Very Italian Chicken Soup (Serves 4)

When I say this is “very Italian” many honest-to-goodness Italians might be rolling their eyes.  Forgive me, but I can explain.

Good Spoonful

I have never come across such industrious soup makes in my life! On every menu I have read since arriving in this fair land, there are at least 6 soups to choose from. There is always Ribollita, whose main ingredients are stale bread, cabbage and beans. There is also a local take on minestrone, as well as a farro and spelt soup, to name but a few.

the ingredient that dressed up my soup

It is no wonder I felt compelled to make soup last night for dinner. I went to the vegetable stand and was baffled with choices. I wanted a bit of everything, so, I ended up buying a bit of everything! The one great purchase was a bunch of tiny little mushrooms called Agrocybe Aegerita, (commonly know as poplar or velvet mushrooms. They grow in tight clusters). They had dark brown caps and looked like they were picked by fairies (seriously!)

last night's sunset in Cortona

Having become so inspired by all the wonderful soups I had tasted over the past few weeks, I decided to try my hand at a very rustic, all-in-one sort of soup. I had some cooked, basmati rice leftover from a previous meal, and knew I could dump it in last-minute to round out the dish and make it more dinner-y.

It was delightful in every way, and the kids couldn’t get enough of those cute little mushrooms.  I may have created a culinary monster, as I was asked to make soup again tomorrow….hmmm.

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You will need: 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 chicken breast fillets, chopped into bite-sized pieces, 1 large onion, diced, 1 large celery rib, including leaves, chopped, 1 large carrot, sliced, 1 bunch swiss chard, leaves chopped roughly (about 6 cups), 1 zucchini, chopped into thick match sticks, 1 small red pepper, diced, 2 cups tiny mushrooms, OR 2 cups crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 tbs tomato puree concentrate, 1 good quality chicken or vegetarian bouillon cube, 8 cups water, 3 cups cooked basmati rice, sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

1 – Prep all ingredients before you begin the actual cooking.

saute veggies in stages

2 – Add the oil to large soup pot and place on medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes.

continue to add veggies and saute

3 – Add the peppers and mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, before adding the zucchini. Cook for another 3 minutes or so.

add liquid and chicken

4 – Add the liquid and cayenne pepper flakes, and bring it to a boil.

5 – Add the chicken, tomato puree, and chard, and bring back to a boil. Turn down to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add rice and cook until rice warms (about 3 minutes). Turn off heat and let sit on stove top for about 5 minutes before serving.

serve with Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese (if you like)

Serve in shallow soup bowls as is, or with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Crusty bread is also a nice addition.

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