Italian barley soup recipe

This barley soup recipe comes from the Alto Adige region in Italy’s mountainous north.

It is a thick, nourishing and warming winter soup. Serve with crusty bread.

Ingredients for 6-8:

225 g, of pearl barley, preferably organic

2 litres of meat broth or water, or a combination of both

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 carrots, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 leek, thinly sliced

1 large potato, finely chopped

115 g. of diced ham

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

1 small spring fresh rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)


Pick over the barley, and discard any stones or other particles. Wash it in cold water. Put the barley to soak in cold water for at least 3 hours.

Drain the barley and place in a large saucepan with the stock or water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Skim off any scum.

Stir in the oil, all the vegetables and the ham. Add the herbs. If necessary add more water. The ingredients should be covered by at least 2.5 cm /1 inch. Simmer for about 1-1½ hours, or until the vegetables and barley are very tender.

Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Serve hot with grated Parmesan, if desired.

An excellent vegetarian version of this soup can be made by using vegetable broth instead of beef broth, and omitting the ham.

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