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Greek beef stew with orzo pasta (Youvetsi)

This hearty and flavorful Greek beef stew with orzo pasta, a.k.a. Youvetsi, is an iconic, traditional dish usually made for Sunday dinner.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek, Mediterranean
Keyword beef, orzo, stew, Youvetsi
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 753 kcal
Author The Hungry Bites


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 1/2 – 2 inches long
  • 1/4 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 1/2 cups (1125 grams) water
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt, or to taste


Casserole dish approximately a 10 x 14 inch (24cm x 36cm) in dimensions.


  1. Bring the beef to room temperature and pat it dry very well with kitchen paper.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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).

  5. Put the casserole dish in the oven and preheat it to 390°F (200°C). At the same time bring 4 1/2 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Eat!