This is my version of a traditional greek dish called ‘Giouvetsi’. Orzo pasta, one of the key ingredients, originates from Italy but it’s very popular in middle eastern cuisine and Greece where it’s known as ‘kritharaki’. My version of the greek casserole, on top of the key ingredients which are beef, orzo pasta and tomatoes, has a few more vegetables and spices. We usually have this on a Sunday, something equivalent to an english Sunday roast, and the whole family really loves it! I often make it when we have friends or family visiting and it’s always a big hit.
How to and secrets
You can get pre-cut beef into cubes or a whole piece of beef and cut it yourself into 2cm cubes. I almost always go with the second one cause it gives me the option to select my beef cut. I usually get a beef brisket or shoulder cut as they are perfect for casseroles and stews. You will need to cook the meat with the tomato sauce at low heat for at least an hour until it is tender enough. I add around a pint of boiled water in the pot but do check every now and then in case you need to add a bit more. When the meat is soft but not melting, I add my veggies to the pot and leave it to cook for 30 more minutes.
I find that adding some extra vegetables to the original recipe, gives the casserole a bit more body and it’s also a great way for everyone to eat more veggies! Carrots, leek and mushrooms are usually the ones I always add, but if you have some celery around that goes well too. I cut the carrots into round slices but if you have a baby, you should cut them into cubes as round shapes can be a choking hazard. I cut the leek lengthwise and then slice it and same with mushrooms, cut them in the middle and then slice them.
Did you know that bay leaves are full of nutrients, help with digestion and improve gut health! You can use dry ones or if you have a bay tree like me, cut a couple of leaves and add them in the pot with your beef while it’s being cooked.
Allspice is a very aromatic spice that I often use in savoury tomato based dishes. I find that it gives my sauce some extra aromas similar to nutmeg and cinnamon. Despite its name, it’s not a mix of different spices! It’s a brown kernel that looks very similar to a peppercorn. I prefer using kernels instead of ground allspice, as they have a stronger aromatic taste but you can use either, whatever you have in your cupboard. Just make sure that you remove the kernels and the bay leaves before serving.
Orzo pasta is very popular in mediterranean and middle eastern cuisines. It’s a bit bigger than rice and it can be used in casseroles, stews, soups or even salads. In this recipe, I add it in the end, after my beef and veggies are cooked as it doesn’t need much time to cook. Basically, when the beef and veggies are done, I move them to a casserole oven dish and add the pasta and some extra water depending on how much water is left in your pot. I cover the dish with some kitchen foil and it goes in the oven for around 15 minutes. The pasta will double its size so make sure that your oven dish is big enough.
You could have some grated hard cheese on top like parmesan or graviera but it’s totally optional and if you are dairy free you can skip this. We usually have it warm, straight from the oven but it’s also good warmed up on the next day.
If you have any leftovers, you can store them in the fridge and have them the next day. You can also store it in the freezer for a couple of months.
Beef and orzo pasta casseroleThis is a healthy, hearty, comfort food! It has a few vegetables apart from the beef and orzo pasta, so it's also great for little children who are usually more difficult with eating veggies. It's a big hit whenever we have friends visiting. Everyone loves it.
- 1.8lb / 800gr beef cut into cubes
- 1 1/2 cup / 250gr orzo pasta
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 leek
- 1 carrot sliced
- 2 mushrooms
- 2 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 can chopped tomatoes (14oz / 400gr)
- 2 bay leaves
- 4-5 all spice kernels
- salt & pepper
- Heat around 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add in the chopped onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the meat (cut in cubes) and turn around with a wooden spoon until it's brown on all sides.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, allspice, salt, pepper and a big glass of water (around 1 pint/500ml).
- Turn heat down to low and allow to simmer with the lid on for an hour. Check every now and then in case the water has evaporated and you need to add more.
- In the meantime, prepare your vegetables. Cut the leek lengthwise in half and then coarsely cut each half into slices. Cut the mushrooms in half and then slices. Cut the carrots in round slices or cubes.
- When the meat is soft and tender, add the leek, carrot, mushrooms and garlic slices in. Add some more water if necessary and simmer for 30 more minutes. At this point, turn on your oven to preheat to 180°C/350°F.
- Add in the pot the orzo pasta, stir a bit and transfer into an oven proof dish. Add a big glass of water (around 1 pint/500ml).
- Cover the dish with kitchen foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the kitchen foil and bake for 5 more minutes.
You can use precut beef or get a beef cut like brisket or shoulder and cut it yourself into 2cm cubes.
You can store any leftover in the fridge for the next day or freeze it for up to 2 months.
Nutrition Info (per serving)
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.