Our parents always managed to put filling and delicious food on the table, whether they were rushed, tired, or simply not in the mood to cook (rare, but it did sometimes happen). Youvetsi (sometimes called Giouvesti) was the perfect solution to any of these situations. A baked dish of orzo, tomato sauce and protein, this is a relatively quick, and incredibly easy way to feed a family.
When our parents needed something quicker than quick, and easier than easy, they turned to preparing youvetsi this way. Unlike the more typical versions which include meat, like lamb or chicken, this recipe is made with chickpeas. By turning to legumes, this youvetsi is perfect for meatless Mondays, during lent, or when you simply want a vegetarian (actually, vegan) option.
Orzo is a wonderful pasta, but it has some issues. In this recipe the orzo is cooked in the liquid in which it will be served. Because of this, and the fact that it is not rinsed, the starch found on each tiny piece seeps into the sauce. The up-side to this (and it is a very big up-side) is that you end up with a thick, creamy tomato sauce. The down-side is that you can end up with individual orzo pastas which clump together to create an orzo ball. This is something which is especially prone to happen as your youvetsi sits and cools.
There are a couple of ways to deal with clumpy orzo. The first is to ensure that the orzo is stirred relatively regularly in the baking pan while it cooks. This will prevent not only premature clumping, but it will also help keep the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Second, if you find that your sauce really is too thick and your orzo too clumpy, simply add some hot water or warmed up tomato juice. If you have leftovers, don’t panic when you take your youvetsi out of the refrigerator to serve. It will appear to have congealed into a solid mass. This is fine and will resolve itself once you heat your youvetsi in the microwave or on the stovetop. You may or may not need to add some water at this point, depending upon how thick your sauce is.
If you are really pressed for time and did not plan this meal in advance, you can substitute canned chickpeas for the dried ones (which need pre-soaking and cooking). Simply add the canned chickpeas, after you rinse them well, to the roasting pan with the other ingredients.
If you have planned ahead but still want to get dinner on the table super quick, simply boil your chickpeas in advance. Cooked chickpeas will keep in the fridge for at least a few days, making assembling your supper a breeze. This way, dinner is ready in about 30 – 40 minutes!
Mia Kouppa: Youvetsi with chickpeas
- 1 cup (250 ml) dried chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 3 1/4 cups (810 ml) boiling water
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) tomato passata
- 1 1/3 cups (250 grams) uncooked orzo
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) pepper
- Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the chickpeas. Cook chickpeas, uncovered over medium heat for 30 – 40 minutes until done. Drain, and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium sized roasting pan combine the olive oil, tomato passata, boiling water, uncooked orzo, chickpeas, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir well.
- Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven, in the lower rack. Total cooking time will be 30 minutes, however every 10 minutes stir well to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If your yiouvetsi appears too dry, add more boiling water, 1/3 cup at time.
- After 30 minutes check the orzo to ensure that it is cooked. Remove from oven and serve hot. Enjoy!