Trentino Barley Soup

Minestrone d’Orzo alla Trentina

Barley is used extensively in the cooking of the Trentino region and this rich soup is cooked in various ways all over the region. Like most of the local dishes, it is designed for cold, snowy weather and for feeding large appetites, further sharpened by outdoor activities.


  • 8 oz (225 g) pearl barley
  • pints (2 litres) cold water
  • ½ teaspoon beef extract
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sprig each fresh marjoram, parsley and rosemary, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 very meaty ham bone
  • 1 very large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 very large carrot, scraped and cut into chunks
  • salt
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Wash the barley, put it into a pan and cover with cold water, bring to the boil and add the beef extract. Cook slowly, uncovered, for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, fry the onion and the herbs in the olive oil for 5–6 minutes, then stir this into the barley. Add the ham bone, potato, carrot and a little salt and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the ham bone and transfer the soup to a warmed tureen. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.