Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Barley and Vegetable Soup

The Italian diet, which is high in vegetables and carbohydrates and low in animal fat, is not only a healthy one but one of exceptionally good taste.  A great deal of Italian food comes from a peasant heritage that combines fresh ingredients with simple cooking techniques.  This Barley and Vegetable Soup is no exception.

Thick and nourishing, this soup is perfect for a cold winter today.  It warms you from the inside out (which is what we want from a winter soup, right?) and the hardest component in preparing it is the chopping.  Once your vegetables are prepped all that is left to do is wait.  Wait for the the ingredients to boil and the flavors to meld together.  The aroma will fill your kitchen and the end result will not disappoint.  Although this recipe is made with ham and beef stock, it can easily be altered into a vegetarian version if desired by using vegetable stock instead of beef stock and omitting the ham.  I recommend serving with crusty bread.


1 cup barley
8 cups beef stock
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, chopped small
3 stalks celery, chopped small
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 large potatoes, chopped medium
1 cup diced ham
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)


1.  Pick over barley and discard any stones or other particles.  Wash in cold water then place in cold water to soak for at least 3 hours. 

2.  Drain barley and place in large saucepan with beef stock and water.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Skim off any scum that surfaces.

3.  Stir in the oil, carrots, onion, celery, leek, potato, and ham.  Add bay leaf and parsley.  If necessary add additional water so all ingredients are covered by 1-inch water. 

4. Simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until vegetables and barley are very tender.

5.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve hot with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Altered recipe from The Ultimate Italian Cookbook

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