Recipe: Farmhouse Barley Soup | Zuppa di Orzo

When I shifted back to cold Adelaide from temperate Sydney,  the cold weather was a shock! It had me craving soups. In Sydney there is no need for European style heavy winter dishes – Sydney-siders gravitate more towards more Indian, Asian and Spicy food. However,  the bone-chilling cold in Adelaide bought back the hunger for hearty food – pasties, puddings and soups. And how much heartier can you get than Barley Soup?

This really  is a hearty soup, made with caramelised vegetables that come together with the barley (some whole and some pureed) to make a great, Italian soup.Just a reminder of an important but confusing nomenclatural difference. Orzo in Italian is barley while in Greek it is rice shaped pasta. For this recipe, we are definitely using barley. This is a farmhouse recipe – if you would like something a little more elegant, chop the vegetables finely.

You might also like our Soup recipes, and our  Barley recipes. Our Italian recipes are here. Check out our easy Mid Winter recipes too.

This is a vegetarian recipe from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. Feel free to browse other recipes from that blog in the Retro Recipes series.

Italian Farmhouse Barley Soup

Zuppa di Orzo | Italian Barley and Vegetable Soup

Six large servings – you might consider making half the quantity, as this makes a lot of soup.

400 g barley, soaked in hot water for 45 minutes – while chopping and  sauteeing the vegetables will be enough time 3 Tblspn olive oil 1 head celery, with leaves, roughly chopped – keep the chopped stalks and leaves separate
1 red onion, peeled and chopped 1 fennel bulb, chopped – green leaves also chopped and kept separate 3 leeks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 2 small red chillies, chopped 2 Tblspn each fresh parsley and mint
4 fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped 2 litres vegetable stock sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan then add the chopped celery and onion, and cook together until they soften. Add the chopped fennel bulb and leek, and saute, stirring, until they begin to caramelise – about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and the chilli, then, after a minute, the herbs, celery leaves and the tomatoes. Stir and slightly reduce.

Add half the barley, allow to absorb the flavours, and then add half the stock. Reduce the heat and cook until the barley is tender – about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the remaining barley in the rest of the stock for 30 – 40 minutes. Puree this barley in a food processor and add the puree to the soup. Season and serve with the extra virgin olive oil.

This soup should be thick and creamy.


This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. It is cross posted on our sister site, A Life Time of Cooking. It appears here as part of the Retro Recipes Series.

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