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!
Lemony Orzo Spinach Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 celery stalks chopped
- 3 medium carrots chopped
- 8 cloves garlic smashed
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 parmesan rind
- 28 ounces canned cannellini beans with liquid
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 6 cups spinach
- 8 ounces cooked orzo
- juice of 1 lemon
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- ¼ cup fresh dill
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive in a large saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery, carrots, and smashed garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 parmesan rind, 28 ounces canned cannellini beans with their liquids, and 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add 6 cups spinach to the soup and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Add 8 ounces cooked orzo and cook for another 2 minutes. Season the soup with the juice of 1 lemon, salt, and pepper.
- Portion the soup into bowls and top with grated parmesan, fresh parsley, and fresh dill. Serve hot.
**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!
For more soup inspiration check out this tomato soup with grilled cheese and bacon croutons!