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Barley Minestrone


Yields about 3 quarts.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 71

This rendition of the classic Italian vegetable and bean soup uses barley instead of pasta. Simmering a piece of the rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano in the soup is a traditional way of adding flavor. When you finish off a wedge of Parmigiano, just stash the rind in the freezer so you always have it on hand when you need it.

  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely diced pancetta (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 cups large diced Savoy cabbage
  • 1 cup medium diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup sliced carrot (1/4 inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup medium diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup rinsed and drained canned kidney beans
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving

Heat the oil in a heavy 6-quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until it becomes ever so slightly golden, 2 to 3 min. Add the cabbage, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 min. Add the broth, the tomatoes with their juices, the barley, rosemary, Parmigiano rind (if using), 1/2  tsp. salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the barley and vegetables are tender, about 20 min. Discard the rosemary sprigs and Parmigiano rind. Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with the grated Parmigiano.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Garlic Crostini with Spinach, Mushroom & Parmigiano Salad.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per cup, Calories (kcal): 170, Fat (kcal): 6, Fat Calories (g): 50, Saturated Fat (g): 2, Protein (g): 8, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3, Carbohydrates (mg): 20, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 880, Cholesterol (g): 10, Fiber (g): 4,

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is amazing. Instead of using Pancetta, I buy 2-3 hot italian chicken sausages, remove meat from casing, and brown it, remove it and add the vegetables to sauté. I also use better than bouillon regular chicken broth (not light), but I use less than what it says for 2 quarts of water (4 tablespoons). Otherwise, it's way too salty. But I have to say this soup is a huge hit in my house with the whole family (2 kids under 4) and especially a hit when I make it for dinner parties.

Adding a tablespoon of red wine vinegar makes it a 5-star recipe! Delicious!

Thanks to the previous reviewers, I was able to tweak this soup to five stars. I also doubled the pancetta and found two full tsp. of kosher salt more appropriate to the volume of ingredients and half gallon of low-salt chicken broth.This is a keeper.

I found this soup very bland and lacking in barley. I added a bunch more barley and a tripled the amount of pancetta, but it was still missing something.

Beyond good, healthy and very popular. I added some cubed pan seared pork as well and it was a huge hit.

LOVE it!!!! have made it 2x and both times everyone wants the recipe. don't need the grated cheese but it is a nice touch

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