Izmir Köfte – Turkish meatballs in tomato sauce with potatoes and peppers. It’s been a long time coming this recipe. A regular evening meal for us, especially through winter. Whenever Barry makes it, I post a photo to our Instagram Stories. And we always get the request, “Can we have your Izmir Köfte recipe, please?”
Let There Be Light
Gladly! The problem has always been that Izmir Köfte is our cosy winter’s night food. By the time it comes out of the oven, sizzling away in its clay dish, it’s dark outside, the curtains are drawn. It’s not good photography lighting and so there’s never been a photo opportunity.
We do eat Izmir Köfte year round – and we just needed to wait for a bit more sunlight. Eventually, a concerted effort was made to eat a little earlier in the evening – and in springtime. Just in time to catch the natural light.
And so, here we are: Our recipe for Izmir Köfte. A dish that never fails to disappoint…
Making Izmir Köfte – Not As Difficult As It Looks
Yes, if you look at our Izmir Köfte recipe below, it looks like there’s a lot going on. But it’s all quite simple. We’ll explain as we go along.
First of all, you need to prepare your meatballs and get those in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so that they firm up and are less likely to break in the pan.
Izmir Köfte Variations
People make Izmir Köfte differently. It depends on which textures you prefer. Some people put everything into their baking dish from raw and leave it in the oven until it’s cooked.
Others will just do the meatballs in tomato sauce and then make deep fried potatoes separately as a side. And still others prefer a more ‘soupy’ affair where water is added so that it’s more of a meatball casserole.
Ours (well, this is Barry’s dish) has a little bit of sauce but it’s a more rich, reduced tomato sauce and the vegetables and meatballs have a roasted flavour and texture on top, but softer underneath. We also don’t add any tomato wedges. But you could, of course, add fresh tomatoes with your potato and peppers, if you like.
The cooking time in our Izmir Köfte recipe takes into account the fact that you have different components of the dish cooking at the same time. Your meatballs will be frying on the hob whilst your tomato sauce is heating in the oven.
The trick with the meatballs is not to keep playing with them. Leave them sizzling for a couple of minutes on each side so that they seal all the way round. We love this crispy outer because you then get the contrast of a softer texture on the inside.
Into The Oven
Once you’ve browned the meatballs all the way round, you can then place them into your tomato sauce. Spoon a bit of the sauce over your meatballs and place them back into the oven.
Again, this is where your cooking times combine. Once your meatballs and tomato sauce are in the oven, you will bring a pan of water to the boil and add your potatoes. You need to get them to the point of just cooked. Slightly al dente. Too soft and you risk letting them break up in your sauce, later on.
Our Izmir Köfte recipe is about chunky torpedo-shaped meatballs and chunky potatoes.
Create Your Dish
When your potatoes are ready to go into your tomato sauce, remove the meatballs and sauce from the oven. Arrange your potatoes between the meatballs – you can be as creative as you like with this and make patterns. Next, arrange your green peppers, placing them between the meatballs and potatoes. Great colours!
Izmir Köfte – Turkish Meatballs In Tomato Sauce With Potatoes & Green Peppers
And so, here are the ingredients and complete method for our Izmir Köfte recipe. The recipe makes enough for two people.
Izmir Köfte - Turkish Meatballs In Tomato Sauce
For The Köfte - Makes 8 Meatballs
- 250 g minced beef
- 1 egg
- ½ small onion very finely chopped or grated
- 1 clove garlic peeled & grated
- 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
- 1 dessert spoon chia seeds optional
- 1 tsp mixed spices
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- salt & pepper to season
For The Sauce
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- ½ small onion finely chopped or sliced
- 1 clove garlic peeled & finely chopped
- 1 chilli finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp thyme or oregano
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- salt & pepper to season
For The Vegetables
- 500 g potatoes peeled & cut into chunky chip shapes
- 5 long green peppers cut into two or three pieces, we use the Turkish sivri biber - thin fingers - but one large sliced capsicum bell pepper will be enough
For The Köfte
- Add your minced meat to a large plate or mixing bowl
- Beat your egg a little and add that to your meat
- Now add the rest of your köfte ingredients
- Mix everything together with a fork
- Now knead the mixture for a couple of minutes with your hand
- Divide your mixture into 8 equal portions
- Roll each portion into a rough torpedo shape so that you have 8 köfte
- Now place in the fridge for 30 mins to 1 hour
To Cook Your Izmir Köfte Dish
- Preheat your oven to 200° Celsius.
- Add your olive oil to an oven dish along with your onion and fresh chilli (if using).
- Now add your chilli flakes & garlic and spread around the surface of your oven dish.
- Place on the top shelf of your oven to heat for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove your oven dish from the oven and add your tin of tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, cumin, kekik (thyme or oregano - or both), salt & pepper.
- Stir around to mix together and return to the oven.
- Leave for around 10 minutes until the sauce starts to bubble.
- Once the sauce is bubbling away in the oven, start to fry your köfte separately by heating your oil in a frying pan on a high heat.
- Fry your köfte without turning too often (to avoid breaking them up) until they are brown on all sides. This takes around 5-10 minutes.
- Once your meatballs have browned on all sides, remove your sauce from the oven and arrange them in the sauce.
- Spoon a bit of the tomato sauce over the köfte and return the dish to the oven.
- Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil.
- When the water is boiling, add your potatoes.
- Boil for around 7-10 minutes so that the potatoes are just starting to soften.
- Now remove your dish from the oven and turn the köfte.
- Increase the oven temperature to 220 degrees Celsius.
- Drain your potatoes and arrange them around your meatballs.
- Return to the oven for around 10 mins until your potatoes start to bake on top.
- After 10 minutes, add your peppers and arrange between the meatballs and potatoes.
- Turn your oven to high for the last 15 minutes to really get everything sizzling hot.
- Remove from the oven and leave to stand for a couple of minutes before serving.
- Prep time for you Izmir Köfte includes refrigeration for your meatballs.
- Cooking time is not fixed. It depends on the type of potatoes you use, the size of your meatballs and your oven. Everything will be cooked and you can judge by sight if you think you are happy with the look and texture of your Izmir Köfte dish.
A few minutes before the Izmir Köfte is removed from the oven, we like to increase the temperature for a few minutes, just to crisp the surface.
Serving Your Izmir Köfte
If you were in a lokanta in Turkey, you would usually order some other dishes to go with your Izmir Köfte, depending on how hungry you are. At the very least, there’s usually a portion of Turkish rice or bulgur pilaf involved. Perhaps some yoghurt and always oodles of bread…
If you decide to make sides to go with this dish, you could make this recipe serve 3 – 4 people. However, we like to enjoy it just as it is.
How Will You Eat Yours?
We bake and serve our Izmir Köfte in a shallow clay dish so that it stays hot whilst out on the table. And then it’s personal choice. Barry likes to put his share onto his plate all at once. I’m a one-meatball-at-a-time person. Meatball, tomato sauce, a potato or two, pepper. I like to savour.
How will you eat yours?
Izmir Köfte Afternotes
- Lots of people add wedges of tomato to their Izmir Köfte. If you want to do this, you can add your tomato to the dish at the same time as your potatoes and peppers.
- If you know Turkey, you will know that köfte is one of the bastions of Turkish cuisine. As well as Izmir Köfte, there are other regional variations such as Tekirdağ Köfte in the northwest, Doğubeyazıt Köfte in the east, Akçaabat Köfte in the Black Sea region. And so on and so on…
- Izmir Köfte has been added to our list of Turkish recipes we make at home.