Youvetsi is a delicious Greek stew made with beef or lamb and orzo cooked in a tasty tomato-based sauce. It's flavorful, comforting and easy to make too.
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I don't know about anyone else, but food is often an excuse to do a bit of traveling from my kitchen, for me. Sometimes that's new places I have yet to visit and other times, it's remembering the flavors from places I have been.
While I often take forever to recreate recipes from our travels to share here, don't think I've not been plotting them for a while. I always research a bit first and tweak at recipes too. And as I do, I find it a wonderful way to remember not just those meals but things we did on the trip.
In all honesty I can't really remember whether we had youvetsi or not on our trip to Cyprus and Greece last year, as we had a few meals where we had a number of smaller dishes and I can't remember every single one. It's very common to have food in a mezze-style with a range of small plates.
Sometimes this is just cold dips like tzatziki, baba ghanoush and hummus to start, but a number of places continue this in to the warm, often meaty, dishes as well with a few to choose from with some grilled vegetables or other sides.
We also had some meals we didn't order from a menu so I didn't get to see everything listed which is often what helps me remember what we had.
Just a few more excuses...
On top of that, we were traveling with a toddler and a six-week old which while it largely worked out OK naturally had its challenges at times. I am sure sleep deprivation does things to your memory as well. Not to mention the fact that the amazing sites of Athens we were trying to see in a couple days can be distracting!
Anyway, whether we had youvetsi or not that time, I no doubt had it on previous trips to Greece. Plus, it was something I was happy to find an excuse to make.
While it takes a little time to cook, youvetsi is really easy - it's pretty hands-off cooking and doesn't use too many ingredients. In fact, you probably have most if not all in your pantry already. And so worth the wait.
How to make youvetsi
This may take a little time to cook but as I say it's hands off cooking. All you need to do is:
- brown the meat;
- soften the onion and garlic;
- deglaze the pan with wine (basically get all the good stuff stuck to the bottom);
- add tomatoes, stock and a couple seasonings;
- leave it to cook the meat to tenderness;
- add orzo towards end to cook in the sauce.
You can do all but the last step in advance then just reheat and add the orzo, letting it cook in the delicious sauce. Serve with a decent amount of freshly grated cheese (traditionally it would be kefalotyri but parmesan or pecorino work as an alternative).
The family's verdict?
This was a meal we all immediately loved, my toddler son even asked for more which is always a good sign. It's got that warm, comforting feel but is not overly heavy. It's already a regular for us in colder weather.
The orzo takes on the delicious flavor of the sauce, a lovely mix of meatiness and tomato as well as just enough cinnamon to lift it up with a slightly warm fragrance.
Whether this description does it justice I don't know, but believe me this is a truly delicious dish and has that flexibility of being made with either beef or lamb depending on your preference or what you have available.
Youvetsi is definitely one that we'll be adding to our regular rotation - give it a try and you may well have a new favorite, as we did.
Looking for more Greek recipes? Try these!
- Avgolemono soup - a wonderfully comforting chicken soup with a little brightness from lemon
- Moussaka - a family favorite, similar to lasagna but with eggplant/aubergine instead of pasta
- Tiropita (Greek cheese pastries made with filo)
- Chicken gyros with tzatziki (aka souvlaki, marinated then grilled chicken wraps)
- Plus get more Greek recipes as well as comfort food and more in the winter recipes archives.
Youvetsi (Greek beef or lamb and orzo stew)
- 2 lb beef or lamb stew meat 900g, beef chuck or lamb shoulder probably best
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil or a little more as needed
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup red wine 120ml
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes 400g, 1 can (or can use passata)
- 2 tsp tomato paste puree
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cups light stock 480ml eg chicken/vegetable
- 1 ½ cups orzo 265g
- ½ cup grated kefalotyri approx, or parmesan/pecorino
- If the meat is not already diced, or the pieces are large, cut it in to roughly bite-sized pieces and season with some salt and pepper. Peel and dice the onion and finely chop the garlic.
- Warm half the oil in a Dutch oven and brown the meat on all sides to sear it, working in batches so you don't overcrowd the pan and removing to a plate as they are done.
- In the same pan, add the rest of the oil and soften the onions, adding the garlic after a minute. Cook until going translucent but not brown, around 3-5 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine - allow the alcohol to boil off and scrape the bottom to incorporate all the flavor into the sauce.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and stock and add back the meat. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer then cook on low for around 1 hour or until tender, covered (it's also great cooked longer eg 2 hours, to make the meat extra-tender).
- Preheat oven to 350F/175C then add the orzo to the pot. Mix it through then bake for approx 25 minutes, uncovered, until orzo is tender and cooked. You can also continue cooking with the orzo on the stovetop - in this case, cook relatively low so that it simmers with the lid partially covering. Stir now and then to avoid the orzo sticking to the bottom and browning/burning.
- Serve with grated cheese on top.
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