Hearty Escarole, Barley, and Parmesan Soup

The Food Lab

Unraveling the mysteries of home cooking through science.

Hearty Escarole, Barley, and Parmesan Soup

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

Every recipe we publish is tested, tasted, and Serious Eats-approved by our staff. Never miss a recipe again by following @SeriousRecipes on Twitter!

  • Yield:Serves 4 to 6
  • Active time: 20 minutes
  • Total time:40 minutes
  • Rated:


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 mediums talks celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 large head escarole, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tabelspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup parled barley
  • 1 1/2 quarts low sodium store-bought or homemade vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-inch chunk Parmesan rind
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. 1.

    Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add rosemary and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add escarole and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated and mixture begins to sizzle, about 5 minutes longer. Add barley and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 1 minute.

  2. 2.

    Stir in broth. Add bay leaves, Parmesan rind, soy sauce, and fish sauce (if using), and bring to a boil. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until barley is softened and soup has absorbed flavor from parmesan and bay leaves, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Serve, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with Parmesan.