Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Italian Chicken & Cheese Tortellini Soup

Here's a slight change to chicken noodle soup...all dressed-up Italian style.

Since the winters here in Reno bring a cold that I have not experienced since my brief stay in Tulsa, OK, I have found myself looking at ways to make soups that are a little bit different and intensely appealing. While the color is not bold in this soup, the flavors definitely are rich and comforting.
Since the winters here in Reno bring a cold that I have not experienced since my brief stay in Tulsa, OK, I have found myself looking at ways to make soups that are a little bit different and intensely appealing. While the color is not bold in this soup, the flavors definitely are rich and comforting.

Now, of course I wanted this to be a simple recipe...who wants to spend all day making a pot of soup? Not me! I like it quick and full of flavor in the end, so this homemade recipe takes only 15 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to simmer creating a soup that tastes like it simmered all day long. In approximately an hour you're ready to sit down and "comfort soup-it" all you want.

[caption id="attachment_2153" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A small list of spices for the chicken...keeping it simple."][/caption]

I start by taking a couple of chicken breasts, defrosting them (I always have some in my freezer) and placing them into a glass baking dish. You could spray the dish with cooking spray, but honestly you don't have to if you defrost the chicken in that same dish first. (Just don't drain off the juices after defrosting)

Then to keep it simple, I just sprinkle some sea salt over each breast.

Then a little bit of garlic powder over each breast. If you don't have garlic powder on hand, then substitute some garlic salt for the sea salt & garlic powder.

And finally a bit of dried Italian Seasoning mix (oregano, basil, Italian parsley) is sprinkled over the top of each breast.

Place the chicken into an oven preheated to 375°F to bake for 30-45 minutes. (depending on your oven) At the 30 minute mark, I pull out the chicken and slice it through the thickest part to see if the meat is no longer pink. If it's not quite done, then back into the oven it goes for another 5 minutes. Check in 5 minute intervals until it is done baking. (this part comes about later on)

While the chicken bakes, I take either a couple cans of chicken broth/stock or 3 cans of Campbell's Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup and pour it into a large pot. In this case, I was out of chicken broth/stock so I used the condensed chicken noodle soup. Grab a colander/strainer and pour the soup through it so that the noodles and chicken pieces don't go into the pot. Do this with each can and reserve the noodles & chicken, then I throw it into the fridge to be heated for lunch the next day for my girls. (they love noodles, but aren't big fans of chicken noodle soup)

This step is ONLY for the condensed chicken noodle soup. Instead of adding a full 3 cans of water (as called for on the chicken noodle soup can), I add 2 cups of water to the pot. Turn the heat to low and allow it to begin the simmering process.

Toss in a bay leaf...they are just so good in soups. And then smash, peel and press a clove of garlic...add it right into the pot aswell.

Next a bit of Italian Seasoning gets to jump in. Give it a stir. Cover with a lid and let it simmer for 25 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, I take a couple celery stalks and cut each in half.

Then those halves get diced into 1/4" thick pieces.

Next I take a cup of broccoli slaw mixed veggies. I always have this on hand...we like making spring rolls on Friday nights. (you can typically find a bag of this in the salad mix area of the produce area) They get a quick rough-chop and are ready to go.

After 25 minutes, I add the celery and broccoli slaw into the broth. Give it a stir and place the lid back on the pot.

Tortellini is one of my favorite pastas...and I love to take advantage of the pre-made bags that you can get from Bertolli in the refrigerated section. However, I'm using a wonderful Italian seven cheese blend tortellini that I got at Costco! (big savings and I easily get four meals for 4 out of it)

And since the chicken is now ready to be pulled out of the oven and shredded, I turn up the heat to medium-high and pour about 2 cups of the tortellinis into the pot.

Give them an immediate stir. The last thing I want is any sticking to the pot. Then cover and allow to cook for 8-9 minutes. (I always set my timer, just so that the pasta doesn't get over cooked)

After checking to see that the thickest part of the chicken is cooked all the way through, and not pink in any way, I take the chicken and start attacking it with two table forks. Shredding each breast into nice bite-sized pieces.

Once everything is shredded, literally 3 minutes of shredding, I pour them into the pot. Another gentle stir, I don't want to break any of the tortellini, to get the chicken distributed throughout the pot and then just allow it to simmer with the tortellini until the timer goes off.

Once that buzzer sounds, turn off the heat, grab a bowl and fill it up. Oh the aroma is just amazingly inviting, it's hard to take a moment and follow-thru with the next step. (I confess, I had to take a small spoonful first) And last but not least, I top it off with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about!

[caption id="attachment_2124" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Freshly grated Parmesan cheese just "makes" this completely perfect!"][/caption]

Then I just sit down and enjoy the soup of my non-labor.

Italian Chicken & Cheese Tortellini Soup Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes Servings: 4 Ingredients: For Chicken 2 Chicken Breasts, boneless & skinless 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt 1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning Preheat oven to 375°F. Place both chicken breasts into a prepared glass baking dish. Season each breast with half of each seasoning. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check for doneness by slicing into the thickest part of the breast, if juices run clear and the meat has no pink then the breasts are done. If they are still a little pink, then place back into the oven and check in 5 minute intervals. For Soup Assembly 2 cans Chicken Broth OR 3 cans Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup 1 Bay Leaf 1 clove Garlic, pressed or minced 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning 2 stalks Celery, diced 2 cups Broccoli Slaw, rough chopped (slivered carrots, broccoli & red cabbage) 2 cups fresh Tortellini, pre-packaged (Bertolli, etc.) In a large pot add chicken broth/stock. If stock is not available, strain condensed chicken noodle soup into a large pot and add 2 cups of water. Set stove top/range to low heat to start the broth's simmer. Add bay leaf, garlic and Italian seasoning. Stir ingredients into the broth. Cover and let simmer for 25 minutes. Slice celery in half length-wise. Then dice the stalks into 1/4" thick pieces. Take broccoli slaw and give it a rough chop. Add to pot after the first 25 minutes of simmering. When chicken has finished baking, remove from oven and allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high and add tortellini to the pot of soup. Set timer for 8 minutes. While the tortellini is cooking, shred chicken breasts by using two forks. Shred so that pieces are bite-sized. Add to the pot and gently stir so that chicken gets evenly incorporated throughout the soup. When timer for the tortellini goes off, soup is ready to be ladled into bowls! Garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese and couple with garlic bread. Enjoy!

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