Youvetsi: Beef Stew with Orzo Pasta

Beef Stew with Orzo Pasta - Youvetsi. Photo © Lynn Livanos Athan
  • 90 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
Ratings (5)

Youvetsi (yoo-VEH-tsee) is a traditional Greek stew that can be made with beef or lamb. The meat is cooked in a rich tomato sauce together with orzo pasta and finished with a heap of grated Kefalotyri cheese on top.

If you don't happen to have a covered ceramic baker, don't worry. The dish can also be made in a traditional Dutch oven. The best cuts of beef and lamb to use for this dish are the cheaper cuts like chuck or shoulder.

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided 
  • 3 1/2 lbs. beef or lamb, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1
  • large leek, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 to 4 whole allspice berries
  • One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 quart of water
  • 1 lb. orzo pasta
  • Grated Kefalotyri cheese or
  • Pecorino Romano

How to Make It

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In a heavy, oven-safe Dutch oven or deep pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Season the meat lightly with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until nicely browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the browned meat from the pot and set aside on a platter. Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the leek, carrot and the wine to the pot and scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the bottom.
  1. Add the allspice berries, crushed tomatoes, sugar and quart of water to the pot. Let it come to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Return the meat (with juices) to the pot, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 1 hour or until the meat is very tender.
  3. Remove the leek and carrot from the sauce and transfer the meat and sauce to a covered ceramic baker or continue using the Dutch oven.
  4. Stir in the uncooked orzo pasta and add about 1/2 cup more water if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and place in the oven. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring the contents occasionally to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove from the oven, remove the allspice berries and top with grated cheese. Cover and allow the dish to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.