Giouvetsi is the perfect dish for a traditional, hearty, Sunday family dinner! Giouvetsi, or youvetsi is a centuries old dish that was traditionally served as a one-pot meal and in, the olden days, it would have been baked in a home’s wood burning oven.
In the older days, there were many instances where a home did not have an oven. However, each village had at least one bakery supplying bread to the villagers. So it was quite common for a family to lug the day’s dish over to the bakery and have dish cooked in the baker’s oven. And that is how giouvetsi was born!
So go ahead and discover how to make this delicious giouvetsi to perfection with my recipe and tips and tricks below!
What is Giouvetsi?
Giouvetsi is also sometimes called youvetsi (or even yiouvetsi or yuvetsi, there’s lots of spellings for it!) and is a traditional Greek meat and pasta casserole that you bake in the oven. It is traditionally made with veal, lamb or beef and the meat is cooked in a tomato broth with pasta. Traditionally, Orzo pasta is used, the one that looks a lot like rice.
The idea is to cook your Giouvetsi (youvetsi) slowly, so the meat remains tender, and the pasta soaks up most of the flavours. The result is a classic Greek comfort food recipe that’s ideal for the colder days! That’s always a crowd-pleaser and perfect for a big family gathering!
What you’ll need to make Greek Giouvetsi
Giouvetsi is an everyday dish that doesn’t require any fancy ingredients. The main ingredients you’ll need are probably already in your kitchen cupboard! Tangy chopped tomatoes, carrots, onions, tomato paste, sugar, red wine, extra virgin olive oil, cinnamon, and a good quality piece of juicy and tender meat. And, of course, the all-important orzo pasta.
If you want a spicier version of this Greek beef stew with orzo recipe, add a little allspice and a bay leaf along with the cinnamon stick. Or make it more of a hearty stew by adding celery and leeks along with the onions and carrots.
What Meat Type to use for your Giouvetsi (Youvetsi)?
Most of the time, you’ll see Giouvetsi made with lamb. However, in this recipe, I’ve used veal because it’s my personal favourite. You can also use beef if veal is hard to source. If you aren’t a beef, veal or lamb fan, or just have some leftover chicken breasts, you can also make a delicious giouvetsi with chicken. Or you can even make a delicious Giouvetsi with meatballs in tomato sauce!
In general, it is best to use parts of the meat that contain bone because it oozes out flavour in your Giouvetsi when stewed. It also keeps the meat tender – remember the orzo pasta will absorb a lot of moisture!
Traditional Greek Giouvetsi (Youvetsi) key preparation steps and tips
Greek Giouvetsi (youvetsi) is a very simple dish to prepare. In summary, these are the three steps to follow:
- Prepare the meat in the pan.
- Sizzle the orzo pasta.
- Combine and bake in the oven.
Prepare the Youvetsi meat
Firstly, the vegetables are sauteed in the pan and then the meat is added. It is important to turn up the heat and seal the Giouvetsi (youvetsi) veal or beef until it is brown on all sides. Caramelizing the meat will give it that extra flavour as its crust develops!
Let the meat simmer for at least 45 minutes or longer, until fork tender. This is the best way to get the meat to be well cooked, but also retain its unique flavour. Stir it periodically and add a little water if the tomato sauce shows signs of drying out.
Prepare the orzo pasta
The orzo pasta needs to be sautéed in a pan until it is golden, before you add it to the baking dish. This stops it from becoming too thick and gloopy when cooked by sealing in the starch. This is a tip to remember for any Greek recipe that uses orzo as its pasta.
Combine and bake in the oven
When your Giouvetsi (youvetsi) meat is ready and your orzo sauteed, it’s time to combine and bake. Add the orzo pasta into the meat mix and pour it in a casserole dish.
Traditionally, youvetsi is made in a round clay pot, but you can easily use a 13.5 x 9.5-inch / 35×24 cm glass dish or casserole in its place. Aim for a relatively deep casserole dish so there’s plenty of room to add liquid to cook the orzo.
Make sure your orzo has enough liquid to cook through. Generally, you want 3 cups of liquid for each cup of pasta in the dish.
Don’t worry if your Giouvetsi comes out of the oven looking like there’s too much liquid. Just let it sit for 10 minutes or so until the pasta absorbs the excess liquid, and you will have the perfect dish.
Don’t forget to serve with some kefalotyri or hard yellow cheese or try some of the ideas below.
How to make youvetsi (Giouvetsi) in the slow cooker
You can also make Giouvetsi (youvetsi) in a slow cooker or even an Instant Pot for this recipe. Prepare the meat in the pan first, sealing it as above. Then add it with the tomatoes and other sauce ingredients into the slow cooker.
Cook your Giouvetsi beef or veal on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. Around 1 hour before the end of cooking time, stir in the sizzled orzo pasta, move it to a casserole and finish it off in the oven. You can add a little bit of water to stop it from drying out. Just remember the 3 cup rule!
Alternatively you can also make your youvetsi completely in the slow cooker. Around 1 hour before the end of the cooking time, stir in the orzo pasta and let it slow cook until the orzo pasta is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Again, remember the 3 cup rule. Check how much liquid is left in your slow cooker and add or remove any as needed.
Can you make Giouvetsi ahead of time?
You can cook the meat the day before if you want, let it cool down and pop it in the fridge. Then make the remaining recipe when you want to eat the dish, to cut down on time spent making it. You can also bake it and store it as below.
How to store Giouvetsi (youvetsi) leftovers
If you have any leftovers from your Giouvetsi, you can let them completely cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for around 2-3 days. When you want to serve it, reheat in a pan, ensuring the meat piping hot.
You can also store your youvetsi in the freezer in an airtight container. Use it within 3 months and allow to defrost thoroughly before reheating.
What do you serve with this Giouvetsi/Youvetsi recipe?
Also, don’t forget to give it a generous sprinkle of grated kefalotyri, crumbled feta cheese or even some Romano or parmesan cheese on top! The saltiness of the cheese will cut through the richness of the tomato, taking your Giouvetsi (youvetsi) to another level!
You could also serve it with some fresh parsley sprinkled on top and a little squeeze of lemon juice. If you want to make it into a bigger meal, you can add some fresh vegetables such as steamed green beans or some Greek mixed roast vegetables (briam).Print
A traditional Greek Giouvetsi (youvetsi) recipe made with orzo pasta, beef and a delicious tomato sauce. This is the perfect dish for your Sunday family dinner!
- 1 kg/ 35 ounces diced veal shoulder or diced beef
- 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced (1 cm thick)
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g / 14 oz.)
- 2 tbsps tomato paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 glass of red wine
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 500g (2.5 cups) orzo pasta (kritharaki / manestra)
- 100g grated kefalotyri or feta cheese (5 ounces)
- Pat dry your Giouvetsi meat with paper towels.
- Heat 1/2 of a cup of olive oil into a pan, add the chopped onions and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes in medium-low heat. Turn up the heat and add the veal; brown the meat on all sides until crusty.
- Stir in the tomato paste, sauté for a minute then pour in the red wine. Wait for the wine to evaporate. Add the tinned tomatoes, the sugar, the cinnamon stick and a good pinch of salt and pepper and enough water to cover the meat.
- Turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 45 minutes or until the beef is tender and fully cooked. Occasionally stir and top up with water if the sauce starts to dry out.
- In the meantime, heat another pan, add 3 tbsps of olive oil and the orzo pasta and sauté, until golden.
- Once your meat is done simmering, place the orzo pasta in an oven tray along with the meat and sauce (remove the cinnamon stick) and mix.
- If needed, add enough water so that the pasta is just covered. As a rule of thumb you’ll need about 3 cups of liquid for 1 cup of orzo pasta.
- Cover the tray with some aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, add a splash of water if it has dried out, and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
- To serve, sprinkle with some grated kefalotyri or any hard yellow cheese and enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1 plate
- Calories: 486kcal
- Sugar: 9g
- Sodium: 362.4mg
- Fat: 21.1g
- Saturated Fat: 5.4g
- Unsaturated Fat: 14.5g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 38.1g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 35.5g
- Cholesterol: 79.9mg
Keywords: Giouvetsi recipe, Greek Beef stew with Orzo, Youvetsi