Tomato, Saffron and Orzo Soup

Tomato, Saffron and Orzo Soup

Clearly there's much debate on what is most appropriate for a chilly January afternoon, but in my very bias opinion... there is nothing more appropriate than a bowl of soup and toasted bread. Of course there are bonus points for including a heaping amount of saffron your mother-in-law just brought back from Iran.

Prior to my rather heavy interest in cooking and all things food, I had this unjust distaste for soup. I had this idea that if I couldn't eat it with a fork, it wasn't worth eating at all. I held onto this for quite some time, however this recipe changed the genetic makeup of my mind; tomatoes, pasta, bread and saffron.... how could you possibly resist?? 




For most people, saffron is a distant spice that never really makes in onto your table or even into your home. If you know anyone from Iran or even Spain, you're likely to run into quite a few ways to use it. In our home, we use it excessively... from rice, tea, desserts and practically anything you can think of, we have a way to use it. This recipe is quite unorthodox compared to what I would normally use saffron for, but it's the perfect hint of aromatic flavor and oh if you could only smell it!




Let me introduce to yet another marvel... barbari bread. Made from simple ingredients but baked in a brick oven similar to a traditional pizza oven and topped with white sesame seeds. The closest comparison that comes to mind is focaccia bread, however barbari does not rise to the extent of foccacia. Let the Barbari sit in the soup for a minute, until the bottom soaks up a bit of moisture and then tear it apart (you're welcome).



Tomato, Saffron and Orzo Soup

(Adapted from Ina Garten)



2 Tbsp Olive oil

knob of butter 

1/2 large yellow onion (or 1 medium), finely chopped

2 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth

1 (14.5oz) crushed San Marzano tomatoes 



healthy pinch of saffron (threads or ground)

1/4 cup whole grain orzo

1/4 cup whole milk (or heavy cream) 

Optional toppings

barbari bread

drizzle of good quality olive oil

splatter of European style whole milk plain yogurt 



1. Sautee finely chopped onions in olive oil for 10 minutes of medium-low heat, then add butter and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes until onions are golden brown but not burnt. 

2. Prepare your saffron. Whether you decide to grind your saffron or not, place in a small cup or bowl and pour hot water over it. There should be just enough water to cover it in order to extract the aroma of the saffron. Let it sit for a few minutes. 

3. Meanwhile, add vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and lastly the saffron. You can add the entire mixture, no need to take out the saffron threads because they continue to give off flavor while it cooks. 

4. Bring soup to a steady boil, cover and lower the heat to simmer for another 15 minutes.

5. In another pot, bring water to boil with salt and add the orzo. Be careful to only cook the orzo for 6-7 minutes as to not over cook, it will finish cooking in the soup. Drain and add to soup. 

6. Finally, add milk and let simmer for another few minutes while stirring often. 

7. To top off, break apart barbari bread and toast until golden. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and drop onto your bowl of soup. Finish off with a splatter of yogurt. Enjoy!


- This recipe can very easily be made vegetarian or vegan, just omit the butter, cream and use vegetable broth/stock.
- I did not add measurements for salt and pepper because I feel that especially with soup it could be over done simply by preference, so I will leave that up to you to decide how much it needs
- Although I was very happy with this recipe, I love saffron so I would gladly add much more. However, if you are not accustomed to having it I would start with a pinch and see how you like it. 
- This recipe comfortably serves 4 however would work as an appetizer portion for 6.