Romanian Garlicky Ground Meat Sausages (Carnatzlach) with Sour Pickle Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Peppers

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With several helpers, she brought platters of cold sweet-and-sour fish, stewed meat, and roasted chicken, flasks of lemonade, baskets filled with rolls and hard white pretzels, bowls of sauerkraut sprinkled with sugar, and plates filled with freshly pickled cucumbers as cold as ice.


I love pickles, though they never live up to their smell: a sirensong of heady garlic, spicy peppercorns, and other enticing aromatics. Crunchy and cold, they provide refreshing respite from the dryness and density of unsauced meats, especially in sandwiches and simple grills.

Eating carnatzlach, I grew tired of alternating one bite of barbecued meat with a juicy chew of pickle, so I turned the pickle into this sauce.

This garlicky Romanian grill is wonderful anytime, but it is particularly appealing for casual summer meals. If you’re cutting down on beef, well-seasoned turkey is a good substitute here.


  • 2–3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste (you’ll need more if using ground turkey)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼—½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or fresh hot but not searing chile to taste (preferably Fresno or Serrano, but Hungarian wax, jalapeño, or other varieties will do fine), roasted (see Cook’s Note), peeled, and finely chopped (be sure to use rubber gloves when preparing)
  • pounds lean ground beef (you can substitute ground turkey—the ground thigh meat will work best—with fine results, but you may want to increase the seasoning slightly)
  • Oil for greasing the broiler rack or pan, if necessary


  • 2 large red bell peppers, roasted (see Cook’s Note), cut into strips, and seasoned well with salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, and a little vinegar or lemon juice to taste; chopped scallions (both white and green parts); Sour Pickle Vinaigrette; half-sour or garlic dill pickles, sliced lengthwise, and/or dill tomatoes


  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, paprika, salt, oregano, allspice, black pepper or chile, and ¼ cup water and pulse until the garlic is chopped very fine. Add a third of the meat and process until thoroughly incorporated with the seasoning. Add another third of the meat and pulse a few times. Add the final third and continue pulsing, stopping to scrape down the bowl if necessary, until the mixture is well combined, very soft, and almost pasty.
  2. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight so that all the vibrant flavors will meld together.
  3. When ready to cook the carnatzlach, set out a small bowl of cold water and a large platter. Moisten your hands with water, then take a small lump of the meat mixture and roll it into a sausage, about 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch wide (about the size of your middle finger, but a little wider). Place shaped carnatzl on the platter and continue making more, wetting your hands as necessary, until all the meat is rolled. You’ll have approximately 14 to 17 sausages.
  4. Preheat the broiler, outdoor grill, or (my choice) a heavy, ridged cast-iron skillet on top of the stove, to high temperature. (Spray rack or pan lightly with oil first, if necessary.) Grill or broil the sausages until beautifully browned, crusty, and cooked to desired doneness, 5–7 minutes per side.
  5. To serve, arrange some roasted red pepper strips and chopped scallions on a plate. Nestle a few carnatzlach attractively over them, and spoon a generous amount of sour pickle vinaigrette over everything. Garnish with pickles and dill tomatoes.