Arni Youvetsi/Giouvetsi aka Lamb Baked with Orzo and Tomatoes aka My Favorite Dinner

December 18, 2009 · 22 comments

in dairy-free,greek,lamb,pasta

I’ve mentioned before that, despite being a lover of food and an, erm, taster of all things, I can boil my favorite dinners down to two things: lahanodolmades and this dish, arni giouvetsi (you-vet-see). Neither of them are particularly fancy or complicated.  They aren’t terribly exotic or packed with unique ingredients.  But they are good. Really good. And part of the reason I love them so much, no doubt, is because of all the nostalgia and comfort that is associated with both dishes.  I ate both quite frequently growing up and, even to this day, when I travel to Michigan to see family, somebody makes one of these two dishes for me because it’s well known how much I love them.  Some things never change. (I won’t get into the time when my grandma sent up a batch of lahanodolmades with my dad and stepmom who, after getting stuck in traffic, finally made it to my place with a casserole dish of some really funky smelling stuffed cabbage.)

Giovetsi is basically a dish made with meat and orzo, cooked together in the oven. Arni means lamb, so you can have different forms of giouvetsi, like chicken and beef.  But as I mentioned in that other post, I don’t make arni giouvetsi very often. I make variations of this dish (with chicken, with beef stew meat, etc.) more often because of the whole only-two-people-living-here-thing.  And I typically do it on the stove top (which actually negates the whole “giouvetsi” thing).  This dish is often made with a shoulder or leg of lamb, which I probably don’t have to tell you are quite large.  Perfectly enough, though, the people at Lava Lake Lamb (who also sent me the ground lamb I used to make my spiced meatballs), sent me a piece of top round lamb and right away, I knew I had to make this dish.  Now, it’s true that top round is quite a bit more tender (and cooks for less time) than the pieces usually used in this long-cooking dish, but I just had to make it.  And it turned out great! Comfort on a plate!

Arni Giouvetsi/Baked Lamb and Orzo

Serves 4
print Printer Friendly Recipe

1.5 lbs. lamb (leg, shoulder roast, top roast, etc.)
olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup (about half a can) diced tomatoes
3 cups broth (or water)
8 oz. orzo
plenty of freshly ground pepper and kosher or sea salt
myzithra or good romano for serving

Preheat the oven to 300.

Rub the lamb with olive oil and season very liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Remember this is a big hunk of meat, so don’t be shy with the seasoning. Sear the lamb in a heavy bottomed skillet/dutch oven/what have you on all sides.  Remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish (or set aside until  you are ready to put it back in a Dutch oven, if that’s what you’re using).

Add a little olive oil to the pan and then add the onions. Once the onions are tender, stir in the garlic and tomato paste until the garlic is fragrant and the tomato paste has started to cook off a bit and become incorporated with the onions.  Add the diced tomatoes and broth and scrape  up any bits at the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the liquid around the lamb in the casserole dish. Cover and bake until the lamb is very tender, about 1.5-2 hours (or more).

Increase the heat in the oven to 350, and stir in the orzo.  Continue to bake, this time uncovered, until the orzo is cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20-30 minutes.

Serve pieces of the lamb alongside the orzo and top generously with myzithra or romano cheese.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter G December 18, 2009 at 7:54 am

This is my favourite too Elly! It’s so comforting and hearty in the winter time. Thank you for sharing!


bellinivalli December 18, 2009 at 8:24 am

Comfort food means many different things to each of us, but I would find comfort in this dish with a side of spanakopita:D


Niki December 18, 2009 at 8:58 am

My yiayia always made this for us when there was something special happening. She babysat for us three nights a week, so if she knew one of us had straight A’s or made the school play ro something, she would make this b/c we LOVED it!
I asked her for the recipe once and I think it was one of those things that i needed to watch her make it and record it b/c she told me what she remembered in her head and it came out wrong. I’m def copying this recipe down to see if this is like I remember!!!


Noelle (An Opera Singer in the Kitchen) December 18, 2009 at 10:56 am

This looks so beautiful and tasty!


Elizabeth December 18, 2009 at 11:04 am

Niiiiiiice !!!
One of my favourite dishes!


Joan Nova December 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I can see why this is one of your favorites. It looks especially delicious in the first photo. I was thinking it would be delicious with some crumbled feta instead of the romano.


Maria December 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Definitely one of my favorites too Elly! So comforting and perfect for the season.


themilkmanswife December 18, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Mmm. This looks so warm and comforting. YUM!


small cabin December 19, 2009 at 3:12 am

I can consider this as my comfort food. I always love eating this dish even when I was growing up. Thanks for sharing.


Kevin December 20, 2009 at 10:41 am

I tried a chicken youvetsi/giouvetsi a while ago that I really liked. I will have to try this lamb version!


Kerstin December 21, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I just saved this recipe and can’t wait to make it! The lamb looks so tender and delicious and I love orzo – yum!


Peter December 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

One of my faves too, hands down. One note, this dish does work better with Greek kritharaki (orzo). Brands like Misko, Melissa or Vlaxa.


Megan January 1, 2010 at 9:26 pm

This was always my dad’s favorite…I fondly remember him sitting at the table on a Sunday afternoon chewing on a big old lamb shank like a caveman :) I only liked the orzo as a kid.


Jenny January 15, 2010 at 12:32 am

Where has your blog been all my life? Delicious.


Jennifer November 11, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Had this years ago at a great Greek restaurant in Atlanta; tried it about a year ago ( made my own version) but added carrots…fresh whole baby carrots. Made it again this evening using shoulder and blade chops and everyone loved it (even my mom who DOES NOT eat lamb!) brilliant and simple recipe…my only edits were the addition of the carrots, som herbs de Provence and bay, a good lug of red wine and a good defatting after braising. Thanks Elly! This polish girl loves it!


kiki December 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

I have made this for years and have done it in an easier way.

1. Half cook the orzo in chicken broth.
2. strain orzo, put orzo in a casserole dish and save 1 cup of that broth.
3. add tomato paste, 1 can of chopped tomato and garlic to the saved broth stir over heat to incorporate and then pour this mixture over orzo.
4. place uncooked shoulder chops on top of orzo and put a pad of butter on each chop and salt and pepper.
5. bake chops over orzo at 300 for 30-45 mins. until chops are done and orzo is tender.
6. serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

very easy to make and to cleanup. almost a one dish meal. ;)


Leslie October 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

Thank you for this recipe – it is amazing. My husband and I made this last night for dinner after finding the recipe on Gojee, and we loved it. It really is pretty simple and doesn’t take that many ingredients – we made it on a Sunday afternoon and we let the lamb braise for about 3 hours. I really like the addition of orzo at the end, because it soaks up all the wonderful flavor in the braising liquid. We will definitely be making this again soon!


elly October 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

So happy to hear you enjoyed it, Leslie!


Jasmine January 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I love this dish! I added some peeled and chopped red delight potatoes and it was delicious!


mary beth grant January 14, 2015 at 9:01 am

Hi – Can’t wait to make this tonight, the recipe calls for broth or water, assuming chicken broth? Please advise.

Thank you and I cant wait for dinner!


elly January 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

You can use any kind you want, really! I typically use chicken broth but have used a combo of chicken & beef before too. Hope you enjoy!


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