Soup Days: Tomato Orzo Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
This is one of my daughter’s favorite soups and is perfect for a chilly winter day like today.
One of the things I love about so many Barefoot Contessa recipes is that the flavors come together so well and the dishes often feel like they have been bubbling on the stove for hours when in fact they are relatively quick. Her Weeknight Bolognese and this soup are prime examples.
For the soup, just keep an eye on the heat as you cook the onions. Given how long she recommends cooking them for, it’s easy to let them brown a bit too much.
I always try to use crushed San Marzano tomatoes, as she recommends. San Marzano is a type of plum tomato, originating from San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples, Italy. It is longer and thinner than the typical plum tomato. They are sweet, full of tomatoey goodness, and are not too acidic.
The recipe calls for a pinch of saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight but a little goes a long way and a single container will last you for a long time. Saffron adds great color, sweetness, and depth to dishes.
I tend not to love cream in my soups but the half cup called for elevates the recipe.
For the grilled cheese croutons, just use whatever you have in the house — though gruyere is an amazing melting cheese.
This is truly my ultimate comfort food!
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- Large pinch of saffron threads
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Grilled Cheese Croutons (recipe below)
In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will -finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.
Grilled Cheese Croutons
- 4 (½-inch-thick) slices country white bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyère on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyère, -buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Serves 4 to 6.