Keftedes Youvetsi – Meatballs and Orzo
I find it quite strange that such a delicious Greek dish cannot be found in Greek restaurants here in Berlin. Why is that? Who knows, but what I can say Keftedes Youvetsi are baked Greek meatballs with Orzo or Kritharaki in a tomato sauce and are really delicious and If you are wondering what Orzo or Kritharaki is, well, they are a Greek pasta that is shaped a bit like rice, but not really as it is much larger than rice. Anyway, here in Germany they call it Griechische Nudeln that’s Greek noodles to you and me!
Moving on this dish is the ultimate comfort food, the type you bake one day and it tastes even better on the second day and you want more.
I first baked this for a Greek evening for my wife’s colleagues and of course it was a hit especially as it was all new to them. You can always make the sauce for this in advance, the meatballs or Keftedes can also be made a day in advance and stored uncooked in the fridge or you can even freeze them too if you wish.
Try this recipe for yourselves and you’ll be using it again and again.
For the Meatballs:
1 kg lean ground beef
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch parsley (½ cup chopped)
1 ½ cups unseasoned bread crumbs
1 cup (250ml) milk
½ cup 125g) shredded parmesan cheese, optional
2 tspns dried oregano
¼ tspn crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the tomato sauce:
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100ml ofGreek olive oil
4 large garlic cloves crushed
1 can of tomatoes, pureed in blender
2 tspns dried oregano
¼ tspn crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups (1 litre) water or chicken stock
500g Kritharaki which is orzo
1 ½ tspns sea salt
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
A handful of chopped fresh parsley for garnish
100g or so of feta cheese crumbled over the
1-2 cups ice cubes
For the meatballs finely chop the garlic, onions and parsley. If you are feeling lazy you can put these ingredients in a food processor and pulse until
In a bowl whisk the milk and egg together.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the meatball ingredients and knead well to combine and evenly distribute everything then form them into golf ball sized meatballs and place them on a baking tray and drizzle with some Greek olive oil.
Depending on what sort of oven set up you have you can start these meatballs off under the grill or broiler for 5-10 minutes until they have a golden brown colour.
Remove them and set them aside and allow the meatballs to rest for about 10 minutes. Carefully move them using a spatula and place them in a cazuela or a nice baking dish.
To Make the Sauce:
Preheat the oven to max.
In a saucepan, combine the chopped onions and oil and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or so until they are soft and golden then add the grated garlic and stir to warm through. If you blitzed these ingredients in the food processor then just warm them up in a saucepan.
Now add all of the remaining sauce ingredients, except for the stock/water and cook over medium heat until thickened which should take about 10-15 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Add 4 cups water/chicken stock and bring to a boil
Reduce the oven’s temperature down to 400 °F, 200 °C.
Now to put it all together, first pour the orzo around the meatballs in the baking dish and pour the tomato sauce all over. Season with some salt and give it a little stir round tomake sure that all the orzo is covered in the sauce.
Place on the center rack of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 45 minutes or until the orzo is cooked, al dente.
Remove from the oven and add the ice cubes over the top. This is to stop the orzo cooking further in the hot sauce as orzo is quite delicate and could become too soft.
Mix well and garnish with parsley and feta cheese.