A supremely comforting greek stew with orzo pasta, giouvetsi combines mouthwatering slow cooked meat with a subtly spiced rich tomato sauce that tastes utterly irresistible.
Tender lamb, earthy spices, a rich sauce and melted Greek cheese make for an amazing blend of flavours. Trust me… you won’t forget this one in a hurry!
Why you’ll love this giouvetsi recipe
- It’s a one pot wonder – easy to make, easy to clean up afterwards
- The flavours of this slow cooked greek lamb stew are incredible
- It’s an easy dish to make and all the ingredients are easy to get hold of
- Leftovers are easy to store and taste even better the next day!
- This is one the whole family will love, especially kids!
Equipment needed to make this recipe
There are a few important kitchen items you’ll need before you start cooking giouvetsi:
- Oven-proof casserole dish – go for a high quality cast iron casserole dish or Dutch oven. Something that can withstand a high heat on the hob, as well as in the oven. For me, it doesn’t get much better than a La Creuset casserole dish. It will last a lifetime and you’ll get excellent results every time.
- Chef’s knife and chopping board – you’ll need a quality sharp kitchen knife and sturdy chopping board to prepare the ingredients.
How to make giouvetsi
What to serve with giouvetsi
It’s traditionally topped with grated kefalotyri or kefalograviera, but nowadays many people use crumbled feta cheese.
Another good side dish suggestion is a traditional Greek salad. Anything with feta in will go really well with this dish – try my pumpkin and feta salad for instance. The flavours are tailor-made for this Greek lamb stew!
For this lamb stew recipe, we want to find a wine that’s not so fruity, but dry with a good amount of acidity. This helps to cut through the fattiness of the lamb and the rich saltiness of the feta. An Italian Chianti would be perfect.
If you want to keep it Greek, I recommend pairing this lamb stew with a crisp white wine called Assyrtiko. It’s absolutely delicious!
Popular substitutions for this recipe
Missing an ingredient? Want to switch things up a little? No problem. This lamb stew recipe is highly versatile, with various
- For this recipe, I’ve gone with feta as the finishing cheese. However, the classic Greek cheese, Kefalotyri, is traditionally used as a topping for Giouvetsi. If you can find it, great! Otherwise, go with the feta.
- You can add a cinnamon stick to the sauce in place of ground cinnamon.
- Giouvetsi is a pasta dish that uses orzo – a rice shaped pasta. If you prefer something a little different, you can use other small types of pasta such as ditalini, macaroni or stelline.
Variations to this recipe
Cook in the oven
For this recipe, I’ve gone for the easier method of cooking giouvetsi on the hob. You can, however, go for the more traditional way of cooking this Greek lamb stew – in the oven.
Slow cooking giouvetsi in the oven means you’ll end up with a more ‘stewy’ unctuous dish, with a denser consistency and deeper flavour.
If you decide to cook this giouvetsi recipe in the oven, set your oven to 160°C / 325°F / gas mark 3 and cook until the lamb is fall apart tender.
Traditionally, this dish is made as a lamb giouvetsi. However, if you prefer Greek beef stew, you can use a beef chuck or similar beef stewing steak in its place.
Spice it up
Lamb goes really well with certain earthy spices. Add crushed fennel seeds into the mix for a wonderful aroma and an extra depth of flavour to this Greek dish.
Alternatively, add a teaspoon of paprika or chilli powder for extra heat.
Add a secret flavour-maker
Add a few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce to the tomato based sauce for a deeper umami flavour. Do this around the same time as you return the meat to the casserole pot. You can also use a suitable alternative – I’ve got a definitive list of best Worcestershire Sauce substitutes.
Another secret flavour maker for lamb stew? Add a single anchovy into the pot after you’ve fried the onions. Seriously! Although it might sound strange, it works wonders!
The secret to tender lamb is to brown the meat properly. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan – do it in batches if necessary.
What is giouvetsi?
It’s a delicious one pot dish that consists of lamb or beef chunks, first browned at a high temperature before being fried with onions and garlic, then slow cooked with spices in a tomato based sauce.
What’s the difference between giouvetsi and youvetsi?
They are the same thing, just different spellings of the same dish.
Where does giouvetsi come from?
It’s a traditional Greek dish that has been part of Greek cuisine for centuries. In the past, it was the social custom for Greek women to prepare the dish on a Sunday morning. Then, on the way to church with the family, they would drop the the large cooking pot at a communal wood fired oven.
Here, a local fire-master would oversee the cooking of all the neighbourhood Giouvetsi. After church, families would pick up their pot, just in time for Sunday lunch!
This tradition adapted over the years, with the local outdoor wood fired ovens replaced by bakery ovens.
Nowadays, you’ll find this comfort food classic served up in restaurants across all the Greek islands.
How do you pronounce giouvetsi?
It’s pronounced ‘you-vet-see.’
Can giouvetsi be made with rice?
Yes, you can use rice in place of orzo pasta for this dish.
What is orzo pasta?
Orzo is a type of short cut pasta that resembles rice grains. It’s normally made from semolina flour, a kind of flour that is made from durum wheat.
What is the Greek name for orzo?
In Greece, orzo is known as ‘kritharaki.’ This translates as ‘little barley.’ In Italy, it’s known as ‘risoni’, which means ‘big rice.’
What’s the best cut of lamb for stewing?
I recommend using lamb shoulder. If you can’t find lamb shoulder, go for neck or leg, which are the next best cuts when it comes to making a lamb stew.
What olive oil shall I use for this recipe?
A standard olive oil should be fine. I recommend you save the expensive extra virgin olive oil for drizzling or dipping, as you’ll lose the flavour if you use it for frying.
What is the best wine when cooking giouvetsi?
Use a dry acidic wine with giouvetsi. This will help to bring balance to the dish and will complement the spices and the fattiness of the lamb.
A Chianti would be best, but something like a Malbec would be great too.
Can you make this giouvetsi recipe ahead of time?
Yes! In fact, making this dish in advance enables the spices to mingle and the flavours to intensify.
To prepare this giouvetsi recipe in advance, follow the instructions below up to the point where the orzo pasta is added. Then, allow the dish to cool, before storing it in the fridge.
When you’re ready to finish the dish, add the orzo and continue with the steps in the instructions below.
Is giouvesti gluten free?
As it uses orzo pasta, this Greek lamb stew is not gluten free. However, you can use arborio rice in place of orzo pasta to make it gluten free.
How do you store giouvetsi leftovers?
The great thing about this dish is that leftovers taste even better! So, a great excuse to make a big batch of this Greek classic.
Allow everything to cool completely, then transfer any leftovers into a suitable airtight container. Keep the container in the fridge, where your giouvetsi will stay fresh for up to four days.
Can you freeze giouvetsi?
Yes, you can. If you want to store giouvetsi leftovers for longer than a few days, freezing is definitely a good option.
Again, allow the lamb stew to completely cool, before transferring it to a freezable airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to four months. Any longer than that and you’ll start to notice significant effects to the taste and texture of the stew.
More delicious Greek recipes
Greek cuisine is absolutely heavenly! If you’re a fan, you’re in luck… here are some more wonderful recipes for you to try:
This Giouvetsi is a Greek dish made with lamb, pasta and a tomato sauce. Follow this simple recipe to create a mouth-watering meal.
- 1kg (2.2lbs) lamb shoulder or stewing lamb, cubed
- 30ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 250ml (1 cup) red wine
- 500g (17oz) passata
- 28g (2 tbsp) tomato paste
- 12g (1 tbsp) sugar [optional]
- 3g (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- 1g (1/2 tsp) ground nutmeg
- 500g (3 cups) orzo pasta
- 7g (1 tsp) salt
- 100g (1 cup) feta cheese, crumbled [optional]
- Pat the lamb dry and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a cast iron casserole dish and brown the meat on all sides to sear it. Preferably, do this in 2 batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. Set aside when done.
- Using the same pot, fry the onions for 5 minutes or until softened and translucent.
- Add the meat back in with the onions, then pour in the wine. Let it bubble for a good 3-5 minutes while scraping the bottom to incorporate all the flavours into the sauce.
- Add the passata, tomato paste, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pot and stir.
- Let the content reach a simmering point, then cover with a lid. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the lamb is fully cooked and tender. Give it another 15 minutes or so if needed.
- Stir in the orzo and top with water until everything is covered. I only needed 500ml (2 cups) of water and dissolved the salt before adding it to the lamb stew.
- Give everything a good stir, then cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes over a gentle heat on the hob, or until the pasta is fully cooked.
- Garnish with parsley and feta. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Youvetsi can be made with beef as well. For best results, buy good quality stewing steak.
- Kefalotyri cheese is used as a traditional topping for Giouvetsi. If you can get hold of it, grate
- During the cooking process, check on the liquid levels every now and then. Add a splash of water as needed to ensure the stew doesn’t dry out.
- 100g of the cheese and use instead of the feta.
- This recipe freezes well and is great for batch cooking.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Category: Main
- Method: Stew
- Cuisine: Greek
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