Youvetsi is comforting Greek dish made of tender pieces of lamb (or beef) and small noodles such as orzo, all cooked together in an aromatic tomato sauce with garlic, oregano, and other comforting Greek flavors! Tips and make-ahead instructions included.

Overhead view of youvetsi garnished with feta and parsley in a large pan

What is youvetsi?

Youvetsi--sometimes spelled Giouvetsi, likely from the Turkish güveç--is a popular and comforting Greek stew made with tender bits of lamb or beef, cooked with small noodles such as orzo. You might also see it with chicken(like my earlier chicken orzo recipe), but red meat is more typically used.

While the original Turkey güveç referred to the specific clay vessel in which food was slow-cooked, the Greek version refers simply to the preparation of a slow-cooked meat and pasta dish. The type of dish it's cooked in and the manner, whether on the stovetop or in the oven, differ from one household to another. But youvetsi will always include tender cooked meat and pasta.

Many years back, traditional youvetsi was assembled in special earthenware dishes and cooked in wood burning ovens. But in this easy modern version, I use a large, heavy ceramic braising pan with a lid. And although many recipes call for baking youvetsi, it is easy to cook entirely on the stovetop. You'll start with browning the meat (for added flavor and color), and then simmering it in the sauce until perfectly tender. Finally, stirring in the orzo to cook for a few minutes until it has absorbed a good bit of the sauce!

For me, the true draw to this one-pot lamb stew with orzo is in the delicious sauce made with sweeter San Marzano canned tomatoes, red wine, lots of garlic and onions, dry oregano, and warm spices. It's the perfect warm-your-belly dinner during the chilly fall and winter months!

Overhead view of youvetsi ingredients

What you'll need to make it

This Greek lamb with orzo requires just a handful of ingredients and a few warm spices. And if you don't like lamb, you can absolutely use beef instead. Here's what you'll need:

  • Lamb (or beef)- Boneless lamb shoulder or lamb leg are your best options. Trim the fat before cutting it into small chunks.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil - Be sure to use a quality olive oil to brown the lamb. My favorites are here.
  • Onions and garlic - Chopped
  • Spices- paprika, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bay leaf help provide the warm flavors in this dish.
  • Herbs- dry oregano, and fresh parsley
  • San Marzano tomatoes - Canned San Marzano tomatoes are sweeter than other varieties, they make the base for the hearty sauce.
  • Red wine - Any dry red wine will work. If you don't want to use wine, you can use a low-sodium beef broth instead, although the acidity from the wine enhances this dish.
  • Orzo - You can also substitute any other small, rice-shaped pasta like acini de pepe or orecchiette.
  • Feta cheese - Optional for garnish

How to make Greek lamb stew with orzo (youvetsi)

This easy lamb orzo recipe is made entirely on the stovetop in a few simple steps:

  • Brown the meat. Start with one pound of meat (I used boneless lamb shoulder), and cut it into small cubes or pieces. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy pan with a lid, brown the meat in olive oil over medium-high heat, tossing regularly. Transfer to a large plate for now.

    Chunks of lamb being sauteed in olive oil
  • Saute the aromatics. Add the onions and garlic to the same pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.
  • Simmer. Return the lamb to the pan, along with the red wine and seasonings (1 teaspoon each dry oregano and paprika, and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg). Add a bay leaf. Cook until the wine until the wine has reduced by ½ then add water and canned San Marzano tomatoes with their juices.
    Once everything is boiling, reduce the heat and cover. Let the meat simmer for a good 45 minutes or so until fully cooked and tender!

    Greek lamb stew ingredients simmering in a skillet
  • Add the orzo. Stir in the orzo. Cook until the orzo is tender and most of the moisture has been absorbed, about 15 minutes or so.

    Overhead view of youvetsi garnished with feta and parsley
  • Garnish and serve. Top with parsley and crumbled feta if desired. Enjoy!

Make-ahead youvetsi

To cut down on dinner prep and wait time for this lamb and orzo, you can cook the meat one night in advance. Just stop before adding the orzo. The next day, you can warm up the meat on the stovetop and add the orzo to cook for another 15 minutes or so.

Tips and variations

Youvetsi is a simple comfort food that doesn't require too many tips or tricks, but here are a few things to consider.

  • Allow the orzo and meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. The orzo will continue to absorb the sauce.
  • Don't like lamb? Use beef. If you prefer to make it with beef instead, you can use beef chuck, which is an inexpensive cut of beef that is well-suited for stews. Be sure to trim the beef and cut into small pieces. Still, your cooking time will vary.
  • Swap the feta for grated cheese. If you're not a fan of feta, you can garnish this dish with grated cheese instead. In Greece, you'd likely find it topped with kefalotyri but you can also use a quality parmesan or pecorino.
  • If you cant't find orzo, swap for another tiny pasta. You can even try this recipe with Pearl Couscous, which is another tiny pasta shaped like pearls (it is not a traditional option, but will work).
Close-up of Greek lamb stew garnished with feta and parsley

To serve this Greek lamb

One of the wonderful things about youvetsi is that it's truly a complete one-pan meal. There's no need to add anything else to make this a meal, just transfer to individual bowls and top with parsley and feta.

If you're looking for something green to add next to this hearty dish, try Greek green bean salad or a traditional Greek salad.

Overhead view of Greek lamb stew garnished with feta and parsley

How to store leftovers

This Greek lamb stew is best enjoyed straight from the pan, when the orzo is perfectly cooked. However, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

As it sets and cools, the orzo will continue to soak up any remaining liquid. When reheating, you may need to add some additional liquid to prevent it from drying out. I recommend reheating on the stovetop for best results.

Youvetsi greek lamb stew topped with feta and parsley

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4.80 from 65 votes

Youvetsi: Greek Lamb Stew with Orzo

Suzy Karadsheh
Close-up of Greek lamb stew garnished with feta and parsley
Easy stovetop youvetsi can be made with lamb or beef and small orzo noodles, all cooked together in an aromatic tomato sauce with garlic, oregano, and other comforting Greek flavors! Tips and make-ahead instructions included.
Prep – 30 minutes
Cook – 1 hour
Total – 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves – 6 servings
Main Course


  • 1 pound lamb shoulder (boneless, or lamb leg, trimmed of fat and cut into small 1-inch chunks)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions (finely chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 28 ounces whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • ½ cup fresh parsley (chopped)
  • feta cheese (for garnish, optional)


  • Pat the lamb dry and season with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • In a large, ceramic braising pan or heavy pan with a lid, heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the lamb and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing regularly, until browned. Transfer the lamb to a large plate for now.
  • In the same pan, add the onions and garlic. Season with kosher salt. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened.
  • Return the lamb to the pan. Add the red wine, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaf. Cook until the wine has reduced by at least ½, then add 1 cup of water and the tomatoes. Break the tomatoes up using a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the lamb is cooked through.
  • Stir in the orzo and cover the pan. Let cook for another 20 minutes or until the orzo has cooked through and most of the moister has been absorbed.
  • Garnish with parsley and crumbled feta, if you like, before serving.


  • If the orzo is fully cooked, and you still see a lot of liquid in the pot, do not worry as it will continue to absorb the liquid as it sits. Allow 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Make ahead option: You can prepare a portion of this recipe one night in advance. Cook the meat and follow the recipe up to step #3 (but do not add the orzo). Allow the meat to cool and store it in the fridge. The following day, bring the meat back to a boil and add the orzo to cook for 15 to 20 minutes and follow the remaining steps to serve. 
  • Leftovers & storage: Store cooled leftovers in a tight-lid glass container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices


Calories: 197.6kcalCarbohydrates: 21.3gProtein: 13.2gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.1gCholesterol: 30.5mgSodium: 233.2mgPotassium: 292.2mgFiber: 1.4gSugar: 1.1gVitamin A: 593.7IUVitamin C: 7.3mgCalcium: 33mgIron: 1.9mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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  1. Rhonda DeStefano says:

    5 stars
    Delicious, especially with traditional Greek music playing in the background! Thank you for sharing.

    1. TMD Team says:

      You are very welcome, Rhonda! So glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Up all night says:

    5 stars
    Dear Suzy
    I’ve become devotee to your way of cooking and have been following emails with all your beautiful recipes. This wonderful recipe is like sitting in front of a warm fire I finished it off with a dab of tzatziki.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thank you so much for the sweet note!!

  3. Lydia says:

    5 stars
    This was a hit! I did not have a cover for my large pan, so instead of covering the pan and letting it simmer for 45 min. to 1 hour, I left it on medium high heat uncovered for the first 25 minutes. Just be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan every 5 to 10 minutes to prevent scorching. Most of the liquid was gone at this point, but I added an extra two cups of water, added the orzo, then turned the temperature to low and let it cook for an additional 20 minutes. It turned our great, even with this modification.

  4. Mike Misheff says:

    5 stars
    Being Easter today, I was looking for something special, and trust me I found it!
    My heritage is from that area (Macedonia) and we were fortunate to spend a month on Greece, and attend cooking school on the island of Naxos. I made to additions, 1) I added a handful of blanched green beens and 2) a small bag of okra (couldn’t find any fresh- as mentioned excellent dinner. My only regret is I was out of fresh cinnamon sticks and used shelf type.
    Again,mi recommend this to anyone!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Mike!

  5. Ashley says:

    5 stars
    Wonderful recipe! Thank you!

  6. Livia says:

    5 stars
    Delicious, especially the next day!!

  7. Carly F says:

    5 stars
    Amazing!! I made with lamb flank that was on sale. 5 stars (or more!)

  8. Cyndi says:

    So good! The Arborio rice worked well, keeps its texture. I am thinking mushrooms would be good in here, maybe mot traditional but tasty!

    1. TMD Team says:

      That is so great to hear, thanks for reporting back! Love the ideas of mushrooms in this, too!

  9. Cyndi says:

    I’m a gluten free person. Do you think Arborio rice would work? Love your recipes and flavors!

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Cyndi. In theory, I feel like that would work, but we've never tried this with Arborio before, so it's hard to say with 100% certainty. If you give it a go, will you please stop back and share your thoughts? It is always so helpful to our other readers, especially our gluten-free ones :).

  10. Joanna says:

    Do you think this could be made with ground lamb?

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Joanna! Yes, I think that could work.

  11. Alison says:

    5 stars
    This was a big hit for me and my husband. All the flavors came together so nicely! Recommend tasting and adding salt if needed toward the end of step 4. Definitely making again!

  12. Jillian says:

    1 star
    This was a big pass for us. The lamb tasted okay, but it wasn't great, and the rest of the stew also a big pass. We didn't even eat it it in the end. Was really hoping it would turn out based off the other reviews!

    1. Suzy says:

      I'm so sorry this didn't work out for you, Jillian. Thanks for the feedback!

    2. Irene says:

      Try making it without nutmeg and cinnamon. It shouldn’t even be in the recipe. Yiouvetsi never ever has nutmeg and cinnamon in the traditional recipe. This is her Arab heritage twist (nothing to do with my beautiful Greek culture!). Trust me, it will taste the way it should, delicious.

      1. Niel says:

        Irene, what a rude comment! And for your information, many other recipes for this include cinnamon and nutmeg. Try to be respectful when you are visiting someone's website and interacting with their audience.

  13. Ryan says:

    5 stars
    I’ve probably made 20 Mediterranean Dish recipes at this point and this is my favourite (alongside Harira). So satisfying. I pair it with a simple Greek salad and the contrast of rich and warm and bright and fresh is just so delightful. The orzo, the parsley, the red wine, the feta, everything is just perfect. An absolute joy.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thank you so much, Ryan!

  14. Chris says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this recipe! This dish definitely has an excellent tastiness-to-ease-of-making ratio, will certainly make again.

    I used lamb neck, which works very well in curries. Instead of cooking for 45mins on the hob, I popped the casserole dish in a low heat oven (120-140C) for about 90 minutes to make sure the meat cooked through. I replaced the chopped tomatoes with a couple of tins, and to my taste it needed more of the spices and herbs.

    All in all an fantastic recipe which is great for sharing on the table.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  15. Darius says:

    4 stars
    I really like this recipe. I Ottolenghified it with a teaspoon of harissa paste which adds a bit more depth to the flavour.

  16. Arden says:

    5 stars
    Best Youvetsi recipe ever! I love how the onions and garlic absorb the flavor of the lamb. I made it with pearl couscous and it turned out great! This is now one of my go to recipes! Καλή Όρεξη 😋

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks so much, Arden!