While looking for the English translation of orzo, I was surprised that orzo is actually known outside Italy as a type of pasta that resembles grains of rice that are slightly bigger. They are called risoni in Italy. It is a pasta shape that is commonly mixed with baby food because of its size.
Orzo's equivalent in English is barley. It is a cereal grain that is commonly cooked in soup variations in the cold months. In the warmer seasons, it is prepared as a cold salad mixed with vegetables, fish or meat. Versatility takes it even further by being a prevalent substitute to coffee. Called caffe d'orzo, it is a common breakfast (or anytime of the day) drink for kids and adults alike who want to stray away from caffeine.
I bought this particular package of orzo perlato (pearl barley) because I was certain that the recipe that came along with it is good. In fact, I was right. You have to simmer the soup for 2 hours and anything simmered for more than half an hour takes on strong flavors. I followed what is written verbatim and I was rewarded with this savory dish. I didn't make it so soupy because I didn't want to serve hot soup for lunch. Zuppa d'orzo is a winter dish and I was stretching it too much because it's already spring. I served it just slightly warm & dry. To give myself a pat on the back, that weekend had been strangely cold for spring anyway.
Zuppa d'Orzo (Barley Soup)
- 200 g. pearl barley
- 300 g. tomatoes, quartered
- 80 g. pancetta affumicata (smoked pancetta), cubed
- 2 cloves garlic, halved
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 liter vegetable broth + 500 ml. hot vegetable broth to adjust the consistency
- fresh parsley, chopped
- fresh basil , chopped
- fresh thyme (or dried thyme), leaves picked from the stem
- salt & pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- pecorino stagionato (aged pecorino cheese), grated (optional)
- Heat oil in a sauce pot. Saute' pancetta affumicata. When it starts to get toasted, add onion, garlic & thyme. Cook until golden. Discard garlic.
- Add tomatoes, basil & parsley (Leave some to sprinkle before serving.). Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Pour all the vegetable broth. Boil. Reduce fire to low, cover & simmer for 1.5 hours.
- Add barley. Simmer for 30 minutes on low fire. Cover. Stir frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- With the remaining 500 ml. of hot vegetable broth, adjust the consistency of the soup.
- Before serving, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil & sprinkle some minced parsley & pecorino.