The company I cook lunches for daily decided to participate in Meatless Mondays starting in January. I was all for the idea especially because I try to eat as many vegetarian meals myself. So while brainstorming what to make for the crowd of meat-lovers, I decided to go simple but healthy with a lemony orzo spinach soup. This soup is the best of both worlds because it’s a bright dish yet still warms your bones. And since we’re still in January, this soup is healthy and vegetarian! Throw together some cannellini beans with orzo, spinach, parmesan, and lots of fresh herbs, and you’re good to go!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
It wasn’t until I finished writing this recipe that I realized this soup was inspired by Panera. The last time I went, they had this lemony chicken soup that was average. I suppose I still had the soup on my mind and thought I could improve on it.
There aren’t too many ingredients in this lemony orzo spinach soup but there are a few key ones that add all the flavor. You have the basic mirepoix, the mix of onions, carrots, and celery to add the backbone of the soup. The garlic, dried herbs, and red chili flakes add the balance of seasonings while the parmesan rind adds the umami. Please, if you have to skip one ingredient, do not skip the parmesan rind. It makes such a huge difference in the outcome because it adds the body.
It may sound odd but I like to add beans with their canned juices to soups. The juices help thicken the soup while adding, yes you may have guessed it, a little extra flavor.
Add the cooked orzo, lemon, and spinach at the end and finish with plenty of fresh herbs. You could cook the orzo directly in the soup but the orzo will soak up a lot of the liquid so you may have to adjust the amount of broth. If you’re feeling extra special, go ahead and add more parmesan as well.
To be honest, I was a little scared to serve this to the company. They love their tacos, cheesy pasta and barbeques and this lemony orzo spinach soup was completely different. Luckily, I received rave reviews! Apparently, everyone was eating in silence for the first 5 minutes or so because they were busy enjoying the soup. Hip hip hooray!
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