Chunky Veg Minestrone Soup with Barley

This recipe was inspired by Elisa’s Italian childhood. One of my fondest memories was my dad’s minestrone soup, which he used to make with as many veg as possible. He essentially made it to use up any leftover veg and would leave it to simmer for hours. So it’s a bit like a veggie stew.

It was so full of flavour and heart warming goodness, and it always made me so happy to eat it. Served with some chunky bread and loads of parmesan cheese, it was one of my absolute favourite Italian winter dishes. It always put a smile on my face.

This is happy food but also very healthy and nutrititious, and perfect for the cold winter months!

We love to add barley with it, to give it more texture. But it also works really well with added pasta or rice (this will need to be cooked separately and added towards the end). If adding pasta we recommend short pasta such as macaroni.

You can also add some ham or chicken, or try different types of veg. There are so many options for this dish!

It is such a versatile dish and can be made vegetarian or with added meat.

It is also great for busy parents, as you just need to chop all the veg and whack it in a pan to simmer for a couple of hours. You could even use a slow cooker and get it all ready in the morning for it to be ready for dinner.

As you know, we like to cook in bulk so there are always enough left overs to freeze or have for lunch the following day. It will taste even better the next day!

We really love this dish, so we hope you enjoy it too!

Ingredients – Serves 2 Adults and 2 Toddlers (with leftovers)

Prep time – 15 minutes

Cooking time – 1 1/2 hours

  • 1 large Baking Potato
  • 2 medium Carrots
  • 2 Celery sticks
  • 1/2 a Red Onion
  • 1 Courgette
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 80 gr Pearl Barley (20 gr per person)
  • 1 tin of Plum Tomatoes
  • 1 ltr stock (made with 1 chicken + 1 veg cube. Or 2 veg cubes if you’re vegetarian)
  • 1 tbs dried Oregano
  • 1 tbs dried Basil
  • ground Pepper to taste (optional)
  • Olive Oil (for cooking)


  1. Wash the Barley in a sieve, until the water runs clear underneath. Then add to a large pot and pour in all the Stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a medium simmer, covering the pot with a lid. Leave to cook for 30 minutes and stir occasionally.

2. Whilst the Barley is cooking, chop the Onion finely. Then peel and crush the Garlic.

3. Wash all veg. Peel and chop the Potato and Carrots. Chop the Courgette and Celery. Make sure all veg is chopped in to smallish cubes. This is to ensure they all cook evenly when you eventually add them to the pot.

Now your prepping is over, it’s time to get cooking!

4. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan. On medium heat cook the chopped Onion and Garlic, stirring occasionally until softened (about 5-10 mins).

5. By this stage, the Barley should be cooked. Add the cooked Onions and Garlic to the Barley pot. Add all the Veg, Basil and Oregano. Stir all together over medium heat. Then add the tinned Plum Tomatoes, making sure you break them apart in the pan with your stirring tool (spoon or spatula). You don’t want to leave the Plum Tomatoes whole, but want to make sure they are evenly distributed in the Minestrone.

6. Now the hard part is over. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pot with the lid again. Leave to cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours (until the veg is super soft). Stir occasionally.

The house will smell so good whilst it’s cooking!

And there you go. A super tasty and nutritious Minestrone to warm you up during the cold winter months!

We like to serve with chunky crusty bread. Delicious!

You can add more veg if you like. Cooked Spring Greens or Kale work really well with it (but our kids are a bit fussy with these so we can’t add them). Or you can substitute the Onion with Leek. Broccoli, Peas and Mushrooms are also a good option to add. And if you want something more substantial, you can add cooked ham or chicken the last 30 minutes of cooking time.

If you don’t want to have Barley, you can substitute with Pasta or Rice. Just cook these separately and add towards the end of cooking time. It also works really well with Pulses, like Lentils or Butternut Beans.

The possibilities are endless! This is why we love this dish, as it is so so versatile.

We hope you will love it as much as we do.

As always, we welcome any comments or feedback.

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