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Plate with meatballs and rice, glass of juice and bread on a gray background.

Bosnian Meatballs in Sauce (Ćufte)

Ćufte, aka Bosnian meatballs in sauce are small, flavor packed marinara meatballs that can be on your table in 35 minutes.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Bosnian
Servings 4
Calories 495 kcal


Meatballs (Ćufte):

  • 10 ounces ground beef or other meat*
  • 1 slice bread soaked, 1-2 days old*
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 3.5 ounces oil vegetable, or other


  • 1 onion yellow, large, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons white flour
  • 7 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1.5 cups water lukewarm
  • 1 tablespoon paprika sweet
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large mixing bowl combine beef, bread, egg, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix with your hand until well integrated. Use the mixture to shape small balls.* Sprinkle a teaspoon of flour on a large plate. Transfer formed balls on the plate. When all balls have been formed  use another tablespoon of flour to sprinkle them over the top and sides. 
  • (This is a good time to start on your side.) In a medium size pan heat up the oil on high. When oil is extremely hot add the meatballs in. Fry them 3.5-4 minutes on each side. (Don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if necessary. If you notice they are burning up lower temperature to medium high.) Once both sides are fried, stir them for another minute with a wooden spatula.  Take the meatballs out and set aside for now.
  • Lower temperature to the lowest setting and add onion and garlic and a tablespoon of water if necessary. When transluscent (5-6 minutes) add the flour in slowly and stir (1-2 minutes). After ingredients integrate add tomato sauce, water, herbs and spices. Stir until integrated. 
  • Return meatballs to the sauce. Simmer 5-6 minutes. Serve with a side of your choice. 
  • Keep meatballs in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat using your preferred method. Freeze up to 2 months.*



Bread: To soak bread dip it in water (or milk) and squeeze extra liquid out of it. You’re left with wet bread (but not dripping) that will work great as a binding agent keeping meatball juices inside. It’s best to use it when it’s a day or two old.  Sub with breadcrumbs. Watch the volume, however! Too much bread or breadcrumbs and your meatballs turn soft and soggy.
Meat: We like it best with ground beef from a younger cow (veal works great too!). Sub with any meat you like: chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, mutton, even game. Obviously, the flavor will vary. Want to be on the safe side? Stick with beef.
Sauce Herbs and Seasonings: Simplicity is key here. The base is a little bit of beef stock powder, Vegeta, or salt. This is mixed with paprika, parsley, and garlic. For a more Mediterranean feel, add basil and rosemary.
Tomato Sauce: Use tomato sauce of choice (no added flavors!): homemade, canned, jarred, or from a carton.
Step 1:  The size and number of meatballs will vary based on how big or small you make them. However, try to keep them smaller. Think between a large grape berry and whole walnut. (As a reference point, the ones in recipe photos are in between.) 
Freezing: If planning to freeze the meatballs, freeze them raw (step 1).  Once you form them coat each with flour or oil to prevent them from sticking together and then freeze. (You can either freeze right away, or place meatballs on a tray giving each one a little bit of space and first freeze for 10 minutes, and then transfer meatballs from the tray to freezer-friendly bags or container(s) and return to the freezer.) When ready to use, for the best taste transfer them from freezer to the fridge the night before you plan to use them. Then take them out of the fridge about 1 hour before frying. Now just follow steps 2-4. 
Side ideas: bread, pasta, rice, polenta, quinoa, orzo, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies.


Serving: 1of 4Sodium: 380mgCalcium: 54mgVitamin C: 11mgVitamin A: 459IUSugar: 5gFiber: 2gPotassium: 457mgCholesterol: 91mgCalories: 495kcalTrans Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 22gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 8gFat: 41gProtein: 16gCarbohydrates: 17gIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!