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, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup (optional)*
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 to 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 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 and oregano. Add in the garlic and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes.

Step 2

Add tomato sauce, ketchup (if using it), 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 with cinnamon and a bit more oregano.

Step 3

Turn down the heat to low medium and stir in the orzo. 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. Add water or vegetable broth if needed to cover the orzo. Check for flavor—add more salt, pepper, cinnamon or oregano if needed. Remember, this is all to taste.

Step 4

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.