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.
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 rice, 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)
Whole chicken cacciatore with bucatini pasta
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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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I so want to try this recipe asap!
You'll love it! 🙂
Nick @ GreekBoston.com
This classic recipe is a staple of most Greek household, including mine. The magic is in how it's spiced since it has a distinct quality by the cinnamon and allspice. You can also use other types of small pastas to replace the orzo if you don't have it on hand.
Exactly! The spiced sauce is what makes this dish to stand out!
It looks HEAVENLY and seriously so tempting...The preparation style have a slight similarity to Indian style Biriyani 😉 where we cook rice and meat together. And here i would definitely go for a classy style using spices!!!
Btwn those serving bowl/pot looks so beautiful!!!
Thank you Akhilla!
I once made a Biriyahi chicken with rice and coconut cream and it was so good! I am always happy and interested to find similarities between different cuisines!
Dr Martin Huang
This stew absolutely stoled my heart just by one look. This is so tempting and I can't wait to try it out.
Thank you very much Dr Martin!
when you put the stew back in the oven with the orzo and water, do you cover it? and when it sits for 20 minutes, should it be covered?
No Joanne, I don't cover it neither when in the oven nor when it rests. When you take it out of the oven, the liquids will probably seem a lot, but after the 20 minutes rest, the orzo will have absorb most of it and a thick sauce will have remained.
Hope this helps!
Hello, I was wondering where I can get a Greek clay pot? I was just in Mani and bought one near Sparta and very sadly it didn’t survive the plane ride.
Hi Christina, sorry to hear about your pot. I'm afraid I don't know where you can find one (because I live in Greece), but you can certainly make this in a casserole dish or a large Dutch oven!
This dish was a staple in my house growing up.
I made it for the first time following your recipe. It came out great!
I look forward to trying your other recipes.
I am so glad you liked it Effie, this is our family favorite also!
Thank you for trying this recipe 🙂
Fovero! Just made youvetsi for the first time. Won’t be my last!
Efharisto poly Amalia! I'm very happy you liked it 🙂
What kind of cheese is usually grated for use as the final topping? (It’s not mentioned in the list of ingredients.)
The grated cheese is optional. If you can find a Greek gruyere or Kefalotiri or a dried Mizithra then you can use those. I also like it with Parmesan cheese or cheddar
Thanks! I'll look for the Greek ones in local international markets. (And we'll be in Greece in June, so I'll aim to bring back some, too.)
This recipe is exactly how my Cretan mother in law makes it, but she adds garlic and star anise. Thank you for sharing this wonderful dish!
I can imagine how delicious it is ?
My son spent his first semester of college in Greece. He is now headed off to his sophomore year and prior to leaving I asked him if I I could cook something to remind him of Greece. His answer was “ this dish with orzo, beef and cinnamon, not sure what it was called mom”. Came across this recipe. I wish I would have taken a pic of his face when he tatsted it!! The memories of the great times he had flooded back! Must agree delicious!!,
I'm very happy you both liked it 🙂
This dish always bring back a lot of memories to me too! Wish your son has a great college year!!!
Mrs Heather Vipers
What is a sophomere?
2nd year of college or university.
I want to make this today. Will it be good eaten leftover since it’s a lot of food for the two of us? Also, is there any way to tell the meat is done? 1-2 hours is such a big difference and I’m not sure how to time out dinner if I don’t know how long the meat will take. Very excited. Thank you!!!
Hi Kate, leftovers can be heated in a microwave oven and are good for the next 2 days. You will need approximately 1,5 hours for the meat to be fork-tender (only older animals with tougher meat will need more time). Hope you enjoy this recipe!
Ok thank you so much! I really appreciate it.
Can you use Beef Tenderloin in this recipe?
Tenderloin may become dry or a bit tough. Usually for recipes that require long cooking times, we use parts with some fat and connective tissue like chuck, ribs or even oxtail.
Mrs Heather Vipers
I do not use this receipt exactly. I cook it the way I was taught in Crete. It has more cinnamon and no all spice. Nevertheless, it is an accomstand dish, that stand the tides of time. It can be cooked in any vessel that is oven safe. The best advice I can give is do not let it dry out. It should be silky smooth with the coatings of olive oil, cinnamon, orzo. It is perfection.
Mrs Heather Vipers
I do not use this receipt exactly. I cook it the way I was taught in Crete. It has more cinnamon and no all spice. Nevertheless, it is an accomstand dish, that stand the tides of time. It can be cooked in any vessel that is oven safe. The best advice I can give is do not let it dry out. It should be silky smooth with the coatings of olive oil, cinnamon, orzo. It is perfection. I neglected to say, do not fry the meat, put onion, meat preferably beef, cinnamon oregano in the oven @170c for 45 mins stirring once. No need to fry.
Hello. Was wondering if you can substitute tomato juice for the red or rose wine in Youvetsi
Yes tomato juice or water will do
Hello. Can you cook the manestra 8nnside the stew pot on top of stove instead of baking in 9ven? Thanks
Hi, yes you can but it will need frequent stirring over low heat because the manestra can stick to the bottom. When I use this method I turn off the heat about 3 minutes before the end of cooking time, cover the pot and let it finish cooking with the residual heat
Thank you so much. I made it the exact way your recipe called for and it was absolutely delicious! Thanks for sharing!
That's great Maria, I'm so glad!
LOVE THIS RECIPE. Thank you so much. Great for a cold day. Will definiately make this again.
Hi Janet, yes this is perfect for a cold day! Thanks for the feedback!
This recipe is so easy to execute, and yields AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS results. I am floored, it’s so comforting and unctuous, everything you want in a stew. Thank you!
Thank you Nicole, I'm very happy you like it!
Wow, delicious! Also made cabbage salad to go with it which was a perfect match. Will be making this regularly I think.
Hi Lisa, I'm so glad you liked it! Cabbage salad goes very well with this dish indeed!
I tried this recipe a couple of years ago and loved it. I’m finally getting around to making it again tonight. It’s a bit of extra work with the two stage cooking, but well worth it – comes out more moist than the recipes which call for adding the orzo directly to the simmering pot of sauce. I hate to admit it, but this is better than the way my mother used to make it, and Giouvetsi was one of my favorites of her dishes!
Hi Zach, thank you so much for your kind words! I too sometimes finish this recipe in the pot, but it's much better if you bake the orzo in the oven. I'm sure your mothers Giouvetsi was delicious 🙂