Manestra, Greek Meat and Pasta Casserole

In Greece there is a dish called Manestra which is somewhere between a stew and a soup.  It started as a vegetarian dish when meat was scarce or too expensive.  Here in the States, it’s been tweaked a bit as meat has been added to season the pot.  Usually it is leftover roasted meat which has been added. Roasted lamb, beef or pork typically are used but I’ve even bought ground sirloin or ground lamb.  And the vegetables, which make up the bulk of the meal, are varied. I use any combination of chopped carrots, mushrooms, zucchini or spinach.  Just about anything in your refrigerator can be used. I try to have at least a 60/40 ratio of vegetables to meat.  And, since pasta is added, it feeds legions.  It’s so good the next day and a great winter dish.  Feta is generally used to finish off the dish but when I’m caught without, parmesan works really well.


  • Servings: 6-8 hearty servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, button, baby bella or any assortment cleaned and sliced
  • 5 or 6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and chopped into “nickels”
  • 3-4 medium zucchini, washed and grated, using big holes in box grater
  • any other vegetable you’d like to add
  • 2-28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, juices included
  • 1-6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 3-4 cups roasted lamb or meat of choice, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo pasta, that’s about half a bag or box
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • crumbled feta, to taste
  1. In a dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion.  Cook until clear, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add mushrooms, again stirring often.
  3. When mushrooms begin to release their juices add garlic, rosemary and parsley.
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes and add zucchini and any other vegetable you wish to use, still stirring.
  5. Add whole tomatoes and juices, breaking up tomatoes with the back of your spoon.
  6. Add tomato paste, mixing well to incorporate.
  7. Add meat and stir.
  8. Taste mixture and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  9. Cover and drop temperature to simmer.
  10. Cook pasta according to directions and please, PLEASE salt your water well!!
  11. When pasta is tender drain and mix with meat mixture.
  12. Serve in individual bowls with crumbled feta scattered on top.

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