Well, what else would you call a minestrone-type soup, but one that contains chicken? It's just got to be Chickarone!
This soup recipe evolved from the BBC Good Food recipe for their Hearty Pasta Soup. I'd been intending to make some of that - on and off - for months now.
Twice (at least) I've put it on the menu plan for the week, only to have it bounced off in favour of some other plan. The last time I included it, I bought the filled pasta, it got bounced off the menu list, so I ate the pasta for lunch over the weekend.
Then I (pretty much) gave up on trying to make it.
So when I was considering what leftovers we'd got that needed using up and began to contemplate how I could use two chicken breasts without having to buy any more meat to go with them, the Pasta Soup reared its poor old rejected head.
I had a secret theory that the reason why I'd never made the soup was because of the filled pasta. I know that some members of the family aren't terribly keen on filled pasta as they - quite rightly, in lots of cases - say that it's bland and flavourless. However, what if I used just ordinary small pasta (unfilled) and put some diced chicken breast in the soup? That might make it a bit more interesting.
So that was how the idea first occurred. The recipe, however, sort of grew in the making.
I was nervous about the degree of flavour that could be achieved by the inclusion of just vegetable stock and a tin of tomatoes, knowing how my family likes to have big flavours in their food and aren't keen on "broth" style soups. It was obvious that as the chicken stewed and the vegetables cooked, the soup base would develop in flavour - but I just helped it along a little bit with the addition of two heaped teaspoonfuls of tomato puree and some mushroom ketchup. I'd also made the addition of a stick of celery, a chopped leek, a tin of sweetcorn niblets, some fine green beans and, just before the end, stirred some green pesto through the soup. (Which took care of the last of the pesto!).
I was surprised by how much salt the soup ate up, too. Because the vegetable bouillon I used was low salt, I suspect that had as much to do with it as anything - although the use of spaghetti demands a good dose of salt, in order to bring out the flavour. My anxiety over the soup base was put to rest by the starch from the spaghetti helping to thicken the base. Ultimately, the soup came together just perfectly - and I felt was pretty well balanced as I could almost taste all the individual components. The chicken was there in texture and visible, but lost out a little in flavour. I suspect what I should have done, was use chicken stock instead of vegetable, which would have helped the chicken along a little. Hubby felt that the broccoli stamped all over the other flavours and for him, the prevalent flavour was broccoli. Son and heir ate all his soup without comment, so I guess he liked it!
I served the soup with some Cheesy Pesto Pitta dippers, which were Pitta bread spread with pesto, then cut into four pieces and laid onto a baking tray. Grate a liberal coating of cheddar cheese over them and place into a hot oven for 10-20 minutes to crisp and heat through. The pesto was a great addition to these dippers - and one that I'll certainly do again. To be honest, you could whip up a plate of these if you're planning on watching a film at home, or have friends around for drinks. Perfect!
CHICKARONE SOUP Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 stick of celery, diced super-fine
1 leek, sliced finely
2 chicken breasts, diced small
2 carrots, peeled & sliced finely
1 litre chicken stock
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce)
a small tin of sweetcorn niblets
a small handful of fine green beans, topped, tailed & cut into half inch pieces
100g spaghetti, broken into approx. one inch pieces
a small handful of tiny broccoli florets
2 tsp green pesto.
1. In a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the red onion and celery. Cook over a medium heat until the onion is transparent but not browned.
2. Add the leek and continue to cook, reducing the heat if necessary so as not to brown the delicate leek pieces, for another 5 minutes or so or until the leek appears to have softened.
3. Add the chicken breast pieces and over an increased heat, cook until each piece has changed colour to white.
4. Add the carrots and cook to heat through, then add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato puree, mushroom ketchup (or Worcestershire sauce) and the sweetcorn niblets.
5. Stir well bring to a lively simmer for 10 minutes, or until the carrot is approximately half way cooked.
6. Add the green beans and spaghetti and stir well. Continue to cook at a lively simmer for another 6 minutes.
7. Add the broccoli florets and continue to simmer until the spaghetti is tender and the broccoli is cooked.
8. Stir through the pesto and serve in warmed bowls with bread to dip.