We love a good soup, especially one that is hearty enough to be a meal all on its own. Bonus points for also being healthy and vegetarian. This soup (adapted from a recipe by Chef Michael Chiarello) not only fits these criteria, but also is delicious and easy to make with simple ingredients you most likely already have on hand: a can of whole tomatoes, olive oil, butter, celery, a carrot, onion, garlic, chicken broth, a bay leaf, orzo pasta and spinach. It’s a great dish for anyone avoiding meat on Fridays during Lent, or anyone who likes soup and is looking for a nutritious, meat-less, meal-in-a-bowl dinner.
Start by roasting the tomatoes. Take the tomatoes out of the can — but don’t throw out the tomato juice, you’ll use it later — cut each tomato in half and place the halves on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, drizzle them with olive oil, then roast them in the oven preheated to 400 degrees until they begin to caramelize — about 15-20 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the chopped celery, carrot, onion, parsley and minced garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies soften — about 10 minutes.
Puree the roasted tomatoes in the food processor for just a couple of pulses (you want them to be sort of mashed, but not liquified.)
Add the tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter to the veggies in the saucepan and bring the soup to a boil.
Once the soup is boiling, add the orzo. We used whole wheat orzo and were pleasantly surprised that we detected zero difference between it and regular orzo. Simmer the soup over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are very tender and the orzo is done — about 15 minutes. You may need to add more chicken broth if it looks like the soup is getting too thick while the orzo cooks.
Off the heat, add the spinach, cover the saucepan and allow the spinach to wilt for about 1-2 minutes. The spinach is optional, but adds flavor and more importantly, increases the good-for-you-ness of this soup. Wilted spinach does not taste anything like cooked spinach. Trust us — we’ve incorporated spinach in soup before, in what has become one of our favorite weeknight meals. (And I wouldn’t eat it if it did — cooked spinach is near the top of my most-hated-foods list.)
Using spinach in the soup also means no need for a side dish — efficient AND tasty! The sauteed veggies and roasted tomatoes provide layers of flavor, and the orzo and spinach give texture to turn this soup into a meal.
Tomato Orzo Soup w/ Spinach
- 1 (14 ounce) can whole tomatoes, cut in half (reserve the tomato juices)
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 small carrot, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 ½ cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup orzo pasta
- 1 cup spinach
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Take the tomatoes out of the can (reserve the tomato juices) and cut each tomato in half. Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray, season them with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they begin to caramelize — about 15-20 minutes. Allow the tomatoes to cool a bit, then pulse them in a food processor until mashed but not liquified.
- While the tomatoes roast, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, parsley and garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies soften — about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and reserved juices, chicken broth, bay leaf and butter to the pan with the veggies and bring the soup to a boil. Then add the orzo and simmer over medium-high heat until the veggies are very tender and the orzo is done — about 15 minutes.
- Off the heat, add the spinach to the pan, cover it and allow the spinach to wilt — about 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
(Note that this recipe only makes enough soup for 2 generous servings.)