Orzo in Tomato Sauce

By: Eleni Saltas

I love a good one pot meal—these types of meals require little clean up. Enter Kritharaki, often referred to as manestra or orzo. Kritharaki has the aromatic smell of sautéed onions and garlic, a decadent tomato sauce spiced with oregano and cinnamon, and finishes with the addition of stirred in orzo that is cooked low and slow in the sauce. Though it requires minimal effort, I advise you to watch over the pot here and there, as the orzo can quickly thicken and stick to the bottom of the pot. This recipe will feed four to six people—I also would advise you to make a double or even a triple batch, because trust me, you will want more!

Prep Time:


Total Time:




Good For:



  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano, or more to taste
  • A pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup (optional)*
  • 6 basil leaves, lightly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 3 to 4 cups of water (this includes the water you pour into the can)
  • 2 cups orzo (In Greek, kritharaki or manestra)

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Season generously with salt, pepper, oregano and a dash of chili flakes. I like to season well at this step. Add in the garlic and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes.

Step 2

Add tomato sauce, ketchup (if using it), basil leaves, and vegetable broth to the pot. After pouring the can of tomato sauce, fill it up with water and pour that into the pot, too. No drop of sauce goes to waste! Season the sauce with cinnamon, and salt and pepper.

Step 3

Bring the sauce to a boil, and then turn down the heat to a low/medium and stir in the orzo and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover the pan with the lid (leave the lid off slightly) and allow to cook for about 20-25 minutes.
Make sure to stir occasionally throughout, stirring from the bottom of the pan, as the orzo tends to stick to the pan as it thickens. Add water or vegetable broth if needed to cover the orzo.

Step 4

Check for flavor and season as needed. Remember, this is all to your taste.
When orzo is soft, remove the lid and remove the pot from heat and allow it to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

*Ketchup can be added to the tomato sauce to sweeten it. You can use a pinch of sugar instead, or omit this step.

IF there are any leftovers and when you need to re-heat, you may need to add more liquid such as water or vegetable broth.