Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto


As promised, here’s the vegetable soup to go with last week’s Basil Walnut Pesto. It’s healthy yet totally satisfying – perfect for a rainy day or cool summer night. I’ve served it two ways: as a meal unto itself with a warm baguette or as a side to gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.

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It’s wonderfully quick and easy to make. Once your vegetables are chopped, the soup is done in 25 minutes. And if you don’t feel like making your own pesto, you can use a good quality store-bought brand (I like the fresh pesto at Whole Foods called  ”Mama’s Pesto”).

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Begin by cooking the onions, carrots and celery in olive oil over medium heat until partially cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook a few minutes more.

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Add the chicken stock, bay leaves and orzo and cook until the orzo is al dente.

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At the last minute, add the frozen peas and zucchini – they only take a minute or two to cook.

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Finally, ladle the soup into bowls and top with heaping tablespoons of pesto and grated Parmesan. Be generous – without these last two essential ingredients, the soup is bland. Pass more cheese and pesto at the table. Enjoy!

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Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto
Printable Recipe

Serves 6


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, chopped
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups low sodium chicken stock, such as Swanson Organic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup orzo
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup homemade or good quality store bought pesto (get recipe here)
Hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating over soup


1. Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft and translucent and vegetables are partially cooked, about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low if onions start to brown. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more.

2. Add chicken stock, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Add orzo, then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes. Add zucchini and frozen peas. Adjust heat to bring back to simmer and cook until orzo is cooked and all vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves and taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (Remember, it will taste bland without the pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano.)

3. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with a heaping tablespoon of pesto and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pass more pesto and cheese at the table.

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  • Wow! This looks incredible! Especially with some of that crusty bread! :-)

  • this looks just delicious! the weather is finally cooling off where i live, so soup sounds perfect (+ i have lots of homemade pesto to use up). i just found your blog through caroline at chocolate + carrots – so glad i did!

  • Cathy

    Look yummy! I will definitely put this on my to do list! Crusty bread and some wine! :)

  • Looks wonderful. And now that the weather has cooled off here in Kansas, I may have to give it a try with some of the final veggies available at the farmer’s market!

  • Suzie

    tried it for dinner..added garlic to the sauted veggies, green beans, 1 tsp oregano and coriander. Delish…ate 3 bowls….

  • Mary

    This soup is DELICIOUS! My husband and I both loved it. Thanks for all the great recipes :)

  • Nicole W

    This looks incredible! Would subbing pearled barley for the orzo be possible? I’m guessing you’d just simmer a little longer until the barley is done?

    btw, I’m new to cooking and have tried several of your recipes so far. They are all soooo good that my husband thinks I’m a pro! Thank you.

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  • Crystal Soto

    My husband loves this soup! Although it’s a summer soup I have made it several times this winter. I love it with basil pesto, but he likes it with just lime. To add flavor with out the pesto I add chicken bouillon in addition to low-sodium chicken stock. It’s superb!

  • Julie Backas

    This is so healthy and flavorful! Made it last summer when my basil was plentiful. The pesto really adds a wonderful mix of flavors to an already delicious soup.

  • Sue

    Great recipe. I’ll add some parmesan rind while it’s simmering. And, of course, use cut green beans instead of the peas. The flavor and texture are different, but I like it fine.

  • Liesel

    Jennifer, we have added this recipe to our regular rotation – it’s a keeper! The first time we made it, we still had fresh basil in the garden. Later in the fall and winter when we are craving a fresh veggie soup, we break in to my stash of frozen pesto from the freezer. ( I discovered the beauty of freezing homemade pesto in an ice cube tray and then tossing the frozen cubes in a freezer bag.)
    The colorful mix of vegetables is fantastic and as delicious to eat as it is to look at.

  • Taryn

    Very good – added two cloves of minced garlic to the veggies

  • Amy Flick

    Light and tasty. Made heartier with the addition of chicken.

  • Reno

    I just made this for the family tonight – carrots, onions and zucchini all came from our garden plus tomato pulp/juice left over from canning. Amazing! The pesto adds so much flavour. Two thumbs up from my 7-y.o. son!

    • Jenn

      Thanks, Reno. A thumbs up from your seven-year-old is a big compliment!

  • I just made this recipe for my family and they loved it! I made a couple of tweeks, I added some fresh green beans and instead of adding the pesto to each bowl, I added a 1/4 cup to the soup with the zucchini. My 16 year old said it was the best soup she’s ever had and liked it so much she brought it to school the next day to share with her friends. That’s how much she loved it!

  • Judy Rutledge

    I find most vegetable soups a little bland. This one has a heartier flavor. I like the addition of peas and zucchini. The pesto garnish adds a fresh taste at the end.

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