince for kofte – The main ingredient for kofte is mince and its fat content is as important as the quality of the meat. The ideal mince should have %20 fat for soft and delicious koftes. Using lean mince will make them dry and tough. If you want to use lean mince, you should add some fat or oil to the mixture. I generally use half lamb and half beef mince to get the right balance of fat.
- Prepare the mixture and shape – To prepare the kofte mixture, put all kofte ingredients (apart from the flour) in a large bowl and mix well for at least 5 minutes or until it has a nice and soft texture slightly sticking to your hand. You can prepare the mixture up to 3 days ahead. Shape into 16 equally sized oblong meatballs using the palm of your hands. Wet your palm with a bit of water to avoid the meatballs sticking to your hand. Keep them aside on a plate to fry later. Don’t cover with flour until you are ready to fry them.
- Prepare the vegetables- Preheat your oven to 180 °C and start preparing the vegetables. Peel and cut potatoes into wedges, set aside. Remove the seeds and the core of the peppers if using capsicums, cut in 6-7 pieces lengthwise. If you are using thin Turkish green peppers, cut them in 2-3 small pieces. Cut the tomato into 6 to 8 wedges and keep aside.
- Fry the kofte and vegetables – Some recipes for Izmir Kofte doesn’t require frying the meatballs and vegetables before roasting. I prefer frying them before baking in the oven as it helps to intensify the flavour (you can skip the frying part and nicely arrange your meatballs with vegetables in an ovenproof dish, then bake them in the oven until the potatoes are soft). Place a frying pan on medium heat and add vegetable oil. When the oil is hot enough, fry the potatoes until browned on all sides and set aside. The potatoes will still be uncooked, we just need the caramelisation on the outside. Lightly fry the peppers for few minutes and set them aside. Lightly dust the meatballs with flour before frying to give some richness and texture to tomato sauce. Fry them in small batches until they are browned on all sides, set aside.
- Build your dish and bake – Arrange the potatoes and peppers in an oven dish (approximately 25 mm diameter). Nicely organise the meatballs on top of your vegetables. Scatter the tomato wedges in between the meatballs. To make the tomato sauce, discard the excess oil in the frying pan leaving about a tablespoon. Turn the heat down and add the garlic along with the chopped tomatoes. Cook for few minutes before adding the tomato paste. Stir until nicely combined then add the thyme, salt and the chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the sauce on top of the koftes and the vegetables, cover the oven dish with a lid or tin foil and put it in the preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes, remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
I hope you enjoy the process of making this authentic Izmir Kofte as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet olsun!
Izmir Kofte (Smyrna Meatballs)
For the Kofte (Makes 16 Kofte)
- 500 g mince meat (250g lamb and 250g beef)
- 1 egg
- 1 medium onion (grated)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 40 g panko breadcrumbs (or breadcrumbs made with 2 stale slices of bread without the crust)
- 2 tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 TSP cumin powder
- ½ TSP freshly ground black pepper
- ½ TSP chilli flakes or paprika
- 1 TSP salt
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour (to lightly dust the kofte)
For the Vegetables
- 750 g potatoes (peeled and cut in wedges)
- 1 large tomato (cut in 8 wedges)
- 4 long green peppers (or 1 large capsicum) (seeds and core removed and cut into 2-3 pieces)
- 100 ml vegetable oil (for frying)
For the Tomato Sauce
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 large tomatoes (chopped)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (add extra ½ tbsp if the tomatoes are not in season)
- 4 sprigs thyme (only leaves chopped)
- 1 TSP salt
- 250 ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
Making the Kofte
- Preheat your oven to 180 °C.
- Put all the ingredients for the kofte (apart from the flour ) in a large bowl and mix them with your hands for about 5 minutes until nicely combined.
- Shape into 16 equally sized oblong meatballs using the palm of your hands. Wet your palm with a bit of water to avoid the meatballs sticking to your hand.
- Set them aside and start preparing your vegetables.
Preparing the Vegetables
- Peel and wedge your potatoes, pat dry with a paper towel to avoid splashing hot oil while frying.
- Prepare the peppers, take the seeds and the core out and cut in preferred size. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- Place a frying pan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil.
- When the oil is hot enough, fry the potatoes making sure browned on all sides and set aside. The potatoes will still be uncooked, we just need the caramelisation on the outside.
- Lightly fry the peppers and set them aside.
- Lightly coat your meatballs with flour and fry them in the pan making sure all sides are browned. The meatballs will still be uncooked, we just need to seal them to keep the juice and flavour in.
- Arrange the meatballs in the oven dish with the potatoes and peppers.
- Cut 1 large tomato into 8 wedges and place them into the oven dish as well.
Preparing the Tomato Sauce
- Discard the excess vegetable oil from the pan, leaving only 1 tbsp to make the sauce.
- Add the garlic and sauté quickly making sure it doesn’t get burnt.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for few minutes before adding the tomato paste.
- Give it a good stir and add the thyme, salt and the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to the boil. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into the oven dish and cover with tin foil or a lid.
- Put in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove the tin foil or the lid and cook for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are softened.
Did you make this recipe?