If you’re looking for a warming, comforting meal that won’t weigh you down, try this easy vegetable and barley soup. You might not be familiar with pearl barley (we’ll talk more about that in a minute), but using barley in soups is quite common in Italy. Along with being healthy and filling, barley is rich in proteins, fibers, and minerals–just like wheat.
Zuppa d’orzo (or, easy vegetable and barley soup) is typically served during the warmer months in the northern part of the country. Depending on which ingredients you choose to add to the dish, this soup that can go with any season. Select lighter ingredients and it’s perfect for the summertime. Or, go for more hearty and filling ingredients and it’ll be perfectly warming in the wintertime.
No matter if you choose light or robust, this easy vegetable and barley soup is a filling and delicious soup. It may become your go-to recipe when you’re looking for a simple, healthy meal!
What Is Pearl Barley?
If you’ve never used pearl barley before, now is the perfect time to start. It’s chewy and plumps up nicely when simmered in broth. It has a simple and mild flavor profile, so it pairs well with any kind of meat or vegetable. As an added bonus, barley has been known to reduce fat and slim up your waist, making it a great ingredient to add to your diet if you’re trying to get rid of that muffin top!
You might also see hulled barley (also called barley groats) at the grocery store. You can certainly swap-in this type of barley, but it will take much longer to cook. Hulled barley is the whole-grain form, so it still has the bran. That means it’ll take over an hour to cook fully, whereas pearl barley only takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
The greatest thing about pearl barley? Even though it’s not a whole grain, it still contains some of the bran. Not only that, but the fiber found in barley is distributed throughout the entire kernel. Even though most of the bran has been removed, pearl barley is still is a fiber-rich grain that contains a decent amount of protein, too.
A Comforting Combination of Vegetables and Turkey Bacon
In addition to the chewy, earthy-flavored barley, we added some turkey bacon to this easy vegetable and barley soup. It brings a deep, savory flavor that has salty and sweet notes, which really brings out the flavors of the other vegetables. If you’re a vegetarian or you’re following a plant-based diet, feel free to leave the bacon out!
As we said earlier, you can use any veggies you like in this dish. We love using a combination of root vegetables–onions, carrots, potatoes–alongside watery, fresh-tasting vegetables like celery and zucchini. It creates the perfect textural contrast as you eat the soup, which works well any time of the year.
Because this soup is rich in complex carbohydrates, the best wine to pair it with has some effervescence. That takes us to a glass of cool sparkling white or rosè wine with good acidity and minerality. You could also opt for a dry white wine like Pinot Bianco that has good acidity and medium body. If you can find it, we would definitely recommend looking for something coming from northern Italy (specifically Trentino – Alto Adige, where this dish comes from).
Yield: 4 Servings | Serving Size: about 2 cups | Calories: 388 | Total Fat: 11 g | Saturated Fat: 2 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Carbohydrates: 60 g | Fiber: 12 g | Sugar: 5 g | Protein: 15 g | Cholesterol: 30 mg | Sodium: 469mg | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 10
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 ounces turkey bacon, small diced
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 pints hot vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
- Over medium heat in a tall medium saucepan, heat the oil then add the turkey bacon. Cook until lightly toasted.
- Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for about 8 minutes.
- Add the pearl barley and stir for 5 minutes with the vegetables and bacon.
- Add 2 pints of the broth and the bay leaves then cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and zucchini then cook for 10 to 15 minutes more or until the barley is cooked through.
- Add the remaining 1/2 pint of broth gradually if still needed.
- Add the chives then serve hot.