Happy new year to you and your flu/cold! Honestly, it feels like EVERYONE is sick, including our household & friends (ahem, thank you gentlemen for finally getting ME sick, too!).
Typically, Mark and I manage to steer clear of most colds, but when one does hit, the FIRST thing on the menu is my super secret chicken noodle soup. I swear by it, and honestly think it makes the sickness much less threatening. If not, at least it tastes good!
So, in light of everyone being all sniffly this new year, I’m deciding to share my secret recipe. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s not all that secret and special — it’s actually really easy!
HOMEMADE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP – MY SUPER SECRET (AND REALLY EASY) RECIPE!
As with all of my recipes — I rarely measure anything when cooking, which I know is a pain for most of you. Sorry! I tried to explain each step as I do it instead. Taste the soup at each step, and you should be ok! This soup in particular is perfect for improvisation, since some people like a more brothy soup, while others prefer hearty, spicy, bland, etc. The recipe below will yield a fairly hearty, spiced up soup – great for getting into the sinuses and clearing things up! Amounts listed are ranges simply to allow for you to plan for leftovers, or make this as a one-meal dish. I use an 8qt pot and it usually ends up 3/4 full or more, which is perfect for 2 of us to enjoy this soup for a few days!
- 1-2 boneless chicken breasts – diced (small or large dice, depending on your ‘hearty soup’ preference!)
- 1-2 cups carrots – diced
- 1-2 cups celery – diced
- 1-2 cups white onion – diced (smaller than the others)
- 1-2 TBSP minced garlic (i use the kind in a jar)
- 2-3 TBSP olive oil (maybe more depending on chicken/veggie amounts)
- 8-14 cups of chicken broth – I always use Swanson brand, low sodium. (again amounts vary depending on your ‘hearty soup’ preference. Feel free to combine with water, as long as chicken broth makes up more than half of the mixture for more accurate flavor).
- Salt, Black Pepper, Parsley, Oregano, Basil, Red Pepper Flakes (to taste. amounts in the directions are for using 2 chicken breasts/making a larger pot of soup)
- 1/2 -2 cups of some sort of tiny pasta (ditalini, pastina (the tiny stars), orzo). Using other pastas might not work well for leftovers, as some pasta tends to over-soak and get huge/fall apart, etc. The listed pasta has been tested and works well! Remember that pasta grows and soaks up liquid when it cooks. My #1 mistake with this soup is always adding too much pasta, and then needing to add more broth later. Good thing it’s an easy fix! (#ItalianProblems)
Here’s the super secret part…. This is a ONE POT meal (NO cooking the chicken separately!) There is one huge reason for this. Nearly ALL of the flavor of this soup comes from the chicken, spices and vegetables right in the beginning! Many people think that adding the spice to the broth is what flavors the soup, and while it does help, the flavor tends to be weak/thin. I like to go for a more robust flavor whenever possible. You too? Great! Let’s get started….
Cooking Tip: Cooking the chicken on high heat, uncovered, helps evaporate any water or liquid and give a better sear. Cooking the veggies on medium heat, partly covered, helps SOME of the moisture evaporate so that you don’t fully steam the veggies, but does let some moisture build up to create a bit of a liquid soup base with more flavor.
- Get out your BIG soup pot (for you Italians and chefs who have gigantic stock pots…. an 8-10qt will be fine). Turn on the stove to medium high/high heat, and drop in about 2 TBSP of olive oil (less if only using 1 chicken breast). Give the pan a minute or two to heat up, uncovered. The oil should not be sizzling/spitting until you add chicken.
- Add your chicken (watch your hands since the oil might spit at you!), along with about 1TBSP of pepper, and 1-2 tsp salt. The key here is to sear the chicken quickly without cooking it entirely. Resist the urge to stir too much! Let the chicken sit, sizzle and sear on one side before flipping the pieces over. You want to see the outside of the chicken browning. (Sometimes when I’m in a rush, this doesn’t happen as nicely as I want… that’s fine. As long as the chicken is 3/4 cooked by the end, the recipe will still work, the chicken just won’t have as full a flavor.)
- When the chicken is seared on both sides (and hopefully slightly undercooked cooked in the middle), remove it to a plate or bowl and turn the heat down to medium. Hopefully, you’ll see some brown bits on the bottom of your pot – that’s good! It will help flavor the rest of the soup. If you’re daring and don’t care about undercooked meat (ahem, me), taste a tiny bit of chicken. There should be a pretty decent amount of flavor there. Don’t worry if it seems like a lot at first — the broth will take away some of it once the chicken soaks for awhile. If it’s too salty, cut down the salt in the rest of the recipe.
- When the pot reaches medium heat (1 min or so), add another TBSP of olive oil, your carrots and celery along with another TBSP of pepper and tsp of salt. About 1 minute later, add the onions and garlic. (If the pot is too hot, the garlic will start to brown too fast. Remove from heat quickly! Burnt garlic is no fun.) Add in the parsley (1-2TBSP?) and 1-2 tsp each of oregano and basil. Add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Stick a wooden spoon in, stir, and taste the veggie mixture. You should be able to mildly taste the spices evenly spread throughout.
- Let the veggie mixture simmer, partly covered, for 2-4 minutes, or longer (until carrots start losing their crunch). If pot looks too dry, add 1/4 cup or so of broth to just coat the bottom of the pan.
- Once the veggies start to soften, then add in your broth and now-cooked chicken! Give a stir, and bring to a boil. Taste the soup here if you’d like (I always burn my mouth at this point without fail). It should taste pretty good at this point!
- Add your pasta (more/less depending on your ‘hearty soup’ preference!) and boil partly covered for another 5-7 minutes until the pasta is cooked through. Reduce heat to low. You can either serve now, or let simmer for awhile. Keep an eye on your broth amounts and add more broth or water as you see fit. Don’t forget to taste test before serving and add in any extra spices as needed. The flavor will change a bit as the soup sits, so day 2 might be more flavorful. Make yourself a grilled cheese and enjoy your ‘get well soon’ dinner!(Pro Tip: if you’re impatient to eat, like I always am – drop an ice cube into your bowl of soup to help it cool down to a less mouth-burning temperature!)