With a creamy tomato base, and its homey and comforting flavour, Orzo Tomato Soup is prepared in thirty minutes and is gloriously delicious! Packed with chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, and pasta, this soup is both hearty and comforting – a perfect supper on a cold, winter weeknight!
In our home, soup season begins as soon as all of the Christmas goodies are either eaten or tossed out. That usually happens around Old Christmas Day. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m starting this week with this wonderfully delicious Orzo Tomato Soup!
This soup is really, really good! In fact, I had to force myself to stop eating it long enough to take some photographs for this post! It is one of those soups that is very comforting and non-pretentious. You will not need any fancy ingredients or equipment to make this recipe. Truth be told, the orzo is probably the fanciest thing in my pantry these days!
Lord Byron’s Kitchen is no stranger to good soup recipes. And, because John.e is a vegetarian who loves to eat soup, most of my soups are prepared without meat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – a good soup or stew doesn’t need meat to be filling and hearty. Take a look at my Vegetarian Split Pea Soup or my Vegetarian Beefless Stew. Don’t they look good? And, there’s no meat in either of them!
I applied the same meatless approach to my Orzo Tomato Soup. In fact, not only is this soup vegetarian, it can also be vegan. As you can see, I used a bit of heavy cream and some parmesan when plating. To keep it strictly vegan, use vegan cheese with a nutritional yeast base and maybe a drizzle of cashew milk. And, if you’re worried about orzo, don’t be. Most brands of orzo are vegan, because it’s not made with any dairy or eggs. Be sure to check the package ingredient list though, just to be sure!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED TO PREPARE THIS RECIPE
The following is a list of the ingredients needed to prepare this recipe. For exact amounts and measurements, refer to the printable recipe card located near the bottom of this post.
- Olive Oil – I always use extra virgin light olive oil so that the flavour is muted. Olive oil has a high heat tolerance, so it’s perfect for sautéing.
- Onion – I use yellow, white, and sweet onions interchangeably. Either of them will do just fine.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic will result in the best flavour every single time.
- Diced Tomatoes – Canned Diced Tomatoes are easy to find in any store. I always make my own at the end summer, so I use those. Use a good brand; one that you can comfortably afford – it will make a difference!
- Dried Herbs and Spices – You will need oregano and basil.
- Salt and Pepper
- Tomato Paste – In savoury dishes, tomato paste adds a deep, home-style flavour. It also adds colour to the dish and in some cases, will help to bind or thicken sauces too.
- Stock – Always use low sodium stock when cooking. Most store-bought stocks are very salty. It is easy to add more salt at the end if needed.
- Orzo – This is a pasta that is shaped like a grain of rice. You can substitute orzo with any other pastina.
- Parsley – Fresh chopped parsley is great for garnish, but when added to savoury dishes, it adds freshness and colour too.
- Heavy Cream – I’m using 35% cream and it is completely optional. I did not add it to the pot of soup, but rather drizzled a bit on top for added creaminess.
- Parmesan – This is optional as well, but a soup made with tomatoes, pasta, oregano, and basil screams for parmesan!
WHAT IS ORZO?
Did you know that orzo is Italian for barley? The most likely reason for the name is because orzo is similar in appearance to a grain of barley before it is processed. Simply put, orzo is a pasta that can be prepared just like any other pasta, but unlike all pastas, orzo is commonly eaten hot or cold.
Orzo appears quite often in soup recipes because of its size and texture. It cooks up nicely and maintains its shape. And, unlike larger pastas, like macaroni or penne, for instance, orzo does not absorb much cooking liquid, therefore, in soups and stews, it will not soak up all of the broth leaving you with a soup that is just too thick.
This small pasta is categorized as pastina, which in Italian, means little pasta. It is easily found in most grocery stores or you can order it online from Amazon right here. Although I am using it in a soup recipe today, it can be cooked in several ways and is a wonderful ingredient to use in salads. Just be sure to rinse it, drain well, and toss it in olive oil to keep it from clumping. Chilling thoroughly before adding to a salad is best.
If you do not have any orzo on hand, you can easily substitute it with another small pasta shape. Ditalini will work perfectly and is probably the most common type that you will find in a grocery store. Some others, which you can find on line are anelli and peperini. Beware that some of these might not be vegan if you are concerned with that!
CANNED DICED TOMATOES
Ever try canning your own tomatoes at home? I prepare a huge batch at the end of every summer so that I can have fresh canned tomatoes all winter long. They’re best used in dishes that require chunks of cooked tomato. Think of dishes such as pot roast, or foods that require longer cooking times, such as soup, stew, or chili.
Having these tomatoes on hand eliminates the need to buy canned tomatoes at the store. All you need is three ingredients and a little patience. Besides, canning can be a family event. Get everyone involved and make it a fun day. The reward is enjoying the fruits of your labour in the winter months when local tomatoes are not available.
You can find diced tomatoes in the canned vegetable section of most local grocery stores. But, the taste of homemade is much better. When you make your own, you can control the sodium. You also eliminate the use of chemicals and preservatives found in the store-bought variety. And, I find that most of the diced tomatoes you buy at the store leave some of the skin on the tomatoes. I don’t know about you, but I do not care for cooked tomato skins.
The skin doesn’t break down very well at all. If you get a fair sized piece of it, you’re left with this weird, chewy bit that’s hard to swallow. Take the time to prepare tomatoes this summer and you’ll save yourself time and energy when preparing meals later!
MY RULES FOR CANNED STORE-BOUGHT TOMATOES
Listen, I’m not totally blind to the fact that everyone leads a different life. I know that not everyone is comfortable with, or has the desire to can their own tomatoes. And, I know that some of you will buy canned tomatoes from your local grocery store. Before you do, please read this section so that you can get the best results from store-bought canned tomatoes. I apologize if you’ve read this on my blog before, but it’s worth repeating.
First, if you need tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, buy them in a glass jar. You can see what you’re buying. The colour should be bright and vivid; the sauce/tomatoes should look fresh and cohesive. If there are seeds or pieces of tomato skin, move on to another brand.
Second, if you need chopped or diced tomatoes, always buy whole tomatoes. When produce companies can the tomatoes, the best tomatoes are packed in the cans marked “whole.” The blemished, not-so perfect tomatoes, are crushed, chopped, or pureed and sold as such. I would rather buy canned whole tomatoes (they’re always the same price!) and spend the extra two minutes chopping them myself so that I know I’m getting really good and really ripe tomatoes.
HOW TO MAKE ORZO TOMATO SOUP
At the beginning of this post, I said that you can make this soup in thirty minutes. That includes the actual cooking time and the time it takes to assemble and prepare your ingredients. Are you ready? Here we go!
Place a heavy-bottomed pot on your stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir to combine and cook the onions until they are soft and tender. You do not want to brown the onions, so 2-3 minutes is perfect. Next, add the garlic and stir into the onions. Cook for 2 minutes more.
Now, pour in the canned diced tomatoes, along with the juice. Add the tomato paste. Add the dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Finally, pour in the vegetable stock. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Once bubbling, add the uncooked orzo. Stir well and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked through.
Do not overcook the orzo! If you find that the soup is getting too thick, add more stock or water to the pot, but do so in 1/4 cup measurements. Stir well after each addition. Whether you add more stock or not, once the orzo is cooked, taste the soup and season once more with more salt if needed. Once you are happy with the seasoning, turn off the heat and stir through the chopped parsley.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately. You may top the soup with a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to add more creaminess to the soup. You may also add some grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- A heavy-bottomed pot is great for soups and stews. Not only does it hold and distribute the heat more consistently, but it will also help prevent food from burning because of the thick layer between the burner and the actual food. My go-to heavy-bottomed Dutch Ovens are either Le Creuset or Staub.
- If you’re new to cooking in a Dutch oven, keep in mind that they can get really hot. That is why it is important to keep the onions and garlic moving at the beginning of this recipe. It will prevent the garlic from burning. Burnt garlic is bitter and will not taste good at all. If you burn the garlic, let the pot cool, clean it out, and start with fresh garlic again.
- If you would like a completely smooth and creamy soup, you can puree the tomato mixture before adding the orzo. Use a hand-held immersion blender or transfer the soup to a blender. Do this in batches so that the soup does not spill out of the blender!
- If you do blend the soup, you can add a splash of cream and enjoy it immediately. The soup base, without the addition of the orzo, makes a delicious tomato soup. All you need is a grilled cheese sandwich!
Even though Orzo Tomato Soup is a complete meal all on its own, you might want to consider serving this soup with a few other items. If you have a larger family, you can serve smaller bowls of soup – make it stretch further by serving it with some crusty bread. No matter how thick and hearty the soup, you cannot go wrong with a slice or two of really good crusty bread. My favourite is just about any bread from Ace Bakery!
Soups are often served with sandwiches and this one is no different. Since you have a tomato based soup here, it just makes sense to serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches. That is if you like grilled cheese sandwiches! I’m not a fan of them, so I would make grilled cheese for John.e and McKenna, but I would make a simple ham and cheese sandwich for myself.
Lastly, if you want to make this soup even heartier and more filling you could try adding cooked meatballs to the soup. Add fully cooked and hot meatballs into the soup when you add the parsley. Stir it well and serve it up. This time, add lots of parmesan cheese on top! Alternatively, you can add cubed or shredded cooked chicken to the soup at the same time you add the orzo. Keep in mind that you will need to add more stock if you add more ingredients!
Orzo Tomato Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups diced canned tomatoes, with juice
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 1/4 cups orzo, uncooked
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- Place a heavy-bottomed pot on your stovetop and turn the heat to medium-high.
- Add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir to combine and cook the onions until they are soft and tender. You do not want to brown the onions, so 2-3 minutes is perfect.
- Next, add the garlic and stir into the onions. Cook for 2 minutes more.
- Now, pour in the canned diced tomatoes, along with the juice. Add the tomato paste. Add the dried oregano, dried basil, salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine.
- Finally, pour in the vegetable stock. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
- Once bubbling, add the uncooked orzo. Stir well and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked through.
- Do not overcook the orzo! If you find that the soup is getting too thick, add more stock or water to the pot, but do so in 1/4 cup measurements. Stir well after each addition. Whether you add more stock or not, once the orzo is cooked, taste the soup and season once more with more salt if needed. Once you are happy with the seasoning, turn off the heat and stir through the chopped parsley.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately. You may top the soup with a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to add more creaminess to the soup. You may also add some grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.