Italian Chicken Soup with Quinoa and Spinach

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By Corinne

Doesn’t this sound like some sort of hipster healthy living type soup? Well. Sure it does. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it can’t also be filling and delicious! If you don’t love quinoa, then feel free to use a small pasta instead.

This recipe calls for a parmesan rind. If you haven’t started using fresh parm (or asiago) I highly recommend it. While it’s more expensive than the stuff that comes in a can, it also has a great deal more flavour, since you know, it’s not mixed with sawdust. One of the best things about using fresh cheese is saving the rind for soups. When you get down to the rind, just throw it in a bag and put it in the freezer until you need it. It adds an incredible amount of flavour to soups and stews. It generally doesn’t dissolve fully in the soup, but does get softer. If your soup is at a full roiling boil it may somewhat dissolve, and I’ve accidentally forgotten to take it out before pureeing soups. Oops.

Serves: 3-4

Time: about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how long you let the soup simmer

You will need:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 pound (250 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs – about 3
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, basil
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 cup white navy beans -I used dried, which I rehydrate and freeze. 1 cup is more than half of a standard can – you can probably just use a whole can if you’re using canned beans, unless of course you have a use for your leftover beans!
  • 1 can (28oz, 794g) tomatoes -I used whole and smushed them up, but diced would work great as well
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie stock – I used my favourite Homemade Veggie Bouillon
  • 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white, if you happen to have some open, it’s awesome to deglaze the pot with after cooking the onion/celery/chicken, but it’s ok to omit
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • grated parm or asiago for garnish if desired
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry) – to be added to individual bowls
  • handful of chopped fresh spinach- to be added to each bowl

Dice onion and celery, add to a heavy bottomed pot with a few tbsp of butter or oil. Chop chicken into small pieces and add to pot with onion and celery. Allow to cook until the vegetables have some colour and the chicken is cooked. Add the minced garlic and stir around until fragrant, but don’t let the garlic burn.

If you are using wine to deglaze – pour a little in the pot and scrape up all the delicious browned bits.

Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, beans, thyme, basil, oregano, pepper and parmesan rind. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, but longer if you have time.

While soup is simmering, rinse quinoa well in a small mesh sieve to remove bitter saponins. Cook quinoa in a 1:2 ratio of water – if you are using half a cup of quinoa, use 1 cup of water. If you are using 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water etc. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes. When liquid is absorbed and quinoa has ‘popped’ it is ready.

Chop a handful of fresh spinach for each bowl, ladle in hot soup, and then add a few tbsp of cooked quinoa to each bowl. Garnish with grated parmesan or asiago cheese if desired.

Italian Wedding Soup

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By: Corinne

I love soup. While I tend to move away from soups in the summer in favour of salads and BBQ, we still seem to get a good number of summer soup days here in Thunder Bay – rainy, chilly, and perfect for soup.

Full disclosure- despite living in a city with a large Italian population, I’ve never actually had Italian wedding soup. What inspired me to try this was the lunch time leftovers of a co worker(who is actually Italian). I love soups, and was intrigued by the tiny round pastas. I asked her about her lunch and she told me it was just ‘chicken broth, little meatballs, spinach and pasta’. So I tracked myself down some Acini de Pepe and set forth on investigating just what goes into an Italian Wedding Soup. Of course, it turns out that like many other traditional things, it seems like this soup has a wide variety of ingredients. Mostly inspired by Giadia De Laurentiis but with some additions and omissions.

Time: ~15 min prep, 30 min cook

Serves: about 8 servings

You Will Need:

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • handful of fresh grated asiago or parmesan
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk or cream
  • fresh pepper
  • 12 cups chicken broth (or 12 cups water, 6 tbsp veggie bouillon)
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • 150g frozen chopped spinach – could probably have used some more, but that’s all I  had 🙂
  • 1 cup Acini de Pepe or other tiny pasta

Combine broth, and if you have one, a parmesean rind. Bring broth to a simmer.

Combine milk and bread crumbs, then mix with all other  ingredients for meat balls. Shape into small balls using a scant 1/2 tbsp of mix 0r less if you want really tiny meat balls. As you shape them, drop them into the simmering broth. Continue until you have used up all of the meat.

Add spinach and allow to continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Note, no harm will come to the soup if it simmers for an hour rather than 20 minutes 🙂

Prepare 1 cup of Acini de Pepe  or other tiny pasta in a separate pot. When pasta is cooked, put a generous portion of pasta in each bowl and ladle soup over top. Garnish with more asiago if desired.

I like to prepare the noodles separately for leftovers- as I find too many hours sitting in soup makes pasta too mushy. Putting a little bit of butter on the leftover plain pasta while it is hot will keep the extras from sticking together.  This way it can be kept separate until reheating. Leftover soup (without pasta!) can be frozen.