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Greek Manestra - Orzo Pasta With Tomato Sauce

A rich & delicious Mediterranean dish of orzo pasta cooked in tomato sauce with lots of aromas from the spices. This traditional Greek manestra dish requires no special cooking skills and it's so quick to prepare. Perfect for busy days when you are looking for something tasty and easy to eat. Kali orexi!
Greek Manestra - Orzo Pasta With Tomato Sauce.

Orzo pasta, or kritharaki as we call it in Greek, is one of my favorite types of pasta. You can combine it with vegetables and make a risotto type of dish, add it to stews, casseroles and even salads. It’s so versatile. The two most popular Greek recipes that we have with orzo are giouvetsi, a lamb or beef casserole with orzo pasta, and manestra, stovetop cooked orzo in a rich flavored tomato sauce.

Manestra is a really simple and easy dish to prepare. I’m sharing with you the spices that we usually add to make the tomato sauce more rich and aromatic, but you are free to add more of your favorite spices and customize the recipe to your liking.

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Why you should try my recipe

  • Easy to cook, one-pot recipe.
  • Great for meatless day meals.
  • Stores in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Great on its own or as a side dish.
  • Variations of different spices to use and elevate the flavors.

Ingredients & How-to

To make this Greek manestra dish, I’m using fresh ripe tomatoes that I blend for a minute. If you are making this dish in the summer when tomatoes are at their best, I highly recommend using fresh. I understand however that in different parts of the world, it might be difficult to get nice, ripe tomatoes or you might simply like to make this orzo recipe in the winter. In that case, you could substitute the tomatoes with canned ones, crushed or passata.

On top of the tomatoes and orzo, I’m also using onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot, olive oil, bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, salt and freshly ground pepper. To cook the pasta, you could use vegetable stock for some extra flavor, or just water.

Ingredients for manestra dish.

For full quantities check the recipe card down below.

01. I start with preparing all the vegetables. I’m chopping the onion and garlic, cutting the carrot into thin slices and the bell pepper in slices or diced. You could use a couple of mini bell peppers or a big one like me.

02. In a blender, I add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. I’m using ripe roma tomatoes that have more flesh and are perfect for stews but you could use any type you have at home.

Chopped ingredients ready for the manestra stew. Blended tomatoes inside the food processor.

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03. I’m using a wide pan with a slightly tall side to make the manestra, similar to a risotto pan. This is ideal for the orzo to cook uniformly and not become very soupy. I turn the heat to medium-high and add half of the olive oil in. I add the chopped onion and saute for 3-4 minutes until it’s soft and translucent.

04. Then I add the rest of the vegetables, the chopped garlic, carrot and pepper slices and blended tomatoes.

Sauteing the onion until translucent. Adding the garlic, carrot and pepper slices to the pan.

05. To spice up the flavor, I’m adding a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick, and season with salt and pepper. I put the heat to medium-low and cook the tomato with the veggies for 15 minutes. Some more spices that you could add for more aromas are allspice kernels or ground allspice and some chili flakes or crushed pepper flakes.

06. Now it’s time for the orzo pasta. I simply add the orzo to the pan and add 3 cups of water, double the amount of the orzo pasta. I stir everything well and leave it to simmer for 15 minutes. The orzo will slowly absorb most of the water. You should stay on foot after adding the orzo and give it a stir with a wooden spoon every now and then as you don’t want the orzo to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Adding the spices and seasoning. Adding the orzo pasta and water to the pan.

07. After about 15 minutes I turn off the heat. There is still sauce in the pan but the orzo pasta is almost cooked. I add the remaining olive oil (1/4 cup) to the pan, give it a stir and cover with a lid. I leave the manestra to rest for 10 minutes and the orzo to slowly absorb the sauce and come together.

Closing with a lid and leaving the manestra to rest.


  • Instead of fresh tomatoes, you could use passata or crushed tomatoes.
  • Some other spices that go well are allspice kernels and chili flakes or crushed pepper flakes.
  • Instead of a cinnamon stick, you could add a quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.


  • Make sure you cut the pepper and carrot into thin slices to cook fast.
  • Don’t forget to use half of the oil when sauteing the onion and the other half before resting the manestra.
  • Serve while it’s still warm. If it sits for too long, it will harden and the orzo will thicken.

Serving suggestions

You can serve manestra on its own as the main dish with a salad and some crusty bread on the side. We love crumbling some feta cheese on top that really compliments the flavor with its tangy taste or you could add some grated cheese.

If you’d like some more protein with it then you could serve it with some Greek biftekia or grilled chicken.


You could store any leftover of this orzo in tomato sauce dish in the fridge for up to 4 days. It’s best enjoyed when it’s warm, so I do recommend heating it up on the stovetop or the microwave before serving it. If it becomes too thick whilst in the fridge, you could add a little bit of water to the pot before warming it up.


  • Can I use canned tomatoes? Yes, you can. You could use canned chopped tomatoes or passata to prepare the manestra.

  • Does manestra have any herbs in it? We don’t usually add any fresh herbs when preparing manestra but you could add some chopped parsley or basil to elevate the flavors.

Watch the video

Greek Manestra - Orzo Pasta With Tomato Sauce

This Greek manestra recipe is made with orzo pasta cooked in a rich flavored tomato sauce and served usually with some grated cheese or crumbled feta on top. A Greek dish that is very easy and quick to make, and with just a few simple ingredients. Kali orexi!
Category: Pasta Difficulty: Easy

4 servings

Prep time

10 minutes

Cooking time

Resting time


  • 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • salt & pepper



  • Prepare the vegetables by chopping the onion and garlic cloves, and cutting the pepper and carrot into slices.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add half of the olive oil. Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the chopped garlic, pepper, carrot and blended tomatoes. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Turn the heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add the orzo pasta and the water. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Turn off the heat and add the rest of the olive oil. Cover with a lid and leave it to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped parsley or basil and some crumbled feta cheese or grated cheese.


- You could use canned chopped tomatoes, passata or fresh tomatoes.
- You could use half a teaspoon of cinnamon instead of a cinnamon stick.


Store any leftovers of this manestra dish in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Nutrition Info (per serving)

Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 4g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19g | Fiber: 3g | Sodium: 99mg | Potassium: 167mg | Sugar: 6g

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.

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This recipe is: vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, egg free, nut free, greek savoury
Recipe keywords: stovetop orzo pasta, orzo with tomatoes, manestra orzo, kritharaki