Traditional Albanian Recipes: Gjyveç, Orzo Casserole

Traditional Albanian Recipes: Gjyveç, Orzo Casserole

TIRANA, February 18

Gjyveç is comfort food in Albania, especially in the southern part of the country. This is a typical Mediterranean recipe cooked in different countries of the region. The main ingredients needed for an Albanian Gjyveç are beef and orzo pasta. This is a type of pasta that looks like rice. Orzo is the Italian name for barley, while in Albania some use the Greek word klitharaqa.
This is a simple and easy recipe that needs less than ingredients. It tastes delicious, especially when prepared in traditional wood-fired ovens or the old-school saç. Gjyveç is an excellent recipe for chilly winter days. It warms the heart and fills the belly. The best side dishes to serve with Gjyveç include roasted veggies, such as zucchini, eggplants, seasonal salads, cheese from different regions of Albania, sour cream, tarator (cold garlic yogurt and cucumber soup) and of course a glass of Albanian raki or wine.

The best thing about this recipe is that it can be altered as you like it.


1 kg of boneless beef/veal
500 grams of orzo pasta
2 litters of water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Two medium onions
2 tablespoons of melted butter
3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce
Salt and pepper
2 or more bay leafs
1 cinnamon stick

Preparation method

Heat oven to 200C
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a pan, casserole dish, or Dutch oven. Add the meat and seal it until brown on all sides. Set the meat aside. Add a tablespoon olive oil to the dish, followed by the two sliced onions. Fry on medium-low heat until caramelized for about five minutes. They will turn soft and translucent. Stir occasionally.
Return the meat to the dish, add the tomato sauce, the cinnamon stick, salt and pepper, the bay leaves, and the water. Transfer to the preheated oven for about 40 minutes until fork tender.
After 40 minutes heat the butter in a pan and add the orzo pasta. Sauté the pasta until golden and add it to the baking dish. Bake it for another 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave it to rest for another 15 minutes. You can sprinkle it with lemon juice, fresh parsley, grated cheese, etc.

Alterations and other ingredients. Depending on your preferences, you can add broth instead of just water, wine, your favorite spices, maybe paprika, or other vegetables. Remove the beef and butter for a vegan recipe.
You can also use seafood or chicken instead of red meat.

Good appetite!

Read also: Delicious Albania, a Traveler’s Guide to Gjirokastra Gastronomy

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Albanian Products – Overview


Photo by Megan Bucknall on Unsplash

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