If you ask a handful of Greeks what their favorite Sunday dinner is, chances are many will respond with youvetsi. This hearty and flavorful stew is made with either beef or lamb and orzo pasta. It’s an aromatic meal that’s the ideal dish to savor on a cold winter’s day.
It gets its name “youvetsi” from the clay baking dish of the same name in which is traditionally prepared; however, you can use any casserole dish to bake this version. It’s also special from other stews because the orzo is cooked off within the same pan as the beef so it absorbs all of the rich flavors.
To make yours taste just like a Greek grandmother’s with melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, make sure to use a good quality chunk of beef. Also, remember to bring the beef to room temperature and pat dry with a paper towel before cooking. If you prefer not to use orzo pasta, you can serve your stew with mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, or rice.
For the stew
2 pounds of beef chuck, sliced into large cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cups pureed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup beef broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
For the orzo
2 cups of orzo pasta
4 1/2 cups water
1 tsp. salt to taste
- Bring the beef to room temperature and pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a deep pot over high heat, add oil and beef cubes. Sauté for about three minutes, stirring until the beef is browned. Reduce to medium heat and add onion, leek, carrot, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cloves.
- Continue stirring for about three to four minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Mix in the tomato paste and stir for another minute.
- Stir in the wine, pureed tomatoes, sugar, and beef broth (or can use water), salt, and pepper. Cover the pot and let simmer for about one hour or until the beef is tender. It may take up to two hours depending on the quality of the meat. The broth should be thick.
- Preheat oven to 400°F and place a casserole dish about 10 x 14 inches in size inside the oven to warm. While that is warming, bring 4 1/2 cups of water to boil.
- Remove the hot casserole pan from the oven, and mix in orzo and olive oil.
- From the large pot with the stew, remove the cinnamon stick, cloves, and bay leaves from the pot. Then gently pour the stew and meat over the orzo pasta in the casserole dish. Pour the boiling water in, and add salt.
- Let bake for 20 minutes, and then remove from the oven. There will be some excess water in the dish. Let rest on your counter for 15 to 20 minutes, and the pasta will completely absorb the liquid.
- Serve with grated cheese on top.
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