Yiayia’s Orzo (Kritharaki)
When asked to share another recipe for this issue of Hellenic News of America, my first thought was a special recipe from the woman who ignited my passion for cooking, my Yiayia Stella Saltas. Yiayia’s orzo/kritharaki has been the most popular recipe from my blog and cookbook to date. You just can’t beat simple comfort.
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 ½ cups orzo/kritharaki
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons dry oregano, or more to taste
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
4 to 5 cups of water
Beef broth (optional)
¼ cup ketchup (optional)*
Grated cheese (mizithra or Parmesan)
*Yiayia’s tip: Ketchup can be added to the tomato sauce to sweeten it. You can use a pinch of sugar instead, or omit this step.
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the ground beef. Pound the beef with a spoon to break up into chunks. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and oregano, and brown the beef.
2. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions have softened and stir continuously.
3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (and ketchup if using it) to the pot. After pouring the cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes in, fill the cans up with water and pour that into the pot, too. Cover the pan with a lid (leave the lid off slightly). Be sure to stir occasionally.
4. Cook for about 30 minutes and taste for flavor. Add more salt and pepper, cinnamon and oregano if needed. Add more of what you prefer. Turn down the heat and let simmer, constantly checking and stirring (stir from the bottom).
5. Once the meat has cooked, add the orzo/kritharaki, stirring constantly so it doesn’t stick together. Add water to the pot to cover the orzo.
6. Cover the pan with the lid (leave the lid off slightly) and let cook for about 20 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally, stirring from the bottom of the pan. Check for flavor—again—adding more cinnamon or oregano if needed.
7. When orzo is soft, remove from heat. Top with grated cheese and serve.