Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

December 06 00:00 2011 Print This Article

It may be gray and cold outside, but this soup can add color and warmth to the season. It features mini pasta and a medley of vegetables all enhanced by pesto. It's satisfying and healthy.

The combination of basil and spinach gives the pesto an understated, but distinct taste. It's similar to a paste the ancient Romans prepared using cheese, garlic and herbs. The more recent version is said to have originated near the Italian city of Genoa and adds basil as a major ingredient.

The addition of pesto maximizes the flavor of the soup, bringing together the hearty quality of the broth and soft onion taste of the leeks. The carrots add color and consistency. The cannellini beans, a variety of white beans popular in Italy, especially Tuscany, add protein and a dash of red pepper adds a bit of zest.

Easy to prepare, the soup becomes a complete lunch or light dinner by adding a slice or two of crusty whole-wheat bread. Or, if you have any leftover baked chicken or turkey, you could make a sandwich to enjoy with the soup. Either will provide a nutritious meal with a healthy serving of vegetables and a good amount of fiber. So chase away the cold with something hot and colorful.

Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto

Makes 6 servings.


    Pesto Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth*
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen cut)
  • 1 (15-oz.) can no-salt added cannellini beans
  • 1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. low-fat shredded Romano cheese (Parmesan cheese may be substituted)


  1. Puree all pesto ingredients in food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cover and refrigerate if made the day before
  2. In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, broth and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes. Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.
  3. Ladle soup into 6 bowls. Divide pesto among servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

    *May need additional broth to thin soup if it is to be reheated.

Per serving:
300 calories
10 g total fat
2 g saturated fat)
42 g carbohydrate
10 g protein
7 g dietary fiber
200 mg sodium


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