This hearty and flavorful Greek beef stew with orzo pasta, a.k.a. Youvetsi, is an iconic, traditional dish usually made for Sunday dinner.
If you ask a Greek to name a Sunday dinner, then the most probable answer you’re going to get is “Youvetsi”.
Youvetsi is a flavorful traditional Greek beef stew with orzo pasta and gets its name from the homonymous baking dish usually made of clay (a similar dish is Greek beef stew with pearl onions called Stifado).
The thing that makes this recipe to stand out is that the orzo pasta absorbs all the flavor of the beef because it is baked in the pan with the sauce from the stew. This results in a hearty and cozy dish with a full-bodied character that makes everyone drool with anticipation!
If you want to check a few other Greek Sunday dinners click the following links for this meatloaf with hard boiled eggs and this Greek whole stuffed chicken with chestnuts and rice.
This Greek beef stew may be at its best when served with orzo pasta, but if you have something against pasta you can serve it without it – though it will not be a Youvetsi anymore.
Fluffy long grain rice (cooked in a pot), French fries, or homemade mashed potatoes with Parmesan cheese also work very well and get extra tasty when covered by the rich, fragrant tomato sauce. However, I have to say that for me, orzo pasta and beef stew are meant to be (served) together!
Orzo pasta will need enough water to cook, and when you take the casserole out of the oven it will seem that it needs some more time to bake. But if you let it rest for 20 minutes on your counter, the pasta will have the chance to cook completely and remain with enough moisture and a thick sauce.
This is the best time to serve it! If you don’t eat it right away, the orzo pasta will continue to absorb moisture until all the grains stick together (and you don’t want that).
There are two ways in which you can treat this recipe. If you go French-style, you’ll minimize the spices (using only a bay leaf) and you’ll use some chopped vegetables (onion, leeks, carrot, and celery) which will help the sauce to build body and develop its character.
The other way is to go orient-style and use cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, and allspice to create a very aromatic, warm, and intense dish. I almost always prefer the second way – since this is how my mom also makes it – but there are times when I go French-style too. Whichever way you choose, the method remains the same.
- Use a good quality beef chuck, to get a melt-in-your-mouth, tender result.
- Bring the meat to room temperature and pat it dry very well. This will reduce the splattering during the browning process.
- Brown the beef VERY well since this will result in a nice, deep, flavor!
- Use a good quality orzo pasta made from durum wheat.
- Keep in mind that when you take the casserole out of the oven, it will look like it has too much liquid left. But, after resting it for 15-20 minutes it will be just perfect! (during this time the orzo pasta has the chance to cook completely but also remains moist, with enough sauce).
- The recipe calls for cinnamon stick, cloves, and allspice kernels. You can substitute ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice but when those aromatics are used whole they give the best results.
- Serve this dish with this delicious Greek cabbage salad (Lahanosalata)
You may also like these similar recipes:
Beef Ularthiyathu (Beef dry roast) is a great recipe from Pepper Delight! (Indian cuisine)
Greek beef stew with orzo pasta (Youvetsi)
For the beef:
- 2 pounds beef chuck cut in large cubes, about 8 pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or another vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 large leek, chopped
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 cup dry red or rose wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 allspice kernels
- 3 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick, about 1 ½ – 2 inches long
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 2 cups pureed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup beef broth or water
- Salt and freshly grated pepper to taste
For the orzo
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups (400 grams) orzo pasta
- 4 ½ cups (1125 grams) water
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
Casserole dish approximately a 10 x 14 inch (24cm x 36cm) in dimensions.
- Bring the beef to room temperature and pat it dry very well with kitchen paper.
- Set a deep pot over high heat and add the oil and the beef cubes in one layer. Sauté for 3 minutes without stirring or until the meat no longer sticks to the surface of the pot (if your pot is not large enough, do it in batches). Using tongs turn the met to brown from the other side.
- Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, the leek, the carrot, the bay leaves, the cinnamon stick, the cloves and the allspice kernels. Stir and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir for one minute.
- Add the wine, the pureed tomatoes, the sugar, the broth (or water), the salt, and the pepper. Cover and simmer for one hour or until beef is tender (time may vary and can take up to 2 hours, depending on the age, the part and the quality of the meat). When the meat is done, it should be left with a thick sauce. (If the pot has too much liquid you should use only 4 cups of water for the orzo pasta).
- Put the casserole dish in the oven and preheat it to 390°F (200°C). At the same time bring 4 ½ cups water to a boil. Take the hot casserole out of the oven, add the orzo pasta and the olive oil and stir to combine.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, the cloves, the allspice, and the bay leaves from the pot with the stew and gently pour the sauce and the meat over the orzo pasta. Add the boiling water and the salt and bake for 20 minutes.
- Take the Youvetsi out of the oven and let it rest on your counter for 20 minutes. It may seem that there’s a lot of liquid left, but while resting the pasta will cook completely and absorb more liquid. Serve with grated cheese.
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