This is an elaborate recipe for aromatic chicken and orzo casserole (Giouvetsi). Start in a pot and finish it in the oven for an orgasmic taste.
Giouvetsi (or Youvetsi) is for the Greeks what the Sunday roast is for the British. A hearty meal for a lovely family Sunday lunch.
But the similarities end here. There is no gravy or Yorkshire puddings involved!
The basic ingredients for this casserole is meat, tomato sauce and orzo. It can be done with lamb, veal or chicken. Has a lot of aroma, coming mostly from allspice and cinnamon (I didn’t use allspice in this recipe). It’s just great!
I believe Giouvetsi has some oriental roots and the name itself comes from the Turkish “Güveç”, which is a pot the Turks use to make casseroles and stews. Made usually from clay, it’s mostly used for baking in firewood ovens.
As you may not have a firewood oven or a “Güveç”, a normal tray in your electric oven will do just fine.
An alternative version is to use spaghetti instead of orzo. Actually, I prefer it that way. I still remember trying to convince my mother to use spaghetti every time she was making Giouvetsi. Was not an easy battle as my father and she preferred the orzo. Sometimes I won, sometimes not.
Don’t forget to sprinkle some Feta on top! It makes a huge difference.
- 6 chicken thighs with the skin on.
- 3-4 large sweet and ripe tomatoes.
- 4 garlic cloves sliced.
- 1 large onion chopped.
- 1 red pepper chopped.
- 2 cups of tomato passata or diluted purée.
- A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley.
- 1 teaspoon paprika.
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano.
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil.
- 100 gr (3 oz) all-purpose flour.
- 1 ½ cups of orzo.
- Salt and ground pepper.
- Crumbled Feta for topping.
- Wash the chicken and dry them using kitchen paper towel.
- Add the tomatoes and parsley in a blender and create a smooth paste.
- Warm up the olive oil in a large pot on medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, cover the chicken thighs with flour, shake them well to remove the excess and start frying them with the skin on the bottom. Season with salt and pepper and add the oregano.
- When the chicken starts getting brown, reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and peppers and cook until they get soft. Give it a stir from time to time. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the fresh tomato paste, passata (or tomato puree), paprika and cinnamon. Make sure the juices cover all of the ingredients. If not, add some water. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for ~ 1 hour. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.
- Preheat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
- Empty the chicken and the sauce from the pot into a large baking tray. Add the orzo and 1 cup of hot water. Make sure the juices (and water) cover the orzo.
- Bake for ~ 20 minutes until the orzo is cooked according to your liking. Check from time to time if the orzo is cooked. If it’s not cooked and the tray looks dry, add some hot water.
- minutes before you take it out of the oven, sprinkle some Feta cheese on top.
- Bon appetit!