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Orzo Minestrone (Summerstrone)

The end of summer is approaching. When I take the poodles outside in the early morning I feel a cool autumn breeze instead of the stifling blast of heat we've had all season. Which brings me to this soup from NYT food writer Melissa Clark. She named it Orzo Minestrone but says that her husband calls it "Summerstrone," because it contains summer vegetables. It's the perfect soup to serve right now because: a.) it's soup and we've already noted the cooler temps; and b.) it's lighter and fresher tasting than typical winter soups. There are no potatoes or winter vegetables here.

In the original recipe Melissa suggests stirring commercial pesto and cherry tomatoes together and adding them to the soup. I followed her alternative suggestion: I stirred fresh basil into the tomatoes, added a pinch of salt and used that as a topping for each serving. Again, fresh tasting and a reminder of summer herbs that will soon be gone.

Julia in the background & William on a cool September morning.

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 celery stalk, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 (15.5-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 cup corn kernels, fresh (from 1 large ear), or frozen and thawed

1/2 cup orzo

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Torn fresh basil leaves, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery, onion, 1 tsp. salt and pepper and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and garlic and cook another 1 minute.

Add the beans, chicken broth, canned tomatoes and their liquid, and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the corn and orzo, then return to a simmer. Cook until the orzo is tender, about 12-15 minutes. Taste and add salt, if needed.

While the soup is simmering, in a medium bowl toss together the cherry tomatoes and finely chopped fresh basil. Add a pinch of salt.

When the orzo is tender, remove from heat and ladle soup into serving bowls. Top with cherry tomato/basil mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and lots of black pepper.

Serves 8

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