Minestrone Soup with Barley


Spring is here! Which means it’s going to be cold and rainy for the next week or two until we magically jump into summer. Cold and rainy weather is, of course, soup weather. I work in a lab where I have to crane my neck or roll in my chair several feet to look out a window, which means I am often oblivious to the present weather conditions outside. The other day, I was totally prepared to make some other dish for dinner till my husband emailed me towards the end of the work day and said “Have you looked outside?!”. And so I did – it was thunder-storming heavily! – and then instantly I was craving a hearty soup and garlic bread (yum!) instead.

I followed the recipe found on Herbivoracious for a vegetable minestrone soup with some modifications of my own. This soup is full of healthy and delicious vegetables. I also decided to add some barley and elbow pasta to make it more of a complete soup. I have never cooked with barley before and discovered that it adds a wonderful nuttiness and chewiness to the soup. I used a quick cook barley for this recipe that only took 12 minutes to finish cooking. Note the cooking times for your barley and adjust accordingly. The recipe also calls for the use of parmesan cheese rind, which is then removed prior to serving. In lieu of this, you can just add a small chunk of parmesan into the pot while the soup is cooking, to infuse some delicious cheesy flavor into the soup.

This soup tastes even better the next day after all the flavors and textures have fully blended with each other. Makes for an excellent lunch at the workplace!

Minestrone Soup with Barley
Prep time + cooking time: ~1.5 hours
Serves: approx. 6 people


1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, diced (reserve leaves for garnish)
4 small red potatoes, diced with skin on
1/2 cup frozen cut green beans
1 zucchini diced in quarters
2 cups finely shredded cabbage (use coleslaw mix for a no-prep alternative!)
4 cups vegetable broth + 2 cups water
1 parmesan rind
1 28  oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, roughly chopped
1 15 oz. can white navy beans or great nothern beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup small pasta like elbow macaroni
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
a few shakes of red chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmigiano-reggiano for serving


1) Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add diced onions and some salt and saute for a few minutes till the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a further 2 minutes. Add each of the following ingredients one by one, stirring to combine and allowing them to cook 2-3 minutes after each one: carrots, celery, potatoes, green beans, zucchini, cabbage. Cook for 5 more minutes.

2) Add broth and water to the pot. Add the parmesan rind. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Add basil, parsley, oregano, chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste.

3) Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for another 30 minutes.

4) Add the beans, barley and pasta and stir. Cover the pot again and and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until the barley and pasta are done. If it is too thick, add some water. If it is too watery, raise the heat slightly to let it thicken.

5) To serve, discard the parmesan rind and ladle onto individual bowls. Top with desired amount of parmesan and garnish with celery leaves. Eat with a side of delicious crusty garlic bread!


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