Voli me Plyguri

Meatballs with Bulgur in Onion and Tomato Sauce

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about 26 meatballs;

    4 to 6


Appears in

VOLI are marbles, the multicolored little balls that were so popular with kids during my childhood. But unlike the glass versions, which were quite expensive, the ones we used to play with were made of clay and colored in various bright, glossy shades. They were fragile, and their glaze would crack, revealing their dark red insides, similar in color to these delicious meatballs with bulgur.

This recipe comes from the island of Rhodes, and bulgur is probably the grain originally used. Later, in the stewed meatballs of the mainland, it was replaced by rice.

Serve with mashed potatoes, bulgur and/or rice pilaf.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef, veal, lamb or pork, or a combination
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4–5 scallions (white and most of the green parts), finely chopped
  • ½ cup coarse bulgur (see Sources)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • â…“ cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves: 2 minced and 2 coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups grated ripe tomatoes (see Note) or canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup water


In a large bowl, combine the meat, all but 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the scallions, bulgur, egg, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the minced garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Knead well, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Shape 2-tablespoon-sized portions of the meat mixture into balls. Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate.

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, or a Dutch oven, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sauté the onion over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it starts to color. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cinnamon stick. Carefully add the meatballs to the skillet; the sauce should almost cover them. Add the water, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.

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