Italian barley soup: La zuppa d’orzo


Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Laura Teso

I love Italian barley soup! It is so delicious that I consider it a comfort food, especially in winter. But it was definitely not a love at first sight between us. Not at all.

Italian barley soup
Italian barley soup

When I was little I used to go in South Tyrol for Summer and occasionally winter vacations. The exact village is Corvara in Badia. I loved it there.

Let all the dreamers wake the nation

It was a lovely village, with many possibilities for excursions. At that time there was also a cinema, called Cine Ladinia Kino. The group of parents, sick of having us kids around all day, made us eat very early and then gave us money to go to the cinema every night. Luckily they projected every day a different film.

It was a dream. More or less. Yes, because, if on one hand I had the pleasure to watch a lot of marvellous films (my husband envies me for this), like A fish called Wanda, Big, Back to the Future, Twins, Who framed Roger Rabbit, Rain Man, Il piccolo diavolo, Working girl

By the way, “Working girl” is still one of my favourite films. Why? Yes, the soundtrack, the hairdos, Harrison Ford were all great. But the thing that hit me was the payback story. I detested the theft of the idea part. That thing was and still is intolerable in my opinion. So I totally route for Melanie, even if I adore Sigourney! Now get your bony ass outta my sight! ūüėÄ

Working Girl, pic taken from

On the other hand some of those films were not exactly for kids. I remember Tourist by Accident with William Hurt. Oh my God! I must watch it now that I’m adult, probably it is very good. But at 12 it was not, believe me.

The sad thing is that the cinema was closed at some point to build apartments. It was a shocking news for me.

Hiking and eating in montagna

And so now I blabbered too much. Back to Italian barley soup. In Corvara, we used to go hiking. After hiking what do you normally do when you’re in montagna? You obviously can’t wait to shut yourself up in a alpine hut and recover the calories you lost! And often more!

At that point we all ordered the heaviest dishes possible, like the rock climber dish, with potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, cheese and whatever, that is supposed to be for a rock climber and not for a group of slow pace hikers. But there was always a discordant voice, that of my mother, who always preferred the zuppa d’orzo. And at that time I couldn’t understand her choice, at all.

But now I do. It is delicious. So let’s start cooking!

Italian barley soup recipe

Ingredients (4 servings)

1 tbsp butter
1 diced onion
30 g diced carrots
30 g diced celery
50 g diced potatoes
100 g pearl barley
80 g diced smoked meat (speck)
1.5 l water
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
salt, pepper


You have firstly to gently fry the onion in butter until it becomes golden brown. In the meantime wash the barley in cold water. Add the carrots and celery and braise for a few minutes. Then add the barley. Add water, speck and bay leaves and leave to simmer for 1 hour. Of course, check from time to time if there’s need to add some water. After 1 hour, add the diced potato and simmer for a further 20 minutes. Before serving, season it with salt, pepper and parsley.

Italian barley soup
Italian barley soup

If you’re a careful observer, in my photos you will notice some suspicious orange pieces. I had some pumpkin to finish and I added it with the potatoes. I must say the final result was extremely satisfying.

Quickening tip

Another important thing: You can reduce drastically the cooking time by using pre-cooked barley. I did it, and there’s no shame in it! Oh!

Buon appetito!

Comments are closed.