It’s definitely winter in most of the country – below freezing temperatures, brutal wind chills, and snow, snow, and more snow. Even in the South, we’re having nights below freezing. It’s also cold and flu season. And one of the best ways to warm up – as well as help you through a cold (or just boost your immune system) – is to eat homemade chicken soup. Whether you call it Jewish penicillin or Italian love in a bowl, it’s always yummy! Here’s my recipe for Italian chicken soup. It’s definitely good for what ails ya!
ITALIAN CHICKEN SOUP
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 carrots, sliced lengthwise then sliced again (into half moons)
- 4 sticks celery, sliced
- celery leaves
- 1 head escarole
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 pound orzo pasta
- water to cover
1. Remove gizzards and neck from chicken and discard. Then rinse the chicken and put it into a 6-8 quart stew pot. (I use an 8 quart one.)
2. Add onions, carrots, celery (including the leaves for more flavor), parsley, salt, and pepper to the pot. Add enough water to cover the chicken by about two inches.
3. Bring the soup to a boil, then set to simmer for about an hour and a half. Add water, if necessary, to keep the chicken covered. (If you cover the pot, the water won’t boil out as quickly.
4. After an hour and a half has passed, wash and chop the escarole into silver-dollar size pieces. Put escarole into a separate pot, cover with water, and cook on medium-high for about 20 minutes.
5. While the escarole is cooking, remove the chicken from the pot and put onto a platter. (Keep the stew pot on simmer.) Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces; then return the meat to the stew pot.
6. After the escarole has cooked for 20 minutes, drain it well then add it to the stew pot. (Pre-cooking it removes the bitterness and softens it for the soup.) Continue to simmer the soup, adding more salt and pepper, if needed.
7. Take the pot you cooked the escarole in and fill 2/3 with water. Bring to a boil and add the orzo pasta, lowering the heat to medium-high. Cook pasta until tender, then drain thoroughly and rinse with water to remove the starch.
8. When the pasta is finished, the soup is ready. Add pasta to the soup.
NOTE: Pasta will soak up liquid, even after it’s cooked. To maintain the broth of your soup when stored in the refrigerator, do not add the pasta to the stew pot. Instead, add the pasta to the individual soup bowls as you dish out the soup. Then store the pasta in the fridge separately from the soup. (There’s nothing worse than opening your bowl of soup to heat some up and finding that you have mushy pasta and no broth!)
This recipe will feed a large family with leftovers – or a small family over several days. And when you’re sick, this soup will last you until you feel like cooking again.