Izmir Koftesi (Izmir Meatballs)

Winter dishes- especially foods of the comfort variety- are always at the top of my list when the weather is cold, a blanket of snow is resting outside and hungry bellies are lurking inside.

Izmir-a city in northwest Turkey- is a beautiful, bustling metropolis with some of the most incredible home-style restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing. The owners will almost always come over for a friendly chat and a few glasses of tea at the end of the meal. I always felt so welcomed by Turks and their comforting dishes seemed like an extension of their genuine hospitality. They have a saying, “afiyet olsun,” which translates to “may it bring you nourishment.” Turkish meals are thought to nourish the body as well as the soul. What a wonderful thought.

With two of the male species in my home, the simple meat-and-potato dishes are always a hit and I’m sure they will be with your family as well.

Start by preheating an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a pound of ground beef, a tablespoon of garlic, 1/3 cup panko, one egg, 1/2 tablespoon oregano, a medium tomato, chopped, 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped, 2 tablespoons tomato paste and salt and pepper to a medium-sized bowl. With clean hands, combine all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Shape the meatballs into finger shapes and set aside. (It helps if you have a bowl of water with a teaspoon vinegar to put on your hands. It prevents the meat from sticking to your hands too badly.)


Next, warm oil in a frying pan, enough to cover the potatoes. Cut 4-5 medium potatoes into thick slices and fry lightly until the potatoes are medium-brown, but not cooked all the way through. Drain on paper towels.

Next, make the sauce. Start by frying another 2 tablespoons of tomato paste with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil, until the color darkens. Then add, very slowly at first, enough water to make the paste lift from the surface of the pan, then adding more until you have a bubbling sauce. Add another teaspoon dried oregano, a tablespoon fresh parsley, salt and pepper and set aside.


In a casserole dish, arrange the meatballs and potatoes in alternating rows (this will usually mean two layers, sometimes more). Cut a tomato in half, and slice. Cut a cubanelle pepper into thin strips, making sure to remove the seeds (those suckers can be hot!) and arrange the tomatoes and peppers in alternating rows on top of the meatballs and potatoes. Pour the sauce over the top.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, checking for the potatoes to be soft and for the meatballs to be cooked through.


Serve this dish piping hot, with buttered rice, bread and plain yogurt.

Enjoy these short days with warm, comforting food and the ones you love. Afiyet olsun.

Izmir Koftesi
Serves 4

  • Vegetable oil for frying, plus two teaspoons
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup panko
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tbsp oregano, divided
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped plus 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste, divided
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4-5 medium potatoes
  • 1-1/2 cups water (add more if necessary)
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cubanelle pepper

Start by preheating an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Add ground beef, garlic, panko, egg, oregano, tomato, tomato paste and salt and pepper to a medium-sized bowl. With clean hands, combine all ingredients until thoroughly combined.

Shape the meatballs into finger shapes and set aside.

Next, warm the oil in a frying pan, enough to cover the potatoes. Cut 4-5 medium potatoes into thick slices and fry lightly until the potatoes are medium-brown, but not cooked all the way through. Drain on paper towels.

Next, make the sauce. Start by frying another 2 tablespoons of tomato paste with 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil and fry until the color darkens. Then add, very slowly at first, enough water to make the paste lift from the surface of the pan, then adding more until you have a bubbling sauce. Add another teaspoon dried oregano, a tablespoon fresh parsley, salt and pepper and set aside.

In a casserole dish, arrange the meatballs and potatoes in alternating rows (this will usually mean two layers, sometimes more). Cut a tomato in half, and slice. Cut a cubanelle pepper into thin strips, making sure to remove the seeds (those suckers can be hot!) and arrange the tomatoes and peppers in alternating rows on top of the meatballs and potatoes. Pour the sauce over the top.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, checking for the potatoes to be soft and for the meatballs to be cooked through.

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