On the table in 30 minutes, this comforting Greek Manestra recipe is a delicious and simple pasta dish packed with flavour. Orzo pasta is cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with Greek herbs and spices, allowing it to absorb all that delicious flavour.
What is Manestra?
Manestra is a Greek orzo with tomato sauce. It’s ultimate comfort food: thick, rich and creamy (but without dairy!). Similar to an Italian risotto, but using orzo pasta in place of the rice, the orzo is cooked in a flavoured tomato sauce and so absorbs all that delicious flavour. It’s the food I love about the Mediterranean: simple, few ingredients, but so delicious.
Related recipe: Slow cooker Greek lamb shanks with orzo.
Why we love this recipe
- This Greek pasta dish is made from simple store cupboard ingredients.
- It is an economical dish that is comforting, on the table in under 30 minutes, and loved by all the family, kids included.
- It makes a delicious side dish or meal in itself.
- This one pot Greek orzo is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient quantities.
- Orzo – This tiny rice like pasta shape is known as risoni here in Australia, but if you are in the UK or other countries you will know it as orzo.
- Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil.
- Onion and garlic – the base flavours.
- Concentrated tomato paste – concentrated tomato puree. Adds a deep tomato flavour and gives the dish a rich red colour.
- Tinned tomatoes – or canned tomatoes. Either chopped tomatoes or plum tomatoes crushed with the back of a spoon. You can use grated fresh tomatoes if you prefer.
- Spices – ground cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper.
- Stock – you can use chicken or vegetable stock / broth, homemade stock, or a stock cube dissolved in water or just water.
- Bay leaves – a common Greek ingredient used to flavour sauces, soups and sauces. If you don’t have bay leaves see these bay leaf substitutes.
- Dried oregano – if you can find it, dried Greek oregano is more earthy and less sweet than Mediterranean oregano.
How to make this Manestra recipe
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full recipe.
- In a large sauce pan cook the chopped onion in the olive oil over a medium heat until soft.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook before adding the tomato paste.
- Pour in the stock / water, spices, bay leaves, dried oregano and add a pinch of salt.
- Stir, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat slightly and simmer over a medium-high heat until the pasta is tender and the sauce has thickened.
- TIP: Stir often to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
In Australia orzo is known by the name, Risoni.
No. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.
My recipe tips
- Stir the orzo / risoni a lot during cooking. Not only will this prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, but stirring will release some of the starch from the pasta, resulting in the sauce becoming thick and rich like risotto.
- The pasta will continue to absorb the liquid as it stands, so it is best to serve straight away.
- If you don’t want chunks of tomato in your pasta dish: either use passata or blend tomatoes – this is especially good when serving to kids if they don’t like chunks of tomatoes in the pasta.
- Sprinkle with cheese – sprinkle over some crumbled feta cheese or grated parmesan cheese. I have also served this dish with torn mozzarella stirred through which whilst not traditional, was delicious!
- Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with black pepper.
- You can serve Manestra as a main dish, or as a side to chicken, fish, pork or slow cooker lamb shoulder.
Manestra is best served straight away, however any leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Add a little more water or stock when reheating.
If you have a small amount of this Greek tomato orzo leftover: heat with a splash of water then until piping hot then turn off the heat. Add a couple of spoonfuls of grated cheese and stir through. If there is only a small amount leftover, we serve on toast, heating it under the grill like you would for cheese on toast.
- Stir through beans or chickpeas like Gigantes plaki.
- Add dried mint instead of the oregano.
- Make into Greek tomato orzo soup: add 250-500ml (1-2 cups) more stock.
Why not try…
You may also like these other Greek inspired dishes:
Manestra (Greek orzo in tomato sauce)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 Cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Tablespoon tomato puree / tomato paste
- 300g (1½ c) orzo or risoni
- 800g (28oz) tins crushed tomatoes
- 1.5 Teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch cinnamon
- Pinch allspice
- 1.4-1.5 litres (6 – 6½ c) stock
- black pepper
- salt – if stock not too salty
- Cook the diced onion in the oil in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes until the onion has softened.
- Add the crushed garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato puree and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the orzo / risoni, tomatoes, dried oregano, bay leaves, ground cinnamon, allspice, stock or water, black pepper and salt.
- Stir, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer stirring regularly, for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
- Check for seasoning, and serve straight away.