Complete List of Recipes & Reflections

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yiouvetsi Kritharaki Kypriako – Cypriot Orzo Yiouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι Κριθαράκι Κυπριακό)

A hearty Greek recipe from Cyprus - Click to Enlarge Image

This dish requires no introduction to our Cypriot friends, and though yiouvetsi [γιουβέτσι in Gk., pronounced “yoo-VE-tsee”] dishes are common fare throughout Greece, this variation employing ground meat is from Cyprus. As the 1st of October is Cypriot Independence Day, and since I was unable to attend the reception held by the Consulate General of the Republic of Cyprus here in Toronto due to a nasty cold, I thought I might whip up a dish to belatedly commemorate the occasion in absentia, as it were.

We are now in the Autumn season here in the Northern Hemisphere, and this recipe is a representative Greek comfort food that is easy to make and even easier to eat during the increasingly colder and shorter days that are upon us. The term “yiouvetsi” can best be translated as ‘casserole’ and the name is derived from the type of earthenware vessel that is traditionally used to bake it; a deep two-handled round clay dish. I used an oval stoneware casserole as I broke my yiouvetsi dish (boohoo!) and have not had a chance to replace it. The main point here is that a metal pan is no substitute for a ceramic cooking vessel when one is trying to remain true to traditional Greek food cooking techniques. If you have a ceramic casserole dish, this would be a good recipe to use it on. If you do not have clay or stoneware crockery, then I recommend something like a CorningWare® or Pyrex® glass-ceramic ovenproof dish, as a metal pan will require that you stay on top of it and stir the contents often or the pasta will stick to the sides and bottom. My grandmother used to say that "a true yiouvetsi is stirred only once, half-way through the cooking and no more".

My yiouvetsi straight out of the oven - Click to Enlarge Image

Variations on the yiouvetsi theme in Greek cuisine can include cuts of lamb or chicken, or it can be made without any meat whatsoever. Cheese (usually a dried Greek whey cheese known as myzithra) can also be grated and sprinkled overtop when serving; though I typically do not use cheese on the meat-based variations, it remains an option. Usually, the meatless version of this dish is referred to simply as manestra [pronounced "mah-NE-strah"]. NOTE: Other pasta noodles may also be used to make yiouvetsi, but the krytharaki (orzo) noodle is the most commonly used for this purpose in this Greek recipe.


1 lb. (450 gr.) ground veal
1 quart (1 litre) beef stock
1 ½ cups (375 ml.) of orzo pasta
1 cup (250 ml.) fresh strained tomato juice/sauce [or 2 tbsp. (30 ml.) tomato paste diluted in 1 cup of water]
1 onion, grated or finely chopped
2 garlic gloves, finely chopped or pressed
1 cinnamon stick (a couple inches in length will suffice)
4 spice cloves
3 tablespoons (45 ml.) Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml.) butter
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan, then, over a medium heat, add the ground veal and breaking it up with a wooden spoon sauté the meat for 5-8 minutes stirring constantly until it is thoroughly browned.
  2. Once the ground veal has been completely browned, add the onion, garlic, tomato sauce, cinnamon stick, cloves, salt and pepper to the saucepan with the meat. Stirring the contents well, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes over a medium-low heat.
  3. In a separate pan/pot bring the beef stock to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, so as to keep it hot until we need it.
  4. When the meat has cooked, remove the cinnamon stick from the pan. Add the uncooked orzo pasta to the hot beef stock for a couple stirs, then add the stock to the pan with the meat sauce and stir to mix thoroughly.
  5. Butter the sides and bottom of the casserole, then add the yiouvetsi mixture to the dish and bake uncovered at a moderate heat 350° F. (180° C.) for 50-60 minutes until the liquid has been absorbed by the pasta. Stir the yiouvetsi well with a wooden spoon only once at about the 25 minute mark (making sure to get into the corners of the dish) then let it cook undisturbed for the remainder of its allotted time. Look for the surface of the yiouvetsi to form almost a crust-like top layer, especially near the edges of the dish. Remove from the oven when done and let the casserole sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 Servings.

Kali Orexi! (Bon Appetit)

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections

Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.


Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Dude, that totally looks like a Wednesday night-crap I'm tired-let's makes something yummy and easy-dish! Just goes to show not EVERYTHING needs to be complex...

Hayley said...

This looks great! I might have to use the last of my orzo on this, though my supermarket has stopped selling it now *sob*

Cutie said...

I'm not familiar with greek food at all. Those definitely don't look like pastas but instead rice- the ones I see in Paella. Your site will allow me to venture into greek food. Hehe... I only know that greek food uses a lot of yogurt.

Peter G said...

Yiouvetsi is the best comfort Greek food ever. I especially love it with lamb...and I mop up the juices with lots of bread (such a Greek!)...great post Sam and as always, quite educational.

Peter M said...

I haven't had the Cypriot giouvetsi (yet) but I'll say one thing I enjoy about a's the crisp kritharaki that always forms on the sides and bottom of the dish...kinda like in a good paella.

Gabi @ Mamaliga said...

Another special from Sam! Thank you!

I am sorry to hear of your broken yiouvetsi :-(

I wonder if a good old earth ware Romertopf would be a good substitute for the ceramic yiouvetsi.

Always enjoying your posts!

Gabi @

justfoodnow said...

Goodness gracious me!! Greek genius - could I run all my Greek articles past you first?

Anyway, this recipe looks great - I would be dead happy to link this one to mine, actually - for authenticity that is. :)

Your call.

Ivy said...

I thought I knew everything about Cypriot cuisine. I've never heard of this dish before. Maybe this is a more recent dish someone from Cyprus made giving his own twist to the Greek Giouvetsi. It sounds interesting though. I'd love to know where you found this recipe.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

Just discovered your blog! I'll be back :)

Sam Sotiropoulos said...

@hunter angler gardener cook - Hank, that is exactly the sort of meal this is! And you're right, some of the best things are the simplest.

@hayley - Oh no! no more orzo?! What is the world coming to? Will an online petition help in getting them to re-stock the supply? :) If I can help, I will!

@cutie - Welcome to my blog! By all means, take a look around, lots to see and try here... and yes, Greek food does use yogurt in many recipes. Enjoy!

@peter g - Yes Peter, I think it is one of my fave Greek comfort foods, and I oftentimes make it with lamb as well.

@peter m - I know exactly what you mean! :)

@Gabi - Sure, send one over! ;) My stoneware casserole will do too in a pinch and it worked quite well for this meal, so no worries. :)

@justfoodnow - Jacoba, no need to consult my opinion... I may need to consult yours instead!!! As for linking this post, by all means, feel free to do so. :p

@Ivy - Well Ivy, I would not be the Greek Gourmand if I could not produce little-known Greek recipes that are just waiting to be introduced to the world at large! :) Actually, this dish is pretty commonly known as a Cypriot dish; one of my best friends growing up was from Cyprus originally, and his mother made this all the time so that is where I learned of it. If you do a search on Google for "kritharaki me kima" (without the quotes of course) you will see that this is the case.

@cassoulet cafe - Welcome! Thanks for saying "hi" come back as often as you like. :)

Maria said...

Looks like a delicious variation of Yiouvetsi. I have always made it with lamb but I will definitely try this soon.

GREG said...

Aκόμα μια υπέροχη συνταγή,νασαι καλά,και καλή σου μέρα φίλε μου.

justfoodnow said...

Next article????????????????


Andrew Abraham said...

Fantastic recipe for Lamb... I am sure to try this lamb recipe this weekend..I will try with Orzo..thanks for sharing..


ριχάρδος Ο αγγλός said...

can anyone tell me where in england it is possible to buy the orzo pasta, I have only ever seen it in zakyntho.

Rachel said...

ριχάρδος Ο αγγλός

I buy my Orzo in North London when I visit my sister. Yasar Halim supermarket in Palmers Green, North London sells it.
They also sell the pasta tubes for Pastitso.

daniellah mou said...

I wonder, if you have been to pafos, in papantonio's supermarket they sell a potato slice at the bakery counter. i have no idea what it is called but would love to know how to make them as I got addicted in the year that I lived there!!

Unknown said...

I spent 17 years in Cyprus and made this often as a single mother on a limited budget. It costs pennies and tastes like a million dollars. This is a good version.