Vegetable Soup with Pesto

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Whip up a simple, garden-fresh vegetable soup with pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano — perfect for cool summer nights or rainy day comfort.

Ladle in a pot of vegetable soup with pesto.

Broth-based vegetable soup can sometimes feel a bit “meh,” but this one is far from it. It’s filled to the brim with fresh garden goodness — zucchini, peas, carrots, and celery — and the addition of zesty pesto sauce and Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese at serving time really ramps up the flavor. The soup also includes a bit of orzo, a tiny, rice-shaped pasta, ensuring it is not only wholesome but also satisfying. You can serve the soup as a light standalone meal with a side of garlic bread or pair it with gooey grilled cheese sandwiches.

What’s really great is how quick and easy it is to prepare. Once you’ve got your veggies chopped, you’re only 25 minutes away from a comforting meal. And if making your own pesto isn’t on the agenda, no worries — a good-quality store-bought version works just fine.

“This soup is over-the-top good. I made your garlic bread. Oh my. We had a great dinner tonight!”

Sandra

What You’ll Need To Make Vegetable Soup With Pesto

ingredients to make vegetable soup with pesto
  • Onions, Carrots, Celery: This classic trio, often referred to as the “mirepoix,” provides a flavorful base for the soup and plenty of substance.
  • Tomato Paste: Deepens the soup’s flavor with its concentrated, tangy sweetness.
  • Chicken Broth: The liquid base of the soup that lends savory depth of flavor.
  • Orzo: This small, rice-shaped pasta adds a delightful texture and substance to the soup, making it more filling and satisfying.
  • Zucchini and Frozen Peas: These vegetables add a mild, slightly sweet flavor and substance, as well as a pop of color.
  • Pesto: A rich, herby dimension that elevates the soup, adding tons of flavor.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Adds a nutty, salty finish that complements the pesto and enriches the soup’s flavor.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery.

adding the onions carrots and celery to the pot

Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and translucent and the vegetables are partially cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste.

adding the tomato paste to the softened vegetables

Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes more, then add the chicken broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves.

adding the chicken broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves

Bring to a gentle boil, then add the orzo. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes.

adding the orzo to the simmering soup

Add the zucchini and frozen peas.

adding the peas and zucchini

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.

Tongs grabbing a bay leaf from a pot of vegetable soup.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this vegetable soup ahead of time?

Yes, this soup can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. However, keep in mind that the orzo can absorb the broth and become mushy if left in the soup for too long. If you plan to make the soup ahead, I suggest cooking the orzo separately and storing in a separate container. When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently, then stir in the orzo.

I have leftover soup. Can it be frozen?

Yes, leftover soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. Keep in mind that the orzo may soak up some of the broth while in the freezer and become a bit mushy. If necessary, thin the soup out with a bit of water or broth when reheating.

Can this soup be made vegetarian?

Definitely, this soup can easily be made vegetarian with a simple swap. Instead of using chicken broth, use a good quality vegetable broth as your base. For an added umami boost and depth of flavor, consider tossing a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind into the soup while it simmers. The rind slowly releases its rich, nutty flavor into the broth; just remember to remove and discard it before serving.

bowlful of vegetable soup

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Vegetable Soup with Pesto

Whip up a simple, garden-fresh vegetable soup with pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano — perfect for cool summer nights or rainy day comfort.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ⅔ cup orzo
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup homemade or store bought pesto
  • Hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating over soup

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven 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. Do not brown; lower the heat if necessary. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes more.
  2. Add the chicken broth, salt, pepper and bay leaves and bring to a gentle boil. Add the orzo, then reduce the heat 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 al dente and the vegetables are all tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (keep in mind that the soup will taste a bit bland before the pesto and Parmigiano-Reggiano are added).
  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.
  4. Make-Ahead/Freezing Instructions: The can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. However, keep in mind that the orzo will absorb the broth and become mushy if left in the soup for too long. If you plan to make the soup ahead, I suggest cooking the orzo separately and storing in a separate container. When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently, then stir in the orzo. Leftover soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. (Keep in mind that the orzo may soak up some of the broth while in the freezer and become a bit mushy. If necessary, thin the soup out with a bit of water or broth when reheating.)

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

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

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Wonderful soup. I also add string beans for more veggies. I do cook the orzo separately. Sometimes I want a cup with no pasta for a low carb dinner. Many thanks for all your recipes….not a bad one in the bunch. Also love both cookbooks.

    • — MRS on April 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • So many layers of flavor but quick and easy to prepare. Another favorite from my favorite source.

    • — Sally Spurgeon on January 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • Delicious. I follow your recipes perfectly and they never disappoint. This soup is over the top good. I made your garlic bread. oh my. We had a great dinner tonight!

    • — Sandra on January 22, 2024
    • Reply
  • When making this soup – is it ok to add the pesto to the soup – or must it be added when served?

    • — susan mark on January 15, 2024
    • Reply
    • Sure, Susan, that’s fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 16, 2024
      • Reply
  • Delicious! We love the fact that this soup is not tomato-centric. The small amount of tomato paste adds a perfect amount for this soup. As mentioned previously, it’s great with or without the pesto, but the pesto adds a nice layer of flavor. Thank you for yet another winner that will be in our regular rotation!

    • — SF Ana on September 19, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’ve enjoyed many of your recipes so much, but it seems like vegetable-rich recipes all contain onions, which my husband is allergic to. He is also sensitive to much garlic, although I can use some chives.
    Any suggestions on altering the delicious looking recipes without losing the great flavor?

    • — Su on July 27, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Su, glad you like the recipes! Working with an onion allergy is challenging! There’s not really a one size fits all answer in terms of substitutes as it really depends on the recipe, but some options are fennel, radishes, and celery. I’ve never tried it, but I’d heard that asafetida is a good substitute. (I think you’d have to look in a smaller, specialty store for it.) Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on July 27, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you for your quick response, Jenn. I don’t know that I have the courage for that much adventure! But I will definitely keep using some of your recipes.

        • — Su1shermie1@ on July 27, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I cannot wait to try this! Would white onion be suitable instead of yellow? ALso would Italian sausage or some other form of meat go well as i have two who really like meat in their soup?
    Thank you so much

    • — Melissa Pickard on July 12, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, sure, you can use white onion in place of yellow. And it would be fine to add sausage to the soup; if you do, I’d cut back on the salt as the sausage will add salt to the soup. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on July 12, 2023
      • Reply
  • I saw this soup in the newsletter and had to try it. It was so easy to make. I actually loved the taste before adding the pesto and cheese but a touch of pesto and a cheese garnish was a nice addition. Will definitely become a staple in my soup rotation.

    • — Emina Power on June 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious! A nice light spring/summer meal. The pesto and parmigiana really take this recipe over the top. This is one time I’m happy to be the only soup eater in the house!

    • — Renee on June 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Loved this soup Jen! I opted to use the Trader Joes Harvest Grains blend in lieu of just using orzo. It contains a savory blend of pearled Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo beans, and Red Quinoa that I had left over from last night’s meal. Really tasty and I like the texture.

    • — Caprice on June 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • This soup is delicious! Make it often as written, but also use the base to clear out frig. This is my favorite source for recipes. My husband and I thank you…

    • — Bridgit on April 30, 2023
    • Reply
  • This soup was so delicious! My husband and two young kids loved it. The soup definitely livens up once you add the pesto and parmesan cheese. Next time I will try making my own pesto but store-bought worked just fine!

    • — P. Patel on June 22, 2022
    • Reply
  • I have made the soup several times “as is” and love it…I am thinking of adding white beans along with the orzo and am wondering if it will work..Thanks again for your wonderful recipes!

    • Hi Geri, Glad you like this! I definitely think you can add white beans here; I’d add them with the peas and zucchini as they just need to be heated through. Enjoy!

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