Yiouvetsi Recipe: Traditional Greek Lamb with Orzo

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Yiouvetsi Recipe: Traditional Greek Lamb with Orzo

Recipe by GreekFood
Course: MainCuisine: GreekDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time





Yiouvetsi is a traditional Greek dish known for its rich and flavorful preparation of meat and orzo pasta. It’s a hearty and comforting meal that’s often made with lamb or beef, although other meats like chicken or shrimp can also be used.


  • 1 kg of lamb, cut into portions (you can use shoulder or leg)

  • 400g of orzo pasta

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes (or 400g of fresh, grated tomatoes)

  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

  • 1-2 bay leaves

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese (for serving)

  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)


  • Preheat Oven & Prepare Lamb: Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Season the lamb portions with salt, pepper, and some sweet paprika. In a large pan, heat some olive oil and sear the lamb on all sides until it gets a nice brown color.
  • Cook the Vegetables: In the same pan, add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté them until they become soft and translucent.
  • Add Tomatoes & Spices: Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, cinnamon (if using), and some more salt and pepper. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes.
  • Combine Lamb and Sauce: Place the seared lamb back into the pan with the sauce. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven. Let it cook for about 1-1.5 hours or until the lamb is tender.
  • Cook Orzo: About 20 minutes before the lamb is done, cook the orzo pasta in a separate pot of salted boiling water until it’s al dente. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  • Combine Orzo with Lamb: Remove the pan from the oven once the lamb is tender. Discard the bay leaves and mix the cooked orzo with the lamb and sauce. Add hot water or broth if the mixture seems too dry.
  • Bake Again: Return the pan to the oven, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the orzo is fully cooked and has absorbed most of the sauce.
  • Serve: Sprinkle with grated cheese and fresh parsley before serving. Enjoy your meal!
  • This traditional Yiouvetsi recipe will bring the flavors of Greece to your table. The tender lamb, flavorful sauce, and orzo make for a comforting and satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Recipe Video


  • Lamb Preparation: Ensure the lamb is cut into equal-sized portions for even cooking.
    Browning the Lamb: Properly browning the lamb is crucial for developing depth of flavor. Don’t rush this step.
    Sauce Consistency: The sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s too thin after the lamb is cooked, simmer it on the stove until it reduces to the desired consistency before adding the orzo.
    Checking the Orzo: Orzo should be just al dente when mixed with the lamb and sauce. It will continue to cook in the oven, so avoid overcooking it initially.
    Vegetable Additions: Feel free to add vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, or peas to the dish for extra flavor and nutrition. Add them when you’re sautéing the onions and garlic.
    Alternate Proteins: While lamb is traditional, you can also make Yiouvetsi with beef or chicken. The cooking times may vary depending on the meat you choose.
    Wine Addition: For an added depth of flavor, you can deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine after searing the lamb and before adding the onions and garlic. Let the wine reduce slightly before proceeding with the recipe.
    Broth Instead of Water: If you find the dish needs more liquid when adding the orzo, use chicken or vegetable broth instead of water for more flavor.
    Herbs: Incorporating fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme can add a lovely aroma and taste to the dish. Add them to the sauce before it goes into the oven.
    Side Dishes: Yiouvetsi is quite hearty on its own, but it can be served with a side of crusty bread or a simple Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a light dressing.
    Refrigeration: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They should keep well for up to 3 days.
    Reheating: Reheat in a microwave or in the oven until heated through. You may need to add a little water or broth if the orzo has absorbed all the sauce and the dish seems dry.
    Making Ahead: You can prepare Yiouvetsi ahead of time up to the point of adding the orzo. Store the cooked lamb and sauce in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, reheat the lamb and sauce, cook the orzo separately, and then combine and bake as directed.
    Freezing: This dish freezes well. Cool it completely, then portion it into freezer-safe containers. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the oven or microwave.

Nutritional Information:

  • Yiouvetsi is a hearty and nutritious dish. Lamb is a good source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Orzo, while a source of carbohydrates, also contributes protein and fiber. The tomatoes provide vitamins C and K, potassium, and folate.

What to serve with Yiouvetsi?

When serving Yiouvetsi, a rich and flavorful Greek lamb and orzo dish, you can complement it with various sides and accompaniments to create a well-rounded and satisfying meal. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Greek Salad: A classic Greek salad, known as Horiatiki, made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese, dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar, is a refreshing choice.
  2. Crusty Bread: Serve some warm, crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce from the Yiouvetsi.
  3. Roasted Vegetables: Oven-roasted vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, and red onions with olive oil, garlic, and herbs can provide a healthy and flavorful side.
  4. Garlic Lemon Potatoes: Greek-style lemon potatoes, roasted with garlic, lemon juice, and herbs, are an excellent accompaniment.
  5. Tzatziki: A cool and creamy tzatziki sauce made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill can add a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of the lamb.
  6. Steamed Greens: Simple steamed or sautéed greens like spinach or Swiss chard, seasoned with a bit of lemon juice and olive oil, offer a light and healthy side.
  7. Feta and Olive Platter: A platter of assorted Greek olives and chunks of feta cheese, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, is a great way to start the meal.
  8. Grilled Asparagus: Lightly grilled asparagus with a touch of olive oil and lemon zest can be a delightful springtime side.
  9. Wine Pairing: Don’t forget a good bottle of Greek wine! A red like Agiorgitiko or Xinomavro would pair well with the lamb.
  10. Dessert: For a sweet ending, finish the meal with a Greek dessert like Baklava or Galaktoboureko (a custard pie with phyllo pastry).

These sides not only complement the flavors of Yiouvetsi but also bring a variety of textures and tastes to your meal, making it a delightful Greek dining experience.

Cultural Significance:

  • Yiouvetsi is a dish that is often enjoyed during special occasions and family gatherings in Greece. It represents a piece of Greek culinary tradition, showcasing simple ingredients and robust flavors that have been passed down through generations.

Enjoying Yiouvetsi:

  • When serving, take a moment to enjoy the rich and comforting aromas. Yiouvetsi is not just a meal; it’s an experience that brings people together. It’s a dish best enjoyed in good company, with lively conversation and maybe a story or two about Greek culture and traditions.

The specifics for servings, prep time, cooking time, and calories for Yiouvetsi can vary depending on the exact recipe and portion sizes. However, I can provide you with general estimates:


  • The recipe provided earlier is typically suitable for about 4 to 6 servings. This can vary based on portion sizes.

Prep Time:

  • Preparation time is approximately 20 to 30 minutes. This includes preparing the lamb, chopping onions and garlic, and getting the sauce ingredients ready.

Cooking Time:

  • Cooking time is around 1.5 to 2 hours in total. This accounts for searing the lamb, simmering the sauce, and baking time in the oven. Keep in mind that this time may vary slightly depending on the type and cut of the meat, as well as your oven.


  • Estimating calories for a dish like Yiouvetsi can be a bit tricky without specific quantities for each ingredient, but a single serving might typically range from 600 to 800 calories. Factors that influence this include the cut of lamb used (as some cuts are fattier than others), the amount of oil or cheese added, and the portion size of the orzo pasta.

Yiouvetsi is a testament to the simplicity and richness of Greek cuisine. Its combination of tender meat, flavorful sauce, and pasta creates a comforting and satisfying meal that’s perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re cooking for a special event or just a family dinner, Yiouvetsi is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Enjoy the process of cooking this traditional dish and the delicious results!