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Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto

5 stars based on 14 votes

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

Servings: 6


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon 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 store bought pesto
  • Hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating over soup


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent and the vegetables are partially cooked, about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low if the onions start to brown. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more.
  2. Add the chicken stock, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Add the orzo, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes. Add the zucchini and frozen peas. Adjust the heat to bring back to a simmer and cook until the orzo is cooked and all the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (Remember, it will taste a little bland without the pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano.)
  3. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a heaping tablespoon of pesto and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pass more pesto and cheese at the table.

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 215
  • Fat: 9g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 11g
  • Sodium: 727mg
  • Cholesterol: 1mg

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    Another winner! Your recipes have yet to disappoint. Made this last night and my husband and I loved it. I made a crusty bread in my bread maker to go with it and the bread needed another half hour once the soup was done so I turned off the stove and let the soup sit. I tasted it before doing so and it was better after resting, the zucchini was softer and the orzo too. Will definitely be making this one many more times, it was so easy to throw together. And the pesto definitely adds a lot of flavor, I just used the Kirkland brand from Costco. Thanks for another great one!

    - Kaylie on August 16, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The recipe was excellent. I made a few changes for my family by adding red bell pepper, 2/3 cup of tomato sauce to the paste mixture, frozen green beans instead of peas, 1 cup of water to the chicken broth, 1/2 tsp each of rosemary, oregano, garlic powder and cilantro followed by other reviewer recommendations of pesto and parmesan to the pot instead of each individual bowl, serving with grilled cheese.

    My family always eat seconds while my daughter dips her grilled cheese. Leftovers tastes even better!

    - Leslie M. on March 12, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Great recipe! Definitely one of the top 5 recipes at my house. For those also following a gluten free diet, I found that a 1/2 cup of lentils are a great subsitiute for the orzo. Freezes well too! Thank you.

    - Eva on December 18, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    This is a favorite when I have dinner parties. I like to use several zucchini and I saute them at the beginning with the carrots, onion and celery to enhance the flavor. I don’t use the peas. Also, I make my own almond pesto and stir it straight into the soup pot making it easier at a party instead of everyone adding their own. Very good recipe!

    - Carla on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    OMG – I am addicted to this soup and I’ve tried almost all of your soup recipes. Made this in the summer and I ate the leftovers every day. Love the way the orzo plumps up after sitting awhile. The soup is even better the second day. I put the pesto in the entire pot of soup, as one reviewer mentioned and we liked the flavor best.

    - Pam S. on October 14, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I’ve made a big pot of this soup twice and plan on making more. The base is light, making it a good soup for summer. I’ve served it both hot and cold and it was delicious both ways. Seasoning is perfect.

    - Pearl on August 29, 2016 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Delicious! Homemade pesto is definitely the key to this soup’s awesome flavor. I omitted the orzo and added chickpeas for a filling meal, and also sliced up jalepeño and added in last five minutes because I like spicy! This soup is an excellent vehicle for summer farmers’ market fare!

    - Jamie on August 7, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi, the recipe is good. I will definitely try because it is vegetarian. Can I add vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. ?
    What is orzo and where can I get it from? Is it vegetarian?

    - Shilpa Shivjiani on July 28, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Shilpa, Yes, you can definitely use vegetable stock here. Orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like grains of rice (and it is vegetarian). Enjoy!

      - Jenn on July 28, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this soup already 2x, because we love it soooooo much!!!! I didn’t know it will be this good, and since i have some pesto saved up in the freezer, this is an easy breezy recipe full of deliciousness!!!! THanks so much, Jen for sharing with us! 🙂

    - Timea Szarkova on July 10, 2016 Reply
  • Lovely soup, i made it for Ramadan dinner for a family and they all loved it! I already had some Pine-nut pesto at home, so i used it with that, instead of Walnut pesto, but it was one of the most delicious soups (and easiest to make) that i have ever made! Thank you Jenn!

    - Timea Szarkova on June 28, 2016 Reply
  • Would this soup be good with shredded chicken? Thanks.

    - Keri on November 13, 2015 Reply
    • Definitely 🙂

      - Jenn on November 13, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    The Summer Vegetable Soup with Pesto is a flavorful yet light soup, perfect for warm weather. We enjoy the flavors of fresh pesto made from homegrown basil and it “makes” this soup.

    - LindaRemick on August 27, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I just made this today and it was excellent! I used my homemade chicken stock and pesto – a perfect use for them and all the veg from the market. The soup was outstanding! Thank you.

    - Lisa Smith on August 23, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made it today to greet my boss and his friends after an afternoon sailing in Martha’s Vineyard!
    I got a lot of compliments and I am the worst cook ever.

    You made my day!

    - Eleonora on July 9, 2015 Reply
    • So glad, Eleonora! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

      - Jenn on July 9, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Perfect dish for a light dinner on a summer night. You must have good pesto but you really only need a heaping teaspoon for each bowl. The tablespoon that’s called for might overwhelm especially for younger palates. That being said, my four young daughters all ate it right up and even tried the zucchini which usually gets left behind in any dish I add it to.
    My husband liked the white bean ragout from this site better but would be happy to have this one again.

    - Trish on August 20, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Delicious. I made it exactly as directed and am very pleased with the results. I will absolutely make it again this summer.

    - gagirl on July 15, 2014 Reply
  • 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.

    - Judy Rutledge on November 5, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Connie on September 24, 2013 Reply
  • 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!

    - Reno on September 18, 2012 Reply
    • Thanks, Reno. A thumbs up from your seven-year-old is a big compliment!

      - Jenn on September 18, 2012 Reply
  • Light and tasty. Made heartier with the addition of chicken.

    - Amy Flick on June 21, 2012 Reply
  • Very good – added two cloves of minced garlic to the veggies

    - Taryn on May 15, 2012 Reply
  • 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.

    - Liesel on March 8, 2012 Reply
  • 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.

    - Sue on March 3, 2012 Reply
  • 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.

    - Julie Backas on March 2, 2012 Reply
  • 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!

    - Crystal Soto on March 1, 2012 Reply
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  • 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.

    - Nicole W on September 22, 2011 Reply
  • This soup is DELICIOUS! My husband and I both loved it. Thanks for all the great recipes 🙂

    - Mary on September 15, 2011 Reply
  • tried it for dinner..added garlic to the sauted veggies, green beans, 1 tsp oregano and coriander. Delish…ate 3 bowls….

    - Suzie on September 6, 2011 Reply
  • 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!

    - Linda in KS on September 6, 2011 Reply
  • Look yummy! I will definitely put this on my to do list! Crusty bread and some wine! 🙂

    - Cathy on September 6, 2011 Reply
  • 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!

    - amy @ fearless homemaker on September 6, 2011 Reply
  • Wow! This looks incredible! Especially with some of that crusty bread! 🙂

    - Caroline @ chocolate and carrots on September 6, 2011 Reply

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