Comfort Foods: Youvetsi is a Greek dish with remnants of family gatherings

American University senior Anastasia Matlin finds comfort in her Greek heritage

Comfort foods is a Life section series highlighting AU students and the food that reminds them of home and heritage.

Food is the great equalizer; it brings people together. Enjoying a delicious meal with good company creates memories and an appreciation of different cultures. Anastasia Matlin, an American University senior, has a special comfort food dish that connects her to her Greek heritage and reminds her of the memories she has with her family.

Matlin’s maternal grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Greece when they were teenagers. Decades later, her whole family would spend Sundays at Matlin’s grandparents’ home when she was growing up. Everyone would bring different Greek dishes, but there was one that always stood out to Matlin. 

The dish is Youvetsi, an orzo pasta and lamb stew simmered in a tomato sauce with aromatics like garlic, cinnamon and cloves. 


“It’s full of comforting flavors and spices,” Matlin said. “The way the smell of the dish would fill up the house” reminds her of her family tradition. 

Matlin said that she has many fond memories of the treasured time with cousins,  aunts and uncles on Sundays.

When Matlin visited Greece in 2016 and 2018, Matlin got to experience her Greek heritage in a new way.

“It’s so beautiful. It has such a rich culture and history,” she said. “You can get the mountains, you can get the beach, a little bit of everything.” 

For Matlin, Greek cuisine is the ultimate comfort food. 

Matlin said that Greek food is a “reminder of where my grandparents came from and all they’ve done to get me to where I am in my life now.”

Now in college, Matlin tries to find little ways to incorporate her Greek heritage into her food. Her go-to is a Greek salad, which she said still reminds her of her heritage despite it being so simple.

When she is craving traditional Mediterranean food, Matlin likes to go to the Zorba Café in Dupont Circle. One of her favorite restaurants in the area is Zaytinya, located in downtown D.C., which serves Mediterranean-fusion cuisine.  

Comfort food has the power to connect us to more than just our plate. Through her family’s Greek cuisine, Matlin has created memories and an appreciation for her Greek heritage.

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