The main content
Chicken and Pearled Barley (Orzo) Soup

Chicken and Pearled Barley (Orzo) Soup


  • 1 cup pearled barley (orzo/orzato)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 small onion, halved

  • Salt

For the poached chicken:

  • 1 4-pound chicken

  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped

  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthwise then quartered across

  • 2 celery ribs with leafy tops, quartered across

  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 large fresh bay leaf

  • An herb bundle of parsley, thyme and rosemary

  • 6-8 peppercorns

  • 1 rind from Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese (optional)

For the soup base:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3/4 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced

  • 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, grated or chopped

  • 4 large shallots or 1 onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1/2 cup dry sherry or Marsala wine or an additional 1/2 cup chicken poaching liquid

  • 1 package field spinach or baby kale (5-6 ounces)


Bring a medium size pot with a couple of quarts of water to a boil. Add the barley, bay leaf, onion and salt, and cook to tender, 25 minutes. Drain and reserve with a tiny drizzle of oil mixed in to keep it from sticking. Place the chicken in a pot with the poaching ingredients and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring to a low, rolling boil, season water with salt and reduce the heat. Poach for 45-60 minutes, turning once; cool in the poaching liquid to room temperature. Remove the chicken from the skin and bones, and dice or pull into bite-sized pieces. Strain the stock. Use half of the meat for the soup and reserve half for another meal or to add to a salad. You’ll have extra stock to refrigerate or freeze as well. In a medium size soup pot, heat the oil, four turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and brown. Add the celery, garlic, shallots or onion, thyme, salt and pepper and cook to soften. Add the sherry or Marsala to deglaze and reduce by half. Stir in 2 quarts of the chicken poaching liquid and 2 1/2-3 cups of the diced chicken. Wilt in the greens. Just before serving, combine the barley with the soup and heat through. This is one of many "Yum-o!" recipes – it's good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael's nonprofit organization, visit