Most people’s comfort food is some kind of casserole, mac’n’cheese, or other simple American fare. Manestra is mine. Comfort food really is what you grow up eating, and my mom had lots of delicious, simple Greek recipes that I still make when I want something warm, comforting, and non-vegetable based (because what comfort food is made of vegetables?) :-)
Manestra is the Greek word for orzo. This recipe is simple, and I sometimes refer to it as “Greek Chop Suey” – Ground beef or turkey is cooked with onions in a tomato-based broth with orzo, with mint and cinnamon added for a unique Greek flavor.
I know what you are thinking. Mint and cinnamon? Really? Trust me, it works. Cinnamon is added to a lot of meat-based Greek recipes (have you ever had Cincinnati-style chili? Chili with cinnamon added to it, first made by Greek immigrants in the area!). The mint is super unique but subtle and gives the whole thing a great flavor.
You will just have to trust me and go make it for yourself :-)
Start by browning 1 pound of ground beef or turkey with one large diced onion. I used ground turkey for this one- both are delicious!
Once the meat is cooked through, add 1 small can of tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, and the spices. There isn’t a lot of cinnamon in this dish- only 1/8 teaspoon. For the mint, I use dried spearmint leaves (I have never tried fresh, but I have a mind to start an herb garden in the spring and will try it later for sure!).
Get a heaping teaspoon of the mint, and put it in the palm of your hand. Crush the leaves when you add it to the pot by rubbing it between your hands as you add it to maximize the flavor of the mint. This part is fun- it kind of feels like I’m making a potion and I actually live in Hogwarts, and I should be saying some kind of spell while adding it.
Stir to coat the meat in the tomato and spice mixture, and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, add 1 cup whole wheat orzo (you can find this at Whole Foods or in bulk on Amazon), stir, and simmer on low, covered, until cooked, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes).
Serve with Romano or parmesan cheese on top. Get second helpings (and thirds) :-)
Freezer directions: This dish can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months.Print
Manestra (simple Greek orzo comfort food)
I sometimes refer to this as “Greek Chop Suey” – Ground beef or turkey is cooked with onions in a tomato-based broth with orzo, with mint and cinnamon added for a unique Greek flavor.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Brown the meat and onion in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- When the meat is cooked through, add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
- Add the mint by crushing with your hands as you are adding to enhance the flavor.
- Stir to coat the meat in the tomato and spices.
- Add water; bring to a boil.
- Add orzo; stir, simmer on low, covered, stirring occasionally, until cooked (approximately 20 minutes)
Freezer directions: This dish can be frozen for up to 6 months in an airtight container.