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Easy Tomato Orzo Soup

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You say tomato, I say this fabulous tomato soup.

bowl of tomato orzo soup with croutons and bread with spoon

The weather here in the Mid-Atlantic region has started to dip below 70 during the day. Which — to me — means that it’s officially cold outside and soup must be made immediately. (What can I say? I am a dyed-in-the-wool summer person.) There are so many wonderful tomato soup recipes out there, but for pure ease and comfort, I choose this easy tomato orzo soup recipe, adapted from living culinary goddess Ina Garten’s recipe.

You’ll also like: New England Fish Chowder and Rosemary White Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)

partially-made tomato soup with orzo in colander and cream

All About This Tomato Orzo Soup

This easy tomato orzo soup recipe is primarily distinguished by the addition of saffron. Just a small pinch gives this homey, traditional soup a fragrant, smoky-citrus zing of something special, without overpowering the tomato. That said, if you do not love saffron, the tomato soup will still taste delicious without it. The onion, chicken broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, touch of cream, and the orzo pasta make this a wonderful tomato soup either way.

Recipe Notes: Easy Tomato Orzo Soup

Start to finish, this soup takes about 45 minutes, the majority of which is downtime as the soup simmers to perfection. Sold yet? If not, I will also add that it gets topped with homemade croutons.

Making homemade croutons is one of those great “not-recipe recipes.” Just tear some day-old crusty bread into pieces, toss with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and bake at 350 F for about 10 to 15 minutes. Croutons will keep for several days once cooled. Store them in an airtight container. If you want a more specific recipe for croutons, though, I have included a recipe below. You can also see my recipe for Zuni Café’s Caesar Salad, which would be a great accompaniment.

You need a 28-ounce can of tomatoes. I (and Ina) recommend crushed tomatoes, because I like a little chunkiness in my tomato soup. But if you like a smooth, velvety tomato soup, substitute a 28-ounce can of tomato sauce, and grate your onion instead of dicing it. Alternatively, you can blend the finished soup with an immersion blender — which I consider an essential kitchen tool. I like Bamix.

Finally, undercook the orzo shy of al dente. The pasta will finish cooking in the soup. If orzo absorbs too much liquid, they start to resemble tiny, overly-soft blimps, so you want to keep a little texture.

Did you make this recipe for tomato orzo soup? How did it go?

bowl of tomato orzo soup with croutons and bread with spoon

bowl of tomato orzo soup with croutons and bread with spoon

Easy Tomato Orzo Soup

Tomato soup is a comfort food essential -- especially this one, adapted from Ina Garten.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keywords:: comfort food, croutons, fall, soup, tomato, tomatoes, vegetables
Servings: 4 to 6 people


For the Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions (about 2 onions), diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 12 turns fresh-cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • croutons, for serving

For the Croutons

  • 4 or 5 ounce hunk of day-old crusty bread
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch of salt


For the Soup

  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until translucent and caramel brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir often to prevent scorching. Add a tablespoon of water as necessary to prevent uneven browning.
    Tip: Now is a good time to make the croutons.
  • Add the garlic and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for one minute more.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, chicken stock, saffron threads, salt, and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a steady simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  • While the soup is cooking, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until very al dente, about 6 or 7 minutes. The orzo should be undercooked. Drain the orzo and add to the soup.
  • Stir the cream into the soup. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning, and serve with croutons.

For the Croutons

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut or tear the bread into cubes. Toss with the olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, and roast on a sheet pan for about 10 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Set aside to cool to room temperature.
    Tip: If the bread is fresh, it may need to cook a little longer to dry out.


  • 5 stars
    Judging from the dates on the other comments it seems I am more than a little late to the party. This is delicious. I was making this to freeze half. After it was done I read your comment about freezing the orzo. Oh well. It looks like I will be forced to eat this and make another batch tomorrow morning. And maybe another. I did amp up the tomato flavor with 1/2 can of paste due to the cream but it is a great recipe. Thanks.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Chip! So glad you enjoyed it, and it’s always nice to have an excuse to make more! (That said, don’t worry too much about the orzo; it will still taste very good.) Thanks for the great note.

  • Do you think I could make this vegan with vegetable broth and vegan butter such as Miyoko’s plus some soy milk instead of heavy cream?

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Jean! You can easily make this vegan. Use vegetable broth as you suggest. An alternative milk will work, but cream is thicker than soy milk, so the result might be slightly thinner. That said, I don’t think it will be significant enough to worry about. Enjoy!

  • Jordan

    Hands down simple, one of the fastest best tasting recipes. Making it a second time and doubling recipe because it was so good the first time. May add one small can of pato sauce. Gives more heat to broth. And blend. Parmesan cheese as well. Perfecto!!!!

    • Unpeeled

      Awesome. So glad you enjoyed it! Great call on doubling the recipe 🙂

  • 5 stars
    This recipe quickly became a staple in our house and we always keep the ingredients on hand so we can make it on the spur of the moment. Because my husband is diabetic, we’ve been skipping the croutons. But this last time, I made “croutons” out of halloumi cheese. It tasted great and added some additional protein to the soup. Yum!

    • Unpeeled

      Halloumi? You are speaking my language! I love halloumi so much. What a great idea, and I’m so glad you enjoy the soup!

  • Do you think this soup freezes well? Making freezer meals for my daughter who just became a mother. Is it best if the orzo is added when she’s ready to defrost and reheat? Thank you.

    • Unpeeled

      Hello and congratulations! What wonderful news. I find that pasta, when added to soup, tends to keep absorbing moisture and can become gummy and overcooked. I suggest freezing the soup (this will freeze well), and bringing her a little box of orzo on the side for when she’s ready to eat it. Congratulations again on the birth of your grandchild!

  • 5 stars
    This is one of my all-time favorite soups. I have been making it for years. Don’t leave out the stuff from threads. They help to give the soup it’s wonderful flavor.

    • Unpeeled

      I am so glad that you enjoy it as well. And great tip–you are so right about the threads!

  • 5 stars
    My family loved this soup, the subtle flavor of the saffron is delicious!
    Thank you for another yummy recipe.

  • 5 stars
    Tried this soup and we absolutely love it!! So easy and it was first time I used saffron. It had such a wonderful flavor
    Thank you for another delicious recipe

  • Juliette P.

    5 stars
    Great. I actually left out the saffron but it was still so good and just creamy enough.

    • Unpeeled

      I leave the saffron out sometimes, too. It still works!

  • Trudy Taylor

    5 stars
    Love this recipe! So glad you like it, too. I ‘ve been making Ina Garten’s for years and it’s a staple.

4.48 from 36 votes (28 ratings without comment)

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